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Credit unions can become the human-centered financial services of the future, but getting there is going to require new tools. This week at THINK 16, CO-OP Financial Services and OpenIDEO announced the Credit Union Innovation Project, an initiative powered by CO-OP and MasterCard, with the goal of delivering on the “people helping people” mission for a new generation of consumers.
This initiative is unlike any before in the credit union industry. It brings design thinking, collaboration and, ultimately, transformative innovation to credit unions nationwide. Credit unions and OpenIDEO’s global community have the opportunity to collaborate on and execute collective ideas. The result is a wellspring of human-focused ideas to move the credit union industry forward – along with new processes to generate, iterate and implement ideas in the future.

Building on Success

The Credit Union Innovation Project builds on the success of the 2015 THINK Prize & OpenIDEO Challenge, in which collaboration between credit unions and OpenIDEO innovators generated a range of new ideas around financial empowerment. The collaborative success of THINK Prize 15 led CO-OP and OpenIDEO to consider what might come next. Could credit unions, innovators and consumers work together to create new opportunities for the industry to become more human-centered – and to grow?

Months of research by OpenIDEO and CO-OP revealed that credit unions need tangible, clear resources to help them innovate. They are looking for a means of coming together as one problem-solving community. The goal of this project is to focus on community building and peer-to-peer learning as pathways to innovation. Since its launch in winter 2015, the Credit Union Innovation Project has been working on multiple fronts:

  • CO-OP and OpenIDEO unveiled this initiative on February 22 in Washington, D.C., during the CUNA GAC 16 conference. During a hands-on workshop there, attendees learned tools and skills to help them tackle challenges they face at work creatively. This group became the project’s first connected community of credit union change-makers.
  • The Project has been hosting an immersive fellowship program. Seven Credit Union Innovators – five from credit unions around the country and two from CO-OP – are already applying design thinking to solve challenges in their workplaces and their communities. The hope is that the methods and network these Fellows create will serve as a basis for a larger community of credit union innovators.
  • The partnership is creating an online collaborative community merging innovation, purpose and the future of financial services. The online network will provide the process and tools to engage in human-centered design. This network will be open to the entire credit union community, and will extend beyond the industry to include millennial non-members who are part of the OpenIDEO community.
  • In addition, the engagement initiative plans to facilitate the hosting of local collaboration-focused events, and are working on the design and release of new tools to help credit union employees lead the journey to innovative financial services.

The Credit Union Innovation Project is intended to help credit union innovators develop the collaborative tools, iterative processes and intrapreneurial support they need to propel this industry forward. Credit unions have the mission. They have the technological building blocks. If they develop a human-centered focus and real resources for innovating, nothing can hold them back.

Learn more about the Credit Union Innovation initiative

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