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Amanda Reflects on the 2022 NACUSO Network Conference

May 5, 2022

Last week we wrapped up our 2022 NACUSO Network Conference in Orlando, Florida. I’ve had the pleasure of attending this event many times before, but this is the first time I’ve seen it from behind the scenes. I wrote a day one reflection about how special that first day felt to me after all the conversations and work that had gone into making this event possible and I must be honest with you, it never lost that sense of magic. There was a constant energy in the air that never dissipated.

Over 500 attendees (people even showing up the second day of the event to register in person after hearing about how good day 1 was) is an absolute accomplishment and I am so proud of our team for putting together a program that so many people felt they could benefit from.

We kicked off the event with Bo Jackson, a well-known athlete who is the only athlete to be an MVP in both the NFL and MLB. One of the most touching moments in his story was when he spoke about how so many people tell him how sorry they are that his career was cut short due to injuries, but he viewed that as such a blessing. Maybe it’s because we are all just coming out of this pandemic phase, but I really connected to the idea of the importance of being able to spend time with friends and family. Surrounding myself and putting my energy into the people and paces I care about most, and for Bo that was home. Did he love sports, competing, his teams, (the paycheck haha), sure, but at the end of the day he landed exactly where he needed to be and it was nice hearing him say he wasn’t sorry about how things ended at all. I hope that as we have all been recently reminded about the fragility of life that we can take a similar approach to Bo and not let work overshadow the truly important things in our lives.

Following Bo Jackson attendees had the chance to be inspired by Kevin Brown, The Hero speaker. If you have never had an opportunity to hear him speak or read his book, I highly recommend finding the time to do one or the other (or both). Kevin really gets to the heart of what it means to be an extraordinary person and how none of us are here simply to just be ordinary. I don’t want to give too much of his story away, but he will make you laugh, reflect on your actions, cry, think about how you can grow and so many other emotions in the span of 45 minutes. It’s a great reminder of the bottom-line mission of the industry, to help people. To see a need and find a solution not because we HAVE to, but because we want to.

We were honored to have not one, but two, NCUA Board Members speak on stage to attendees and answer questions from them. There is so much regulatory change and discussions happening and it was great to offer our attendees the opportunity to hear directly from them and to allow the NCUA to see our passion for credit unions and CUSOs and hear directly from us as well. Having two NCUA speakers at one event is no small feat, and I am immensely proud that we were able to make this happen for everyone at NACUSO Network this year.

I can’t highlight the event without mentioning “cryptocurrency”. The buzzword as of late and we were fortunate to have some great panelists in small group breakout sessions as well as Lamont Black, Ph.D. speak to us about crypto in a meaningful way. What it is, why it should matter to us, how we can use it, and how it can help our members and industry. Personally, crypto has always been this “thing” that existed, and I should understand it but when I would try and research it, I just didn’t even know where to start. There are a million different rabbit holes you can go down with the topic and I couldn’t find my bearings, but I really appreciated the simplicity of Dr. Black’s discussion and his approach of providing specific, relevant examples for credit unions that allowed me to start to see how I might use this. Am I expert now, no, but I certainly don’t feel lost in wonderland anymore. And if you’re like me and feel like you’re just getting started on the educational path around crypto, have no fear, discussions are already in place about ways to offer some mini-series throughout the year so that we can become the experts’ members need us to be.

Something I think a lot about at Disney is “movie magic” and I started this reflection off by telling you that my awe never left. A huge part of that is all the hard work that goes into things ahead of time but some of that is the moments that just happen that you can’t plan for. I have been attending NACUSO Network since 2015, it was then that the excitement and passion from Next Big Idea contestants and speeches from CUSO of the Year Award winners really solidified my love for this event. No matter how many times I’ve seen the story play out now, even though it’s always a little different, it’s just as touching. I find myself full of pride watching presenters or hearing acceptance speeches knowing that our industry is in such capable hands. There isn’t a moment that goes by that I don’t consider myself lucky to work surrounded by all of you.

So, what’s next? We’re coming off the high of an amazing event, what do we do with that energy? We start putting into practice some of the things we learned. We take a small step this week, and another one the next. We reach out to our newly expanded network when we need support. We encourage each other to move outside the “norm” even though it’s hard, because it’s what is right. We actively look for opportunities to learn more and to engage others. We remind ourselves in our best Hamilton song voice that the magic we experienced at Disney was “not a moment, it’s a movement” and we push forward together.

Thank you all for a magical event. I can’t wait to see the progress we all make before the 2023 NACUSO Network.