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Smith: It's time to consider a new cooperative principle
Wednesday, February 6, 2019 6:55 AM

Maurice Smith, CUNA Board chairman and CEO of Local Government Federal Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C.

Each year, February is commemorated as Black History Month. This is a period to reflect on the sacrifices of African-Americans and celebrate the many contributions made to the American melting pot.

It is also a time to consider where diversity and inclusion for all of us stands today. As I look at my community of credit unions, I see an opportunity to reaffirm our values and explore new opportunities. I think the time is right to officially recognize diversity and inclusion as part of the credit union philosophy.

I have worked in the credit union movement for nearly 40 years. During this time, I have seen firsthand the credit union difference in action—but I think we can always strive to be better. While we have experienced many changes in technology, innovations and financial products, we have not paused to assess the real impact of our fundamental beliefs.

The credit union movement embraces seven cooperative principles as a set of philosophical tenets. The principles provide a blueprint for what distinguishes cooperatives from other organizations, illustrating our core values, economic model, and governance practices. As cooperatives, credit unions live by these ideologies in our everyday operations.

Absent from the seven cooperative principles is a specific focus on diversity and inclusion. I raise this point because I think this is a prime opportunity for the credit union movement to further distinguish itself from other industries.

As chairman of the CUNA Board of Directors, I appointed a Diversity and Inclusion Ad Hoc Working Group and tasked us with taking an honest look at the movement through this lens.

The board recently adopted language that CUNA is uniquely positioned to unify the movement and will use its role as thought leader to call awareness to diversity and inclusion, provide supportive training and education, and enable networking opportunities to provoke thoughtful dialogue and action.

To this end, I challenge all of us in the movement to consider the addition of an eighth cooperative principle: Diversity and inclusion.

Read more at CUNA.