Resilience was a word that cropped up again and again at the 2021 Oikocredit (OI) AGM and Members’ Meeting. While the OI Capacity Building team credited partners for their resilience in adapting to this year’s pandemic by increasing risk management training, the finance team credited clients with increasing digitization and improving communication. Another facet of resilience also got air time when the US and Canada Support Associations hosted a discussion on diversity equity and inclusion (DEI).
Sara Shoff, Chief Operating Officer of Oikocredit US (OUS), spoke to us about the DEI discussion and how DEI will be central to building resilience for Oikocredit in North America.
How does DEI contribute to resilience and what are OUS and Oikocredit Canada doing about it?
From academic and leadership perspectives the importance of diverse teams in good decision making has been well know and discussed, from Forbes to the Harvard Business Review. For Oikocredit in North America we know we need a few things: teams that bring the wide range of experiences necessary to manage nonprofit impact investment organizations and connect us to the cooperative history and mission focus of Oikocredit. We also want our teams to be more representative of the diverse communities our countries represent within the Oikocredit co-op. Practically, we are integrating our DEI policies into hiring and work force management procedures. This is an ongoing effort that we will continue to report on.
What were some of the takeaways from the polling questions on DEI at the AGM?
Oikocredit members were strongly interested in DEI and most importantly wanted training. A few members are eager to join and support our working group. We had support from senior leadership in the Netherlands and were encouraged by the positive reception from our conversation.
What does the North American DEI Working Group hope to achieve in the next year?
Mostly, we want to continue the conversation. Oikocredit is a cooperative, owned by its members across the world. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives must be influenced by the cultural context in which they are presented. This is a key focus of the N. American DEI Working Group. To lead by example in our own organizations, identify and support relevant resources for the global cooperative, and advocate for transparency across the cooperative.