Changing the World Through Youth Engagement

Maureen Njoroge from ACCOSCA
Maureen Njoroge from ACCOSCA

Engaging with young people and empowering them to change the world will be critical to ensuring relevance for credit unions and other financial cooperatives going forward.

That was the message during the second session of the three-day 2020 World Council Young Credit Union Professionals (WYCUP) Virtual Forum held Thursday morning.

Thom Belekevich, World Council Program Manager for Member Services, gave the keynote presentation about how credit unions are facing a crisis of relevance with young people—but are also uniquely positioned to engage them.

“As we look toward a post-COVID-19 future, I think there’s really an opportunity here for cooperatives to lead the way in youth empowerment,” Belekevich told the hundreds of young professionals from around the world in attendance.

In his presentation, Belekevich emphasized recent WYCUP immersion programs that have studied the Sicredi Youth Committee model in Brazil.

Youth Committees are established at the individual credit union level. The committees are made up of credit union members, with a few employees involved as coordinators. The initiative builds awareness of financial cooperatives among this important demographic to ensure the future viability of the organization, but also strengthens the relationship with young members by:

  • stimulating a culture of volunteering.
  • encouraging social responsibility.
  • providing professional development opportunities.
  • encouraging entrepreneurship and cooperativism as a tool for social and economic development.

World Council is now focused on developing a toolkit that would allow credit unions around the world to replicate this model.

“I can see a day in the not too distant future where we’re able to network these Youth Committees internationally and create an entirely new professional development opportunity for young people,” said Belekevich.

2019 WYCUP Scholars share professional growth

Thursday’s morning session also featured speeches by the five recipients of WYCUP’s 2019 Scholarship—in which they detailed how their experience with the program has helped them grow professionally.

Each were awarded scholarships at the 2019 World Credit Union Conference in The Bahamas.

“When I returned to Brazil, I received a promotion and today I act as an advisor for the development of cooperativism,” said Carla Oteiro Borré, who works for Sicredi. “I saw during this (last) year the potential, with other young people, for new projects and actions we could take as a cooperative.”

Maureen Njoroge, who works in Kenya for the African Confederation of Cooperative Savings and Credit Associations (ACCOSCA), called the entire WYCUP Scholarship experience “life-changing.” She said she returned home from The Bahamas with a goal to promote youth empowerment.

“We were able to launch the African Youth in Coops Network and have a very first breakfast meeting during the ACCOSCA SACCA Congress in Mombasa, Kenya last year,” said Njoroge. “We had about 50 young professionals attend this session, which to me is a great achievement, as we hardly get a huge number of the youth attending the Congress. But the idea of having a session for them motivated them to register in huge numbers and at least they saw that there was something they could do in society to help their communities."

What’s Next

The third of four 2020 WYCUP Virtual Forum sessions—“Leading Forward Through Adversity”—will be held Thursday, July 23 at 6:00 p.m. CST (US) and feature a presentation by Sandra McDowell, an expert in the applied neuroscience of leadership.

Attendees will learn why fear impairs the brain, and how to refocus to boost positive impact and wellbeing. We will discuss how to RESET your mind and REFRAME your focus on the most productive actions you can take to benefit you and your team.