Among everything we collectively find abhorrent about George Floyd’s death and the injustices that so many fight against, we must also consider what we stand for.
Economic inequality drives a deep and real wedge between the haves and have-nots. This goes well beyond someone’s financial position. Wealth influences whether or not someone’s voice is heard. And it means that no matter how hard and how high some people pull their bootstraps up, the deck will always be stacked against them. The global pandemic has only exacerbated problems that already existed.
As credit unions, we fight against economic inequality and injustice. If we consider what we stand for, it boils down to this: Financial Democracy.
This isn’t a new idea. The tenets of Financial Democracy are otherwise known as the "Cooperative Principles". But it’s not always clear what those principles mean and what our commitment is to uphold them. Some see the Cooperative Principles as something that’s optional or not related to business. Seldom do we take time to reflect on how they influence our choices and our actions.
If we forget that we stand for Financial Democracy, we do so at the peril of everything this movement has built over the past 150 years. While we have historically struggled with consumer awareness of credit unions and telling our story, we face obscurity if we forget who we are in the midst of a revolution.
I offer a rebrand of the Cooperative Principles to help us reflect on what we stand for. These are the ideals that credit unions should boldly put into action and make no apologies for:
Some organizations outside of credit unions might be able to adapt some of that language. But no one can stand toe to toe with credit unions if we fully commit, together, to the tenets listed above.
Credit unions stand for Financial Democracy. It’s something that is much bigger than ourselves and more powerful than money. As we look to change the world, we start with ourselves and within our own walls and communities. Let’s create a new paradigm to fight inequity and injustice by lifting up the voices and spirits of those who need it most.
Let’s take a stand, together, and act boldly in ways that remind us of why we exist.
Chad Helminak is the National Credit Union Foundation's Director of DE and Cooperative Culture.