An Englishman in DC
A lukewarm Saturday afternoon, I land at Dulles airport following an eight hour flight from London. I am in Washington DC for my first ever Credit Union conference in the USA. I certainly picked a good one. CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference, The GAC. Over 4000 CU professionals from all over the United States and now, the world.
I had been lucky enough to be chosen by The Cooperative Trust (one of The Filene Research Institutes many projects) to go to the GAC as a Crasher. Now, being British, it would be very uncouth of me to crash anything. However, on this occasion I made an exception. On arrival, I was to be welcomed with open arms by a group of CU professionals all under the age of 30. And I have to be honest, after meeting each and every one of them I can tell you that they will all be CEO’s in the future. These people are driven, intelligent, personable, funny and most of all; dedicated to credit unions. Dedicated to serving our members. Dedicated to the future of our system.
All of this was new to me. A conference of this size just doesn’t exist in the UK. I returned to our national conference with an attendance of just over 300! I had never been involved in a young person’s network before The Cooperative Trust. This just doesn’t exist in the UK right now. However, I have now experienced ‘Crash the GAC’ first hand and can tell you all that this programme should never end. What it does not only for the young people in attendance but the movement as a whole is just incredible. Hopefully I can give you a small insight into that now.
As a part of ‘Crash the GAC’, we had a large focus on Member Business Lending. As does everyone right now I can imagine. Our group had been tasked with finding out as much about what small businesses really needed and then creating a product which we could prototype in order to get credit unions aiding small businesses and in this particular instance, Co-ops. At the end of the week at the GAC, we had multiple groups working on multiple prototypes which are going to be tested out over the coming months. I’m not going to tell you what these are, but instead implore you to go and find out yourself. Reach out to The Cooperative Trust, find out what they…. We, are doing. Help! Guide! Learn!
The GAC also gave me an incredible insight into the inner workings of Credit Unions and their ongoing struggle with legislation and governance in the USA. I was lucky enough to be invited to ‘Hike the Hill’ with the Wisconsin Credit Union League, of whom I again received the most incredibly warm welcome. Sitting in on these meetings with congressman showed me just how important lobbying your government at all levels really is. Both local and national. So if you think your voice doesn’t count, think again. Contact your congressman or congresswoman. Work together. And to carry on from Mr. Bill Cheney’s message, ‘Unite for Good’.
I would love to tell you so much more about my week, but sadly, I don’t think you’d have enough time to hear about my adventure. Just remember, your voice counts. Reach out to government of all levels to ensure that the future of credit unions is safeguarded. And finally, I will once more implore you to reach out to The Cooperative Trust and see all the amazing work they are doing for our industry.
James Marshall is the Marketing Manager at Plane Saver Credit Union, London, United Kingdom. All are opinions are his own. They in no way represent those of his employer.