One of the first things we learn in life is that it’s easier to work together. I learned this with my brother. We both enjoyed video games, but video games were expensive. We’d talk about what game or system we wanted, figure out how much the cost was for the controllers and cartridges, and then lobby our parents for the video game industry. My brother and I had to have some buy in — if we were fortunate enough to receive a game system for Christmas, we’d need to use our saved-up allowances for the necessary accessories. But we worked fairly well together as a team, and probably fought less than your average pair of siblings. We knew that we’d have to make sacrifices, but that in making those sacrifices, we’d have a benefit in playing games together. Writing this right now, I’m a bit floored at how well we learned to cooperate at such an early age.
Cooperatives are an age-old structure: when our ancestors first roamed the planet, they had to work together in order to ensure basic survival. Sharing food and shelter was a necessity, and people worked together using their strengths, benefitting the greater whole. The statement “it takes a village to raise a child” denotes cooperation in a way that many would agree with. For a tribe to survive, some people need to hunt, some people need to gather, some people need to build and maintain shelter, some people need to raise the children. Perhaps some people also need to be good at negotiating, to manage any conflicts that could arise within the tribe or amongst other tribes. Everyone works together to share the harvest.
The cooperative structure as we know it today began showing up in the industrial world in the late 18th century, as a way to care for the needs of the people in industry. Food staples were purchased at a bulk discount, in turn sold to the workers at prices they could afford. From food, it evolved into offering savings and loans for the weavers of the Age of Industry. Pooling our resources is a great way to save money on expenses we all face.
Cooperation is still the way we should go. Before I’d heard of Crash, I was feeling jaded. It seemed like we were in competition with other credit unions, our branches and departments were in competition with one another… it wasn’t what I valued about credit unions. The thing about competition? There’s really only one winner, and it’s hard to say if the prize is worth it.
If we who care about credit unions want to keep the movement going, we’re going to have to collaborate and cooperate. It’s imperative that we share ideas and support. We can try new things, and if we find that it works, we can share our success. If we try something that doesn’t work, we can share what went wrong, and any ideas for how to improve. We can learn from one another.
Our members are incredibly important, and they also bear some responsibility. If they recognize the value of credit unions, they should look for ways to help promote their CUs by talking about it to friends and family. Of course they should look around for rates that meet their needs when it comes to lending and certificates… but could they limit their search to credit unions? Could they make a decision based on the value rather than the cost?
For those of us in the movement, we need to be demonstrating daily that this value, “CU”, is worth it to them. We need to work together to learn from one another, and to share the benefits of cooperation with our members. We can do this through networking, and participating in forums that allow us to share ideas. We need to be having conversations, Like anything in life, we get out of it what we choose to put in. Even a few dollars in an account earns interest.
It takes me back to a saying I learned in second grade (Thanks, Mrs. Werner). If you have a penny and I have a penny, and we exchange pennies, we each still have one penny. But if you have an idea, and I have an idea, and we exchange ideas, we each have two ideas. Let’s exchange ideas.