There’s an event coming up next month called the “Underground Conference” that is promising to really get people talking about inconvenient truths and challenging public discussions for our industry. I was asked by the organizers for some thoughts to spur conversations at this event. Imagine my shock when my rather strong comments were re-titled, “Small Credit Union Relevance.” My immediate response to this title was right in keeping with the spirit of pushing for a challenging public discussion:
“Happy to help…but the title sucks! Small CU Relevance?!? That is the crap that holding our industry back. That title implies that size immediately validates the relevance of a credit union, or any organization — not the relevance of the ideals in a cooperative design and the sincere execution of those ideals. Closer to truth is the fact that the larger the organization is, the more likely it is that it’s already lost its relevance (based on cooperative business design ideals), due to the compromises or outright intent to have a small set of agents supplant the spirit of cooperative ownership and action. When you title a discussion like this you make relevance seem tied more to the success of the CU as a financial service business entity, as opposed to the success of the cooperative to its community and purpose.
“Now someone could argue that cooperative ideals are not relevant to today’s consumers or consumer marketplaces. You could also argue that cooperative ideals are not relevant to entrepreneurs or those leading economic endeavors, etc. But the size of the organization compared to others is really not the issue. The business design, the power of the approach to organizing resources, the impact for inspiration in attracting consumers to the effort to be owners and solution builders, the return it can yield competitively for its efforts — all could be debated as relevant or not. But implying that size has anything to do with it is just silly, off-track industry garbage that makes me tired. Is our own rhetoric getting in the way of our success?
“Instead a better title might be: ‘How the baggage of being classified as a credit union is challenging the future of cooperative ownership,’ or ‘Revolution for evolution…is it too risky for today’s vested CU industry leaders?’ or maybe ‘Can’t we just get out of our own way?’ or simply, ‘It’s time to start over!’”
What is yet to be seen is whether I will actually be leading a conversation at this conference, or just sitting in the audience participating. But one thing is certain: I will be at the Underground Conference on February 21, 2016, 10:00 AM in Washington D.C., and would love for you to join me. Learn more at http://www.mitchellstankovic.com/underground.html.