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MADISON, Wis. – If you cover the world as the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) does, then it makes good sense to have representation from around the world. In the past, the WOCCU Board was heavily weighted by U.S. membership, although there were other countries on the board. That all changed when the new board of directors was sworn in at their annual meeting last month in Killarney, Ireland. It is the most diversified board in the organization’s history, and it is not an accident. It the direct result of “Operation Open Up”, which was approved last November in the first WOCCU teleconferencing meeting. No matter what time WOCCU chose for the teleconference, it would have been too late or too early for someone, but still the individual board members got up or stayed up for that historic meeting, which was held at 11:00 p.m. Madison, Wis.-time. Tired or not, the members approved the expansion from the former nine-person board to 15, making room for different nationalities to be seated. Operation Open Up was born with the goals of bringing on members from new places where credit unions were in various stages of development. WOCCU feels strongly that it is often the people from those areas that can contribute the most information about local needs, culture and history. Reasons for the credit unions to have board membership vary, from learning more about the credit union movement to, as Doug McLaren of New Zealand Association of Credit Unions said, “We were given so much we felt it was time to give back.” Board members now come from the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Guatemala, New Zealand, Malawi, Ireland, Poland and Australia. This is a better geographic reflection of the many countries that belong to WOCCU. Thirty countries attended WOCCU’s meeting in Killarney, and if each attendee’s country was not represented on the new board, at least there was someone from their general geographic region. There is no mystery on how a country can get representation on WOCCO’s Board. First it is necessary for the movement in any country to send a delegate to WOCCU’s Annual General Meeting. Movements then can nominate any delegate to be a board member. One of the prerequisites, however, is that dues be paid to WOCCU. Dues are assessed on size factors. The slate is voted at the Annual General Meeting by either a voice or hand vote. Both volunteers and professionals, CEOs of credit unions or national associations, can be members. At the moment there are five volunteers. The term of office is two years, but there are no term limits. Arthur Arnold, WOCCU’s CEO has stated that the quality and the dedication of the past board has made it easier for him to do his job. This new board looks equally promising under the chairmanship of Gerry Foley of Ireland. Although WOCCU’s board has true international representation at this point, there has been a second deliberate attempt to search for younger members. In the past the approximate average age has been around 50 years or older. Aware that the movement needs both the wisdom of the mature and the enthusiasm of the young, WOCCU has developed a Young Professionals Program, one step of which will feature scholarships to the Paris Leadership Conference in August. However two new members- Grzegorz Bierecki, director National Association of Cooperative Savings and Credit Unions (NACSCU-Poland) Sylvester Kadzola, director Malawi Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives (MUSCCO)-bring down the average besides representing the former Eastern Block countries and Africa. One group is still missing on the board. The board is all male, and in a movement where many women have broken through the glass ceiling and where many women form credit unions, this too needs to change, said Arthur Arnold, presidents of WOCCU. It is not impossible that a woman or women would be added next year at WOCCU’s Annual General Meeting in Poland. WOCCU’s staff has women in management positions, as do many of the organizations that are represented on the board. -

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