The video of the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis acted as an unveiling to some, exposing the many ways that social injustice is perpetuated in America. For others, it was another tragic reminder of what’s always been in plain sight.
Victor Miguel Corro, CEO, Coopera
Regardless of their prior level of awareness, individuals and organizations alike are asking themselves important questions today. Questions like: Where do we start? What actions can the credit union industry take to truly make an impact on social justice?
Enter the CU DEI Collective. Launched in January 2019 by more than a dozen founding organizations, the CU DEI Collective serves as a space where credit unions can easily find resources — such as practitioners, programs, tactical documents, and entities that specialize in diversity, equity, and inclusion — around social justice and DEI implementation.
“Credit unions and their partners are all doing something but not in a coordinated way,” says CU DEI Collective co-founder Victor Miguel Corro. “We needed to create a sounding board where people can seek and provide guidance and leadership to the industry around DEI.”
Corro is the CEO of Coopera, a multicultural analytics and consulting firm based in Des Moines, IA. He’s been with Coopera since January 2018, but his commitment to DEI started with his 20-year career at the World Council of Credit Unions, where he led research about social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the credit union movement.
“During my time at WOCCU, I studied the barriers that prevent people from accessing financial services,” Corro says. “One of those gaps clearly was a lack of diversity in the decision-making structure. The United States is 40% multicultural, and the industry doesn’t even begin to reflect that in management teams and boards.”
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Along with serving as a resource repository, another goal of the Collective is to increase diversity in decision-making positions in credit unions, in both the C-suite and boardroom. A Panamanian-American who previously served on two credit union boards, Corro says the way to achieve this diversity is through being intentional and developing community relationships.
“Credit unions that find it difficult to diversify their decision-making teams can start by developing relationships with the underrepresented communities they already serve,” he says. “Develop deep relationships with nonprofits that serve affinity groups or underserved communities. As you work hand in hand, it will become easier to identify leaders from diverse backgrounds that might be a good fit for the board and staff. In turn, the community gets access to resources — like credit union volunteers — and financial services. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship.”
This is a marathon with no finish line. We need to know this work won’t end. The important part is to keep going.
Taking the first steps toward social justice and diversity, equity, and inclusion may look like an overwhelming undertaking. The CU DEI Collective provides an easy way to get started with its Commitment to Change and Pledge to Action.
“The first action step could be to sign the pledge, which condemns racism and gives action steps for combating systemic racism,” Corro says.
Once making the commitment, credit unions can refer to the pledge for guidance on how to keep that commitment alive, the Coopera CEO says, with each cooperative deciding for themselves which actions best fit their individual situation.
“I want to emphasize, this is a guide — we’re not expecting credit unions to take every action step listed,” Corro says. “An authentic, long-lasting commitment to change means taking action steps that most align with a credit union’s mission, vision, and community.”
Corro co-founded the CU DEI Collective with other organizations passionate about DEI, including the African American Credit Union Coalition, CUNA, Filene, and more. The list of supporting and pledging participants grows daily.
“We’re in the beginning stages and emphasize that this isn’t a ‘checking the box’ type of thing,” Corro says. “This is a marathon with no finish line. We need to know this work won’t end. The important part is to keep going.”
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