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CUNA encourages IYC cross-sector co-op interaction
WASHINGTON (7/26/12)--The 2012 International Year of Cooperatives, as much as it is an opportunity to raise general awareness, has been an opportunity to encourage greater interaction between different types of cooperative sectors, including credit unions, said Mark Wolff, senior vice president of communications with the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) during an IYC webinar.

The webinar, "Add value through the International Year of Cooperatives," was organized by the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) for its membership.  Other participants included NCBA IYC Program Manager Eric DeLuca; Brian Donovan, general administrator, University of Texas Inter-Cooperative Council Inc.; Emily Lippold Cheney, executive director, North American Students of Cooperation; and Brian Van Slyke, founder of the Toolbox for Education and Social Action.

CUNA's Wolff pointed to credit union and credit union league participation in a number of IYC events and actions, including Cabot Creamery Cooperative's recently concluded community bicycle tour up the East Coast and the "co-cycle" co-op bike tour organized by students of Hampshire College, which enlisted organizational support from UMass Five FCU in Amherst, Mass.

He also noted that CUNA has coordinated with state credit union leagues and used communications channels such as CUNA's daily online news service, News Now, social media, and video messages to steer credit unions to IYC resources, like the communications tools on the web site.

CUNA President/CEO Bill Cheney and World Council of Credit Unions President/CEO Brian Branch also have used video messaging to urge participation in the initiative, a site created by the International Cooperative Alliance that is highlighting a co-op story each day during the international year; it has already spotlighted a number of credit unions.

As another resource for credit unions, Wolff said CUNA's Cooperative Alliances Committee is developing a white paper with suggestions and examples of how credit unions and other co-ops can interact more closely, whether through business opportunities or advocacy efforts. 

The NCBA, the National Cooperative Grocers Association, and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, for example, are members of a pro-small business coalition that supports legislation to raise the statutory cap on credit union member business loans.

"One of the benefits of IYC we saw early on was that it's a great opportunity to raise awareness generally, yes, but also to raise cross-sector co-op awareness," Wolff said.  "Using IYC as a means to help co-ops learn about and do more with one another may be the 'low hanging fruit.'  But it's good fruit nonetheless and very much worth going after."  He said CUNA and state leagues can be resources for co-ops looking to become more engaged with credit unions.

NCBA's DeLuca also urged co-ops during the webinar Tuesday to "tell your story," saying it is the central building block of advocacy and awareness efforts.  He too noted the web site has a number of useful tools and resources in that regard.
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