More than 40 credit union advocates gathered in Winston-Salem this week for the 2011 Principles & Philosophy Conference. The event, which offers credit union leaders an opportunity to learn and more fully understand the strengths of the cooperative business model, was held at the Graylyn International Conference Center.
The day's events began Tuesday afternoon with a scavenger hunt on the grounds of the beautiful Graylyn property. Conference participants split off into teams, searched for clues, and answered questions about the Seven Cooperative Principles of Credit Unions. "It was a fun way for people to get to know one another better, learn their way around the property and test their basic knowledge of the Seven Cooperative Principles," said Jeff Hardin, NC Credit Union League Director of Communications.
Conference attendees later learned about the history of the cooperative and credit union movements. Matt Davis, Filene Research Institute Director of Innovation, focused on the worldwide cooperative and credit union movements, while Leigh Brady, State Employee's CU SVP of Education Services, focused on the history of credit unions in NC. Both Davis and Brady engaged the audience to consider how modern credit unions were living up to the values they were founded upon.
On Wednesday, attendees learned more about the financial services world of the past ... and shared their perspectives on how the founding principles of credit union are still relevant in a fast-changing world of financial services. Their discussions took place in a variety of formats geared to stimulate conversation and learning.
Larry Blanchard & Lois Kitsch, the conference facilitators, kicked off the dynamic day with an in-depth look at the Seven Cooperative Principles. Individual table groups then took one principle and discussed how relevant it is today and how attendees see it at work in their credit unions. The exercise concluded with a discussion by the entire group around each principle.
The agenda took a turn in the road - literally - with an exercise called the Learning Map. This exercise consists of a large map that dynamically illustrates the financial services world of the past, present and future. "It's like the game of Life for financial services," said Amy Gravitte, the chairwoman of the conference. "Everyone got a look at the financial services world credit unions used to operate in, see the changes that have brought us to today, and consider the emerging players in the financial services marketplace."
Through the exercise, groups see and discuss the various changes and then conclude by considering how the founding principles of credit unions can help credit unions thrive in the future. "It gives you a real appreciation for how much things have changed - and continue changing ... and yet how relevant the cooperative principles remain," said Jeff Hardin, who facilitated one of the table discussions.
The afternoon session concluded with a skill-building exercise called an elevator speech, which asks attendees to consider what they do at their credit union and how to share that information with others. Facilitated by Gravitte, the elevator speech allows attendees to develop a short, conversational introduction about their job presented in a way that encourages others to ask questions in order to stimulate a wider discussion.
The conference wrapped up Thursday morning with a look at projects credit union staff have developed in their communities that are an extension of the Seven Cooperative Principles. Brandon McAdams and Patrick Livingston of Coastal FCU shared their experiences in the year since they attended the first-ever Principles & Philosophy Conference in 2010. The duo both attended the conference last fall, then the Credit Union Development Education program in Madison, WI this spring. Livingston & McAdams shared how both these events inspired them to start the CU Aware networking group in the Triangle, and the ways in which they had met and learned from countless other credit union staff along the way.
The conference concluded with attendees developing an action plan for how they would begin a principles-related project at their credit union. "I saw a lot of engaged and inspired people," said Hardin, "and I can't wait to see what this group of credit union advocates comes up with at their credit unions.