Argentine Entrepreneur Visits Unitus Seeking a Better Future For Millions At Home

Aimee Berg, Diana Schvarztein, and Joel Bissett

Diana Schvarztein undergoes an intensive 4-week fellowship at Unitus Community Credit Union to learn how she can help improve financial independence, and quality of life, for millions enduring decades-long financial crisis in Argentina.

Hosting a Leading Young Argentine Entrepreneur

In their latest effort to help disadvantaged peoples build sustainable financial development throughout the world, Unitus hosted leading young Argentine entrepreneur Diana Schvarztein to a 4-week intensive collaboration to improve financial education and opportunity for Argentine citizens.

The trip saw Schvarztein touch down in Detroit, MI before spending four weeks at Unitus headquarters, where she was immediately given an immersive role in operations.

“In order to help Diana learn as much as possible in her time here,” explained Steve Stapp, President and CEO of Unitus, “we co-created a packed calendar and encouraged her to actively participate right from the start. She was immersed in cross-functional meetings, all-staff events, strategic discussions, skill-building workshops, one-on-one leadership sessions, and much more.”

A Natural Match

Schvarztein and Unitus were a natural match. She is Co-Founder and Director of Financial Inclusion Partners (FIP), a network of professionals working to increase access to financial services and reduce poverty in Argentina.

Having earned a Master’s degree in Microfinance from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, she is now a professor in the Financial Inclusion, Microfinance, and Development postgraduate program at the Universidad Católica Argentina.

There she conducts research projects and coordinates training programs to help more people in Argentina build lasting financial advancement.

Clarifying What People Need Most Back Home

For now, her research aims to gather clarifying information about what people need most back home.

“We worked with a sample of 300 people over three weeks,” she described of a recent project. “Fifty percent had no money saved at all. Only 20% had access to a bank account. And only 5% had ever used a smartphone to make a mobile transaction.”

“We worked with a sample of 300 people […] only 5% had ever used a smartphone to make a mobile transaction.” -Diana Schvarztein

Although disconcerting, this data was illuminating, helping her focus her efforts to maximize positive impact in her community.

“Once we knew,” she continued, “that only 5% of people had ever managed their finances on a smartphone, we knew that we couldn’t implement a digital wallet. We had to scale our efforts back and start smaller.”

Help From a World Leader In Cooperative Finance

To learn how to execute community financial education programs, she applied to a local fellowship that would bring her directly to a world leader in cooperative finance: The United States.

The internship was coordinated by World Oregon in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State and Meridian International Center through the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI).

Nine other professionals visited Portland as part of the program, including influential professionals from Brazil, Columbia, and Venezuela to name a few. They conducted their intensive programs in industries as varied as media, auto maintenance, civic engagement, and even retail ice cream.

A Real-World Example of a Community-Oriented FI

In Unitus, Schvarztein found the real-world example of a well-established, community-oriented financial institution for which she’d travelled so many thousands of miles.

“My biggest goal,” said Diana, “was to learn best practices from Unitus and replicate them back in Argentina. To learn especially about how they are successful in financial education, and gain an international perspective about how to educate people about money.”

It didn’t take long for her to make an impact. “Diana did not miss a beat throughout the program, showing boundless energy, a sharp intellect, and a constant desire to learn,” said Stapp. “She quickly became popular for her enthusiasm and uncanny ability to bring joy to everyone around her.”

Emerging With a Sharpened Vision

Surprising no one, Diana reflected glowingly on her time here: “I learned so much about how to improve financial education throughout the community. I am grateful for the chance to use the things I’m learning here to help reduce poverty and improve finances for the people in my home country.”

After four weeks, both Schvarztein and Unitus emerged with a sharpened vision of financial inclusion for the overlooked and underserved.

“We were humbled to have the opportunity to share our practices with a financial leader of Diana’s ability,” said Stapp. “As partners on a similar mission, we are excited to build this relationship and contribute to her cause of building sustainable financial opportunity for millions.”

“What I will take away most,” recalled Diana, “is learning about all the social leaders in this community and how they are making a difference. It’s incredible being part of different international networks and keeping in touch with people to learn how they are making good things happen for the people in their communities.”

About Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative

The Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI) builds links between young leaders across the Western hemisphere.

YLAI addresses the opportunity gap for youth, especially women, by empowering business and social entrepreneurs with the training, tools, networks and resources they need to transform their societies and contribute more fully to economic development, prosperity, security, human rights and good governance throughout the hemisphere.

It helps professionals develop as leaders, connect with peers across diverse geography, and become the change they are looking for.

About World Oregon

World Oregon was founded in 1950 as the World Affairs Council of Oregon in response to isolationist sentiments taking hold across the United States.

Their mission is to broaden and deepen public awareness and understanding of international affairs, engaging Oregonians with the world and with each other.

They believe that deeper global understanding is essential to a more peaceful world, and that cross-cultural learning propels us toward a more innovative future.

Posted By: Jacob Schnee

About the Author: Jacob joined Unitus as Marketing Specialist in March 2015 and transitioned to Marketing Communications Specialist in March 2017.

His experience has spanned hospitality, business development, consulting, and marketing in various industries along the east coast, west coast and in between.

When he is not developing internal and external communications for Unitus, he is engaging in recreational fitness, studying personality types and exploring the outdoors with his wife, dog, and baby.

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