Two years ago, a group of young people who dubbed themselves the Crash Network pushed their way onto the credit union scene at CUNA’s GAC conference.
What started out as an experiment for those under 35 to become more engaged with the industry and making their voices heard has now evolved into the newly rebranded the Cooperative Trust.
"Crash was about showing up and gaining access, in whatever way we could, to the wealth of wisdom and growth opportunities in the movement. There was a lot more separation between youth and veterans in the industry. Now, those boundaries, while not gone are beginning to crack," said Brent Dixon, who founded the Crash Network and serves as young adult adviser with the Filene Research Institute.
“The Cooperative Trust is about being change agents interwoven into the system. Working collectively as youth, tapping into the wisdom of veterans, and fully staking claim to the credit union movement because the reigns will be in our hands in a few short years.”
Dixon’s brainchild has become a community of more than 290 members working on 50 different projects, all geared toward helping credit unions deliver unique solutions to common challenges. In 2011, the network not only developed and implemented mentorship programs and partnered with the California, Nevada, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania credit union leagues to provide an event at their annual meetings but also sparked spinoffs of young professional development organizations. In addition, the group teamed up with the Filene Research Institute to launch The Collider, a 13-week competition designed to help credit unions increase the availability of affordable home ownership. In keeping with its ideas-into-action credo, the winning idea would get a boost into the marketplace with an assist from Filene’s implementation team.
Robert Christiansen of Servus Credit Union based in Edmonton, Alberta took top honors with his credit union home buyer’s plan, which offers matching incentives on member-contributed savings as a way to help members save for a down payment. The credit union would make an annual matching contribution on member-contributed savings every year over the life of the plan.
“It’s one of those things that went from this organic accident of a few people showing up at events, to now this group making things and actually creating real change in their organizations and across the industry,” said Dixon. “It’s something we aspired to and yet the reality of it has been nothing we could’ve even imagined.”
Crediting the community, he added that it’s been the members’ passion and drive that has helped the shift in perception of young credit union professionals from a marginalized group into a true voice of change for the movement that is not only heard but respected. He added that sparked the decision to take the network to the next level, which was made possible thanks to a three-year title sponsorship commitment from CUNA Mutual Group. The move will serve as seed funding to help the Cooperative Trust become completely self-sustaining in three years.
"We've supported and mentored The Cooperative Trust since it began as The Crash Network in 2010," said Bob Trunzo, chief operating officer, CUNA Mutual Group. “We recognized early on that The Crash Network had the potential to truly make an impact in the credit union movement, so we eagerly supported its growth and will continue to do so. The Cooperative Trust has the potential to make a real difference in the credit union communities it touches."
Dixon added that the rebrand to Cooperative Trust will further reinforce the core of helping the next generation of credit union professionals to learn, grow and develop by making it easier to collaborate and share via new tools on its new site at trust.coop, which will launch later this month.
“Bottom line is we’re building the website to make it easier to get ideas off the ground, provide feedback and help people connect with each other to get things done,” said Dixon.
The site will also include a section for those interested in mentoring or being mentored. In addition, membership will be open to anyone under 35.
“The expectations of joining will still be high as far as accountability and being an active member and we’re looking into charging a monthly fee as a way to sustain it once we hit a certain member mark. We want to keep it cheap so it won’t be a barrier to entry,” said Dixon. “Really if you have that entrepreneurial spark and are interested in collaborating then join. We want people who are active because to do this we build each other up. One of the main reasons we’ve grown into this new brand is that in the past we might not have done as great a job communicating what’s going on in the community. So this is a way to show that we’re more about making and getting things done through partnerships and projects than finding a new way to score cheap tickets to credit union events.”
So just what happens to members on their 36th birthday? Some may graduate from the community and transition into other opportunities or roles and others may decide to sign up as mentors. Either way no one is given the boot. A family talk group has been created to ensure the Cooperative Trust stays true to its core as it finds ways to better manage, grow and nurture the community.
“I admit I was a bit worried about the reaction but everyone has been so positive and jazzed about this next step,” said Dixon. “We’re all just pretty excited about the future and some of the big changes this year with more focus on workshops and group projects.”