In the late 1970s, the U.S. arm of the World Council of Churches began to raise awareness among American churches about the opportunity to invest in the international cooperative.
In 1990, Oikocredit USA was established to support the work of Oikocredit International by expanding its network of U.S. investors.
In 2006, the U.S. office became formally recognized as a national office of Oikocredit International. The organization’s small staff began to promote and process investments from individual and institutional investors with support from volunteer Support Associations around the country.
Support Associations are collectives of volunteers whose members are engaged in promoting Oikocredit’s mission. The Western Pennsylvania Support Association (WPSA), the first of these groups based in the US, launched in Pittsburgh in the mid-1980s. It remains the longest active association in the country.
Today there are two active Support Associations: Oikocredit Northwest (ONW) in Seattle, WA as well as WPSA. In addition to being active volunteers for Oikocredit, Support Associations are members of the cooperative that can attend the Annual General Meeting (AGM) to propose resolutions, participate in dialogue and debate, and use their equal right to vote to influence the interest rate paid to investors.
In the past decade, Oikocredit USA has grown into a dynamic member of the social investment community. Its board now includes fund managers, funding institutions and communications experts as well as church representatives. Today, Oikocredit USA has as its National Director Sharlene Brown, who brings a socially responsible investing background as well as on-the-ground microfinance experience to the organization.
Today Oikocredit works with partners in nearly 70 countries and has grown to be the largest private financier of microfinance in the world. There are now 45,000 investors internationally: nearly 7,000 are based in the U.S.