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Harness the Collective Potential

A new focus on co-creation gives a fresh start to Filene’s i3 program for the 2020 cohort. Applications being accepted through November 14, 2020.

When the last bank abandoned the Lower East Side in the 1980s, it left the neighborhood without access to financial services for a 100 block radius. Collectively, the neighborhood responded.

Faced with a need, a group of activists, artists, and accountants came together to co-create the Lower East Side People's Federal Credit Union, or LES People's FCU, a new financial institution designed to meet the community’s unique and dynamic needs.

When faced with the challenge of meeting unique needs, there is no industry better suited to succeed than the credit union industry. Before the COVID-19 crisis, during, and now in our current recovery period, credit unions have showed time and time again how a cooperative business model can advance their members’ financial well-being, embrace digital delivery channels, reevaluate business models, and scale sustainable growth through innovation.

Now more than ever, innovation means finding new ways of working together— co-create—to tackle problems better than we could each on our own.

New Program Curriculum

Filene’s two-year innovation leadership program, i3, equips top credit union professionals with the mindset, tools, and network to lead and shape the future.

Over the last year, the Filene i3 program has expanded on its strong foundation to introduce something new for innovative leaders in our industry through the following experiential and actionable training modules:

  • CO-CREATION Harness the collective potential of diverse groups of people and data to explore complex problems, think with new perspective, and seek breakout solutions.
  • EXPERIMENTATION Accelerate learning and reduce risk by designing, running, and iterating through experimental tests that inform and validate possible solutions.
  • INCUBATION Design and run an innovation pilot for scalability and profitability. Practice rigors of monitoring, evaluation and performance while maintaining member and organizational trust.
  • INTEGRATION Bring it home for your capstone project. Design and pilot an initiative to accelerate innovation within your home organization or community.


If you’re thinking of applying for the new class of i3, or have someone you think would be a perfect fit to recommend for the program, here’s a look at what you can expect from the program’s first module – Co-Creation.

i3 is a two-year development program in four parts. Participants will practice innovation through experiential training modules, starting with co-creation.

Co-creation means inviting diverse stakeholders who share our problem solving goals as active participants in the innovation process.

This transforms the role of end-users with passive participation to actively involving them in the innovation process and defining the problem to the solutions ultimate delivery.

Stanford researchers Jess Rimington and Joanna Levitt Cea explain that “In companies that are not fully into co-creation, end-users are researched, observed, segmented, targeted, marketed at and sold to by people from the firm, but they are not engaged in any deep, meaningful interaction with the firm, especially on their terms...The firm decides what the touch points’ are and how the relationship with the individual is defined.”

In co-creation, companies “intentionally change the ‘who’ of creative decision making” by working with stakeholders as active collaborators throughout the innovation process. This approach can lead to new insights, unexpected sources of revenue and profit, and lower costs and risks.

Rimington and Cea describe this as Breakout Innovation with "results that outperform status-quo."

Co-creative innovation shifts the role of the “innovator” from the creative center to a facilitator whose role is to bring out the creativity and collective intelligence of stakeholders - people with relevant lived experience, subject matter experts, community organizations – in service of surfacing new and unexpected opportunities to create value.

Co-creation activates stakeholders as core collaborators in the innovation process. This amplifies credit unions' cooperative power: Going beyond creating value for our communities into creating value with communities.

Essential Elements of Successful Co-Creation

Share Power

From Jess and Joanna, SSIR: “While many crowdsourcing, open innovation, and consultation processes ask stakeholders to provide input, relatively few share power. Sharing power means distributing the functions of decision making, creation, implementation, and evaluation among the process participants, and dissolving once-rigid divides between designer and consumer, expert and beneficiary.”
- Creating Breakout Innovation, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Joanna Levitt Cea and Jess Rimington

Innovate the Value Chain

Successful co-creators optimize the experience of all stakeholders by "explicitly focusing on providing rewarding experiences for customers, employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders. The key to improving experiences is letting stakeholders play a central role in designing how they work with one another."
- Building the Co-Creative Enterprise, Venkat Ramaswamy and Francis Gouillart, Harvard Business Review

Leverage Diversity

“Diverse perspectives—including strong representation of voices that are often excluded or silenced—are needed to generate innovative insights. But poor outcomes can emerge from nondiverse groups as well as diverse groups that are poorly managed and not supported to work effectively across differences. In other words, heterogeneity leads to better outcomes only when it is thoughtfully engaged.” 
Creating Breakout Innovation

Join us

If we’re to evolve our organizations and our industry, we need to evolve our innovation mindset and approach.

Applications for Filene i3 are open now until November 14. Details on how to nominate a leader at your credit union or how to apply are available at