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Understanding performative allyship – and what your credit union can do about it

A person holds up a sign reading "Equity in Diversity" at a street proptest

Victor Corro, CEO of Coopera, Chair and Founder of the CU DEI Collective

Victor CorroDiversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) may be the phrase of the year – and with good reason. After centuries of insidious, systemic, seemly insurmountable racism in the U.S. we’re at a tipping point. People want to see change. Real change! And they want to know what their favorite brands are doing about it. In one word, ACTION is what people want.

While organizations express how they are all about DEI, there’s often not a lot backing up their claims. People notice this. A quick look and its clearly superficial showmanship and empty promises; also known as performative allyship.

Performative allyship is probably something you recognize. It’s the equivalent of a “Love the Earth” bumper sticker on the back of a gas-guzzler. It’s superficial and disingenuous. At its best, performative allyship makes people roll their eyes. At its worst, it dilutes an important conversation and weakens public trust, and it makes the consumer not want to buy what the organization is selling.

But there’s hope. When brands recognize and understand performative allyship, they can avoid it in their policies and actions. This is why it’s essential to have a plan and work with DEI experts to create a thoughtful, intentional DEI strategy – think bigger than posting on your social media channels for Hispanic Heritage Month, having your board and C-suite just come and relate to one lived experience.

Smaller credit unions know their community, read members, intimately. They are part of the fabric of the community; however, they remain at risk for performative allyship.

With simply fewer resources to put toward effective analytics and DEI initiatives, small-asset credit unions may be prone to fall behind when it comes to delivering true change and growth for employees and members. From them I hear how frustrating it is to recognize the need to use analytics to understand who they have as members and to come up with culturally relevant financial solutions to an increasingly diverse membership.

That’s why I’m thrilled that Coopera is partnering with the National Credit Union Foundation on a grant program to offer a year of consulting services for qualified applicants. For free. It’s the definition of equity – giving those who need it an extra boost, so everyone has a fair shot at success.

If your credit union is between $100 million and $600 million in assets, and you have an interest in truly understanding your members’ diverse needs, not simply saying you are, I urge you to apply.

Coopera experts help credit unions evaluate their membership demographics and help leaders develop an ACTION PLAN and roadmap to better serve multicultural members and communities.

For credit union leaders, it’s an invaluable opportunity to find new ways to innovate within your organization while championing DEI values. It is also an opportunity to realize the mission and promise of a credit union: financial inclusion and financial well-being for all. It’s the chance to be a real, true ally.

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