The Economic Ecosystem
The internet is a web. The interstate is an artery. The economy is an ecosystem. For the human brain, explaining complex ideas with analogy and metaphor helps us relate and understand quickly. In the case of the economic metaphor, however, the imagery not only works to explain the complexity of inputs and outputs, it also works literally as well.
It’s not just a handy association; the economy actually is an ecosystem. It is made up of dependent, interwoven elements. The health or sickness of one affects the others.
Credit unions play a crucial role in the health of our economic ecosystem. Not only that, but through partnerships, connections, networks and infrastructures, credit unions can maximize impact and contribute in innovative ways in solving complex societal and technological challenges.
Maximizers of Impact
Filene Fellow for its Center of Excellence for Community Social Impact, Dr. Mai Thi Nguyen, shares that for credit unions to maximize impact, they should be thinking about “ABCD – Asking the right questions; Boundary-spanning solutions; Creating better systems; and Designing solutions at multiple scales.”
I believe that when credit unions know their communities, dig deep into root causes, aim for systemic and structural change, partner and co-design with stakeholders, center community voices in solutions, and prototype and iterate, they become true community development organizations cultivating thriving and inclusive ecosystems. They will see their organizations grow and strengthen, they will see their communities grow and strengthen, and they will see each individual that is part of the larger ecosystem become healthier as a result.
Building Ecosystems of Change
Working from an ecosystem perspective is not a top-down approach. It includes seeking to understand the dynamics of the community, utilizing an asset-based approach, building and strengthening networks and continuing to develop a conscious awareness on race, class, culture and history.
See below for examples of Filene's history of ecosystems-building with organizations like Finra Foundation to build collaboration between credit unions and local employers that seek to offer safe, affordable loans to their employees; Visa and Ford Foundation to bring together key credit union industry players, resources and guidance for serving lending products to consumers with ITINs; and even more resources for supporting small businesses and entrepreneurs.
I am excited for everyone that is part of this larger economic ecosystem, from financial institutions to community partners to individuals, to read more about the stories and opportunities for credit unions to build ecosystems of change and impact in this issue of The Asterisk, and for all of us to begin to fully realize our potential through the power of connection!