Cooperation should sound familiar to most of you.

Work with me here.

A few years ago I got involved with a local non-profit, because they pulled together and did something positive and real for the community, instead of just talking about it.

They bought land in midtown Indy and built a park – complete with a playground, picnic shelter, and baseball field.

It’s not a huge park, and not on a main thoroughfare, so most newbies to the area either stumble on it or hear about it by word-of-mouth. But the park has been around for over 60 years, so it is well-known by the locals and gets a lot of use – from family birthday parties to doggy parents throwing balls for their fur kids to chase, while other Moms & Dads are letting their little ones burn off energy on the swings and slides – even when it isn’t baseball season.

Yes, the park is a lot of work to maintain, and as a non-profit, we don’t have a huge budget. So we ask those that use the park to help. We can usually get several volunteers to help when we hold our work days and events. By cooperating, by working together, we get it done. (Plus, the more effort people put into the park, the more they care about the park.)

Of course, this type of cooperation should sound familiar to most of you. After all…

Sports are built on teamwork.

At some point in your childhood, your parents or friends probably introduced you to some sort of team sport. From Little League baseball to Flag Football to Youth Soccer leagues, you were taught how to work together to score a run/touchdown/kick a goal. You not only learned the rules of the game, you started to understand how everyone’s role could help the team win. The effort you put in benefitted more than just you, and everyone came out ahead.

Communities are built on trust.

Humans started banding together just to survive. (After all, it helped to have someone watch your back when you were surrounded by predators.) In the process, they learned that a small group could accomplish more in a day than individuals could. Once they learned how to grow crops, their group could get even bigger, and communities began to grow even larger. Some people could farm, others could hunt, while some took care of the cooking and the kids. Individuals could do what they did best, while trusting others to do the same. While those individual roles have changed over the centuries, the basic premise of a community is the same today.

Credit unions are built on cooperation.

Credit unions began with people working together in order to achieve something better. It’s a building block of CU’s DNA. So it’s no wonder that they work with other CUs and organizations to accomplish mutual goals. It’s so entrenched in the CU ethos that the Sixth Cooperative Principle is known as “Cooperation among Cooperatives”.

This foundation of cooperation has also lent itself to the incredibly sensible rise of CUSOs. Why would credit unions try to repurpose generic “bank” products and services, when at some point, at some level, there’s a fundamental mismatch in purpose? Why not band together to create CUSOs that serve and focus on CUs?

True partnerships are built on these same qualities.

It’s always disappointing to be seen just as a vendor; someone you place an order with, but not someone you work with closely. So we’re picky. We only work with clients who see us as a true partner.

And we like to work in the spirit of the 6th principle. After all, it takes a village to run a credit union, so we make extra efforts to work smoothly with other vendors.

Because the best results happen with cooperation. When clients open up and let us in, we get a deeper understanding of their problems, and we can learn about their goals and dreams.

Then, together, we can fix those problems, make those goals happen, and turn those dreams into reality.

Kent Dicken

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