WOCCU's international partnerships program grew in 2008 with the addition of six new partnerships: Antigua/Arizona, Belize/Southwest Corporate, Brazil/Florida, Estonia/Virginia, St. Lucia/Michigan and United Kingdom/Washington, D.C. & Maryland. First steps were also taken by two other pairs: Caja Yanga (Mexico)/Servus Credit Union (Canada) and Romania/Pennsylvania.
Sophisticated operational and technical exchanges are now the norm in most partnerships. With increased interest in international transactions and technology-driven operations in credit unions, many U.S. league partners are playing a key role working with WOCCU to provide operational expertise, share their experiences and offer advice on information technology requirements to developing partners.
The program has enjoyed increased diversity in media attention in the United States. Several articles, press releases and other communications were published in both the trade and mainstream media. Articles and stories on international partners and departmental programs have run in league newsletters, CUNA's News Now, Credit Union Times, and foreign local media, including mentions in Credit Union Magazine. About 23% of all press releases generated by WOCCU in 2008 were directly related to partnership activities. In addition to those WOCCU-generated releases, the department also was the source of 16 other releases in trade media and local media. Nine of those releases pertained to the Hispanic Marketing Immersion Program, a theme which is seeing increased press coverage each year.
The International Partnerships program has a redesigned website. The new WOCCU website allows us to keep the most up-to-date information on all of the partnerships. The department has also launched its Hispanic Marketing Immersion Program initiative for 2008 through the website, including a photo gallery. The 2009 Hispanic Marketing Immersion Program page is now available.
In addition to the Hispanic Marketing Immersion Program, the International Partnerships department also implemented two other pilot programs. The first program, dubbed the credit union opportunities program, was designed to cater to credit union professionals outside the US who have an interest in learning English and studying the US credit union system. This program is highly customizable as the participant chooses the location, timeframe, and areas of interest. The second program allows credit union staff from another credit union movement outside the US to visit credit unions, leagues or corporates in the US. This program is usually about a week long.
Another important event was the 4th International Partnerships Briefing and Hike the Hill on October 17th in Washington, D.C. Sixteen credit union leaders from United States credit union leagues, corporates and the NCUA shared the progress of their individual partnerships and used the meeting as a forum to learn from one another best practices in international credit union development. During the briefing, participants discussed how to best convey partnership benefits to their constituents, how to make partnerships more inclusive, what works in the program and what can be improved.
Partnership efficiency is a continuing goal for the department. Partners work with WOCCU to conduct planning sessions to set annual goals and work plans for their partnerships. Periodically, each partnership conducts a feedback session to measure work plan effectiveness so that priorities and activities are continually evaluated and realigned. This ensures that the partnership remains focused and that both partners feel that the relationship adds value to their mission.
As of December 2008, WOCCU's international partnership portfolio included 26 active partnerships and two progressing toward formal agreements.