Oikocredit is Embracing Change while staying true to its Mission
Canadian Board Member, Julie Scott shares her experience at the 2019 Oikocredit International Annual General Meeting (AGM)
Tell us a little about yourself and why you chose to be on the board of Oikocredit Canada
It was the people and purpose of Oikocredit that drew me in. The first Oikocredit event I went to in Toronto was about 5 years ago – the head of Oikocredit in East Africa told the story of a market cooperative where female entrepreneurs could sell their wares, learn business skills and receive childcare. I was inspired by what a difference Oikocredit were making in breaking down the barriers to allow female entrepreneurship to thrive.
This was your first Oikocredit International AGM, what were a few things that you learnt about Oikocredit as an international impact investing organization?
The impact investment market is getting more competitive by the day! I come from a financial services background where players have to be nimble to maintain and grow market share. I learnt at the AGM how a cooperative, not-for-profit organization must also be very responsive to changing risks and opportunities in the market.
Oikocredit International has a new vision and strategy, does this mean that that Oikocredit has a new mission and is changing direction?
I spoke with Oikocredit members from several continents at the AGM and if there was one resounding theme it was that the cooperative remains true to its mission to improve the quality of life of low income people in a sustainable way.
What are some of the challenges that Oikocredit is going through?
Cell phones! Just as Canadians’ lives are changing daily with the advent of mobile banking, so too are the lives of Oikocredit clients. It’s an exciting time to see all the innovation in fintech and how Oikocredit is working with startups channelling mobile payments and algorithms to empower small and medium sized businesses in Latin America, Africa and southeast Asia.
How is Oikocredit different to other impact investing organizations?
What we hear from clients is that Oikocredit is very well engaged on the ground and that we 'get' what our clients need to grow their business sustainably. Now that there are more development finance organizations competing to provide credit and equity investments, Oikocredit stands out for its hands on support - be it financial literacy training or customized technical assistance.
How would you like to see Canadians engaging with Oikocredit?
With all the headlines about floods, drought and fires and the global crisis of climate change, Canadians are well aware of how our lives are intimately connected with those of people in developing countries where Oikocredit works. Every member of the Oikocredit cooperative and every investor in Oikocredit products is helping to bring us closer to a sustainable world where people are empowered to create a life of dignity.
Photo from left to right: Julie Scott, Director at Oikocredit Canada; Sothany Chun, CEO of Oikocredit partner First Finance plc; John Berry, Director at Oikocredit USA; at the 2019 Oikocredit International AGM