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The Credit Union Development Education Program

This special report presents the opportunities and solutions for credit unions proposed by the participants of the Spring 2011 session of Development Education Training.

Executive Summary

There is never a good time to go back to school. As we get older, obligations pile up like enormous tick marks on an unending to-do list: pick up the kids from soccer practice, organize the swim club fundraiser, prepare for the community foundation’s board meeting next Tuesday, train for the upcoming 10K run, and mow that blasted lawn. But even before we can tackle our unending checklist, we must work at our day jobs, which have become more complex and intense as a result of the current economic climate. Finally, our number one priority is to nurture the priceless family and friend relationships that form the basis of who we are.

What is the research about?

In April 2011, we took the unique opportunity to hit the pause button and immerse ourselves in a training program to understand and apply the philosophical underpinnings of the credit union idea. The Credit Union Development Education Program, or DE, is an intensive weeklong program that immerses students in concepts related to credit union history, cooperative principles, and economic development theories. DE helps attendees apply these unique concepts in the context of their organization. More than 1,000 professionals from over 30 countries have graduated from this 29-year-old program.

DE uses a combination of classroom sessions and clever hands-on activities to impart this knowledge. In DE’s capstone activity, small groups are assembled to solve a realistic (but fictional) case study during the final 18 hours of the program. This special report outlines the foundation of the DE program and presents the groups’ case study findings.

What are the credit union implications?

We decided to issue this special report for three reasons:

  • First, we feel DE is a unique and important program for the future of credit unions, as it teaches the fundamental differentiators between credit unions and other consumer financial providers. If more professionals apply these concepts in their organizations, credit unions could be poised for a renaissance.
  • Second, the DE class of 2011 presents novel ideas about some very realistic issues in the credit union system. While the case studies are fictional, they do represent scenarios your organization may be facing today.
  • Finally, every DE participant must complete a postclass project. For our project, we thought we would stick to our knitting and do what we do best: write, analyze, and publish our findings for the credit union system.