How might we use the power of communities to financially empower those who need it most?
That was the question CO-OP Financial Services posed as part of the CO-OP THINK Prize 15. Unveiled in March, over the next three months the THINK Prize attracted close to 15,000 visitors to OpenIDEO’s collaborative platform, more than 500 active participants and nearly 2,500 on-line comments and contributions to team efforts.
Even more impressive was the creativity and diversity of the five winning ideas. From an alternative currency to a grassroots youth campaign, these challenge winners prove that collaboration among innovative thinkers can accomplish exponentially more than any one person can.
CO-OP THINK Prize 15: The Challenge
CO-OP launched CO-OP THINK Prize 15: The Challenge, which was co-sponsored by MasterCard, with global design and innovation company IDEO. The OpenIDEO platform enables individuals to develop solutions to today’s most pressing social issues and collaborate from anywhere in the world. Since 2010, OpenIDEO has hosted more than 30 challenges, convening nearly 85,000 participants from more than 180 countries.
Five Winning Ideas
During the “Refinement” phase of the challenge, which took place between May 5 and June 2, CO-OP selected a total of 26 ideas for consideration. The five winning ideas were chosen by an expert advisory panel according to six criteria: Ideas had to be human-centered, collaborative, community-centered, unique, implementable, and show a vision for success. Here are the winning ideas:
Justin Bean – San Francisco, Calif.
Justin Bean, founder of 3D Printing for Humanity, proposed an entirely new currency to support community members who do not have access to traditional means of work and income. Using an online and mobile app platform, individuals would have the ability to exchange goods and services, while acknowledging services provided by others through this alternative currency.
Libraries as Financial Literacy Hubs
Trevor Hallsstein – Oakland, Calif.
Libraries are largely underutilized, which entrepreneur and fund manager Trevor Hallsstein seeks to change. By transforming libraries into community hubs, and drawing inspiration from organizations such as Real Money Real World and the Jump$tart Coalition, community members could learn about financial literacy tools and concepts that can help them reach their financial goals.
Nicole Lopez-Conti – San Francisco, Calif.
Local lending strengthens communities, and Patelco Credit Union’s own Nicole Lopez-Conti has a plan to turn declined loans into approvals. Credit union representatives would examine the reasons why a member was denied a loan, then offer advice and a 30-, 60-, 90- or 180-day track to reapply successfully.
Harnessing the Power of Volunteerism to Empower Youth and Women
Jean-Marc Mercy – Democratic Republic of Congo
Jean-Marc Mercy, CEO and Founder of the Bridge Initiative, wants to train youth volunteers to empower community members to be financially literate. The goal would be to partner with FINCA and UNCDF, as well as additional academic institutions, embassies and nonprofits, to provide the training.
A Grassroots Youth Campaign to Initiate Change
Tori Adele Signorelli – Cincinnati, Ohio
Freelance designer and writer Tori Adele Signorelli recognizes a stigma around money among high school and college students. In order to change the conversation about money, she recommends a social youth campaign similar to the Rock the Vote initiative to generate buzz and build awareness around financial literacy, focusing on young adults ages 17 and up.
The Challenge Continues
Though winners have been selected, the challenge isn’t over by any means. Ideas are now entering a new phase, known as the “Impact” phase, during which individuals and teams will continue to collaborate on their ideas and share progress.
It’s clear credit unions do a lot to serve their communities, but that support system can go both ways. This challenge shows how much the financial services industry can benefit from fresh, new ideas from the collective community.
“Ideas in this challenge were produced by people from all walks of life, sometimes comprising large, international teams, and which often included high school and college students,” notes Samantha Paxson, Chief Marketing Officer for CO-OP. “We hope that credit union leaders are taking note: When challenged to identify and solve issues of the day, your employees, members and community have a lot to say. Listen up!”