The audience at CO-OP’s THINK conference was enthralled with Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s story of working to clean up his city. They were entranced by the sprite-like singer Daria Musk’s atypical rise to stardom, not to mention her powerful voice. Both speakers brilliantly met the expectations set by theme of the conference: Disrupt business as usual.
Booker approached Republicans by recognizing their disdain for big government. The prison system represents a large hunk of government spending, so let’s change that. He implemented prison release programs, including one that trained fathers to work as partners with the mothers of their children, which helped drop the recidivism rate from 62% down to 7%. Newark experienced its first month without a murder in 40 years. Newark’s population began growing again after 60 years of decline.
Booker also relayed a story from when he was a city councilman. He was approached by a resident of his ward regarding what Booker could do about an area where people were afraid to walk out their front doors. He had a heated exchange with the woman. and they hung up on each other. He felt powerless in that moment. He was ready to quit politics forever that night.
Booker arrived home in a sour mood, and a neighbor asked what his problem was, which he didn’t want to discuss. She pried, and he burst out that he didn’t know what to do about the situation, and he was finished. Booker explained that the neighbor said, “You know what you need to do.” The young councilman waited patiently for the words of wisdom to pour out of her mouth. “You need to do “sumpin.”’
Booker stomped up to his home for a serious meeting with his “buddies,” Ben & Jerry. As he dug in, he slumped in his chair getting more and more disgusted with himself. He realized, ‘I guess I better do ‘sumpin.”’
So Booker packed up a tent, drove to the troubled area and told his constituent, who was so upset with him that he didn’t know what to do, that he would camp out there until he did. It wasn’t long before several burly prison guards joined him because they were going to let him camp out there alone. And more people joined until hundreds filled the vacant lot. Eventually the then-mayor came out to the site and promised to build a park in that lot and clean up the area.
That mayor never did, but Booker followed through when he became mayor. But failure isn’t failure unless you let it be a failure. There’s always something to be gained from it, even if it’s as simple as being reminded of the power of people to care.
Musician Daria Musk was spending a lot of time and energy playing gigs for a pittance, if that, as she was trying to get noticed in the music business. Like every budding artist, Musk was studying her business model and considering whether there was a faster, better way to reach more people with her music.
Google Plus hangouts, which allow live video chats to take place among several different people, were gaining traction. Musk contacted Google Plus, which recommended against the idea of a hangout concert because the audio was intended for vocals only and tuned out other noises.
She said, “O.K., thanks, but I’m going to try it anyway.” Within just a few shows, each lasting several hours, she was reaching hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Her use of social media garnered attention from several of the mainstream news outlets that might not have paid attention to her otherwise. Musk was suddenly her own producer, marketer and recording studio, and she didn’t need the self-important people in the music industry.
What does that say for their future? What might it portend for credit unions and other traditional financial services providers?
Musk was able to connect with fans individually from all over the globe using Google Plus, and all of them were holding up their hands to form the shape of a heart, Musk’s own branding. For Musk and her fans, the experience was about the love of music and using technology to circumvent the establishment. She was able to form a direct connection and cared enough to find a way to do that.
Booker did nothing his parents and their friends hadn’t done in the civil rights movement. It was nothing the Occupy Wall Street movement hadn’t done. He simply bothered to care enough. He said, “I am where I am because of the disruptive force of love.”
So, credit unions, how much do you care? And love?
Sarah Snell Cooke is publisher/editor-in-chief of Credit Union Times.