Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Encouraging movement at First Calgary

First Calgary—ostensibly still a credit union—seems to be moving toward a more socially responsible practice. There’s still a very long way to go to bring it to the standards of Vancity—one of Canada’s most active in social change credit unions, and also one of the most profitable. However, the changes I’ve observed this decade are at least encouraging.

There has been a significant increase in the use of the language of corporate social responsibility by the executive and board members. While this has not yet translated into any signifiant structural change to the organization, that I’m aware of, it has made room for some small projects to emerge that point to some positive possibilities.

At this past evening’s AGM, a number of projects were highlighted that indicate an increased willingness to move toward efforts for positive social change. This is a stark contrast to the first First Calgary AGM I attended about 5 years ago where the only “social responsibility” discussed were some contributions to traditional charities (the bandage vs. cure problem).

All that said, there are still numerous major problems with the anti-democratic policies and practices of First Calgary. The board election campaign needs a significant overhaul in order to actively engage the membership in dialogue with the candidates.

Currently, candidates for the board are strictly prohibited from any campaigning outside of a measly 150 word printed statement (far less than a typical cover letter—let alone a resumé), and a one-minute video statement. There is no opportunity for members to ask any questions, or for candidates to fully present their personal background and their ideas for First Calgary’s direction.

How can one be expected to make an appropriate decision about who to vote for without such information and dialogue?

There are numerous other problems with the current board structure, but that’s enough for me tonight. In any case, I’m still more encouraged now about the possibility of moving First Calgary in a positive direction than I have been since I started working to change it some years ago.
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