Building a Young Professional Cooperative Community
From Brent Dixon:
The cooperative movement has a problem with aging. Average age of cooperative members and employees is over a decade older than the average age of people in the US and in Canada.
Because of economic, technological, and cultural changes, financial services – and many other business sectors – have hit what the smart folks at McKinsey & Company call a “Structural Break,” which is: “…the moment in time- series data when trends and the patterns of associations among variables change.” (via)
What does that mean? It means things have changed and we cannot continue to do things the way they’ve always be done.
If you went to business school you remember the chart that appears with this post on the life-cycle of an industry.
All signs point to credit unions, and many of our cooperative brethren, being right smack on X. This means we can go one of two ways, and have to fight for the future of a model we know is better for our communities. And if we don’t inject new blood, new energy, and new ways of solving problems into our cooperatives, they will die.
We need to recruit and invest in young talent.
At the Filene Research Institute, a think-and-do-tank for credit unions, we learned that the top reasons young people work for credit unions include:
• The opportunities to influence strategy immediately
• The opportunity to work with and learn from top leadership from day one
• The opportunity to help their community
In talking with young people across credit unions, we also learned that because young credit union employees are somewhat rare, many of them feel like an island while at work. They were starved for ways to connect with other like-minded people their age.
Ed Filene, father of the U.S. credit union movement, once said, “Youth is too serious to become obedient.”
That in mind, a group of young credit union people, myself included, decided to take the problem into our own hands. Through a series of small grassroots meet-ups that spun wonderfully out of control, we’ve nurtured and grown The Crash Network, a growing community of close to 200 young credit union professionals. The community is designed to enable:
• Ongoing connections and support from like-minded people through an online network at http://crash.coop.
• Opportunities for professional growth and development through action (One example is: The Collider, an innovation tournament designed to improve the problem of affordable housing).
• Mentorships with seasoned industry veterans.
A year and a half in and we’ve initiated countless development projects, sparked spin-off youth development organizations across the U.S, piloted a mentorship program, and given a voice to a growing number of young credit union employees who are ready to step up, get their hands dirty, and create the future themselves. You can watch a short video on some of the voices of The Crash Network here.
We have a lot to learn, and can’t wait for what’s next.
Brent Dixon, Young Adult Advisor for the Filene Research Institute, will be presenting on building a younger cooperative at the upcoming CUNA Community Credit Union & Growth Conference. This post was originally published for the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA).