Capacity Building and Self-reliance is Key

Donor Spotlight – Interview with Erin Hancock, International Centre for Co-operative Management, Saint Mary’s University

CDF Canada attracts some of the most generous and compassionate donors. We have a diverse group of donors, each with their own reasons for giving. Some give for personal reasons, others to support their corporate goals and/or values. They all share a common goal of wanting to help create a world of self-reliance, equality and economic prosperity.  We love hearing their stories and hope you will too!

Read ‘Why They Give!’ Discover the impact we’ve already made and the difference we can continue to make together as we help pave the way to prosperity for another 75 years

Erin Hancock

Deeply connected with the co-operative movement
Erin has been a volunteer and individual donor with CDF Canada for over 10 years. She’s a great example of how individual and corporate donors from the co-operative community matter, and together, can create huge impact. “Although I’m an individual donor, I see myself as contributing as a member of the Canadian co-op system.” Erin, who works at the International Centre for Co-operative Management, Saint Mary’s University, is on the board of iNova Credit Union, and a past Director on CDF Canada’s Board, is someone who connects deeply and cares about her co-operative community. She also understands all the ins and outs of the co-operative business model, and the advantage it brings when fostering a culture of self-reliance. “The co-operative model, with a focus on inclusion, democracy, member control and mutual self-help provides a foundation for communities to build their own future for generations to come.” Erin believes that CDF is a partner that brings these aspirations within reach, letting those communities know there is a global system backing their efforts.

Capacity building and self-reliance is key
As someone who studied international development, Erin tells the story of self-reliance well. “So many charitable initiatives are well-intentioned but do not create a base of autonomy, resilience or longevity, they create a reliance on ongoing donations,” said Erin. “With the CDF Canada projects, supporting co-operative development, communities are able to pool their collective intellectual and other resources to build something that is suited for them for the long term,” explained Erin. “The injection of expertise and capital investment from CDF Canada and the wider co-operative and credit union partners in Canada is a way to give support to boost these initiatives, while maintaining the independence and ownership within the communities.” Something Erin feels good about, knowing her donations support self-reliance, rather than ongoing charity.

Co-op principle #6 in action
Erin was a volunteer with the credit union system in Africa – offering board governance training in Uganda, South Africa and Lesotho between 2011 and 2014 – and was also a mentor for CDF Canada’s Women’s Mentorship Program, between 2012 and 2016. Thinking back to what attracted her most to CDF Canada, she reflected on the co-op principles. “I wanted to support initiatives that empowered people to build their own livelihoods in a sustainable way, that distributed resources and power, and was organized democratically,” relayed Erin. “It was co-operative principle #6 in action – co-operation among co-ops. I had been watching Canadian co-ops take leadership in supporting co-ops around the globe since reading the ‘CCA’ newsletters as far back as the 90s.” Something Erin aspired to be a part of and did exactly that.

A moment of self-reflection
“When I traveled to Uganda in 2013 to support the African Confederation of Co-operative Savings and Credit Associations with their congress and governance training for financial co-operatives across Africa,” Erin told us. “I was encouraged by the efforts to challenge themselves on gender and youth inclusion in their organizations. This was a moment of self-reflection and change, and CDF played a large part in providing examples of Canadian leaders in financial co-ops who did not fit the typical idea of ‘leadership’ most could envision.” In fact, during one of the roleplaying sessions, Erin acted the part of a prominent woman CEO of a credit union in Canada, and the entire room went silent. “People were impressed and excited about the possibilities,” exclaimed Erin. “CDF was wise to invest in education both for the existing leadership, as well as the emerging woman leaders, especially through the Women’s Mentorship Program.”

 We can’t all volunteer, but everyone can give
Erin proudly told us that the Canadian co-operative system should be pleased about everything CDF Canada has done together; with our partners, volunteers and donors. “There are more legacies to build and more communities that will forever be changed because of the stewardship and generosity of Canadians via CDF Canada. Let’s do our part – because it matters.” While not everyone is in a position to volunteer, we can all open our wallets. Erin asks that others join her in supporting CDF Canada. “Join the other thought leaders in Canada’s co-operative system to build this inspiring, global co-operative community. Create lasting change that builds community capacity and be part of something you can be proud of.”

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