A component of Desjardins Group

In 1970, Desjardins Group created Développement international Desjardins (DID) giving it the objective of sharing the success of the Québec cooperative model with countries in the developing world. DID was a response to the needs expressed by developing countries that were looking to Desjardins for better understanding of how the Québec model could contribute to development in their communities.

DID has managed to establish strong ties with communities around the world mainly because it has been able to draw on the wide range of expertise available within Desjardins Group. For over 40 years, numerous specialists on staff at components within Desjardins Group have contributed to completing projects carried out by DID and have been instrumental in establishing high-quality relationships with partners abroad.

The Desjardins Group link is a major DID strength

The contribution of Desjardins Group to the DID mission takes many forms

A source of inspiration

DID has developed its specific expertise based on Desjardins Group model, its approaches, toolkits and strategies. By constantly adapting to its own environment, the mother group remains a vibrant model for DID.

A pool of experts

For DID, Desjardins Group with all of its components provides a large pool of specialized human resources. For short-term contracts as well as long-term projects these specialists make a valuable contribution to the completion of DID projects.

Assisting visiting partners

Every year various components of Desjardins Group, such as the financial cooperatives and Desjardins Business Centres, welcome visiting DID partners to share Desjardins experience and expertise with them.

Helping knowledge transfer

Desjardins Group also contributes to a coaching program DID has set up to assist its partners (PAP – the Partner Assistance Program). The PAP delivers professional coaching services to the microfinance institutions receiving assistance from DID and is focused mainly on inspection and auditing, restating accounts and internal controls over operations. This program, which anchors and complements DID technical support activities, is staffed by recently retired Desjardins Group employees. Under this program, volunteer specialists transfer the expertise they have acquired over their careers to DID partners.

History from a personal viewpoint

On January 2, 1972, Michel Lagacé left Québec for a two-year contract in Burkina Faso, West Africa. He was the first DID technical advisor to carry out a long-term mission in a developing country to set up a network of savings and credit cooperatives. From 1972 until 2007, Michel Lagacé held positions as a field advisor in Burkina Faso, Honduras, and Senegal, as an administrative and financial director, program director and as the executive assistant to DID's president and chief executive officer.

"The first ventures by Desjardins to set up savings and credit institutions in developing countries took place in early 1972 with the creation of financial cooperatives in Upper Volta, today’s Burkina Faso. That was a milestone in our history. It was my job at the time as a technical advisor in the field to adapt the Desjardins financial cooperative model to the circumstances in Africa. The goal was to provide security for the savings deposited by smallholders and provide financing for productive endeavours.

At that time, donor agencies proposed injecting so-called cold money from their budgets for lending out as lines of credit. Drawing on the Desjardins model, DID instead promoted converting the deposits of the members in the cooperatives (or warm money) into financing for the community. This would build on the solidarity among those members and ensure local and regional development. The financial services provided by the financial cooperatives expanded over time in relation to the needs of rural and urban communities.

DID is continuing to provide assistance to the network of financial cooperatives in Burkina Faso. These financial cooperatives have now set up regional unions and recently established a national federation reaching over one million members or clients. This is an excellent example of a longstanding DID partnership and illustrates the success achieved by this self-sufficient network of financial cooperatives in Africa."