I recently graduated from college and spent some time looking into various banks that I could join. But, I was really hesitant to join any of the large banks, due to the fact that most of them financially support the coal industry – which accounts for a HUGE amount of global CO2 emissions. As someone that is interested in having the lowest carbon footprint possible, I did not want my money to be used to help finance deforestation, a coal fired power station, fracking for coal seam gas, or other forms of coal mining.
So that is when I started to look into credit unions, and learned that they are great for more than just protecting the environment. As background, there are more than 7,000 credit unions in the country, all of which vary in size, services, and communities. Credit unions differ from banks in that they are not-for-profit organizations that provide service to their members rather than to maximize corporate profits. Credit unions are often community oriented and serve specific local groups with similar values. They have created a communal space where "people help people”. They are designed to directly influence member behavior in terms of smart financial choices, as well as choices that may impact the environment and society.
During my research, I was continually drawn to credit unions because of the community they create, and the positive impact they can have on that group. I found that I would benefit from joining a credit union not only because they uphold the social and environmental values that I was originally searching for, but also because they would provide me with a safe space to become more financially literate and empowered. Andrew described spaces like this in his post “Education, Motivation and Trust”, and I believe that credit unions might have the power to do just the same.
Credit Unions can be a great resource to teach financial education. They create a safe space that is specific to communities’ values and needs -- financially, socially and environmentally. After reading Kathleen’s post about a personal financial experience, I believe credit unions could provide a supportive and educational community for people in similar situations.
CO-OP, which sponsors this challenge, is a community of 3,500 credit unions. How might we make credit unions more available to financially vulnerable communities?
Specifically, how else might credit unions help empower communities to be more financial prepared?
How might we create more safe spaces (like those described in Andrew’s post) that empower, motivate and educate communities?
Photo credit to Creative Commons user Midcheshireman