Two articles in the new issue of The Credit Union Journal.

I was interviewed for an article in the new issue of The Credit Union Journal about ChangeEverything.ca and why Vancity created it.

Two articles by Technology Correspondent Kevin Jepson were posted today, and both require a subscription to the magazine, or at least a temp two week online trial subscription (which I signed up for) to read. The first article, CU Challenges Community To ‘Change Everything’ descibes ChangeEverything.ca in context against other CU social media ventures.

Vancity certainly isn’t the first credit union to tap into the flow of social media on the Web. Credit Union Journal recently reported how other credit unions are trying to reach out to the online market by hosting sites at MySpace.com, talking to members and colleagues on blogs or spreading the recorded financial word through podcasts.

But Vancity stands apart from the podcasting, blogging, MySpacing credit unions in a number of ways-in fact, “Vancity is the best example of a credit union building a social network,” according to Trey Reeme, one of the creators of the credit union blog called Open Source CU and executive vice president at Trabian Technology, a business application and development company in Plano, Texas.

Thanks to Trey as always for his kind words.

The other article, Vancity Creates A ‘Thriving E-Community’, describes ChangeEverything.ca and its history including the two events that helped ChangeEverything reach its tipping point: Got Hats? when over 4,000 items of clothing and blankets made their way to local shelters within 48 hours during a Vancouver winter cold-snap last November, and EnviroWoman’s amazing New Year’s resolution to use no plastics in 2007.

Credit unions are reinventing the way they use the web with “social media”: online technologies such as podcasts, blogs, vlogs, wikis and message boards where users share opinions-and advertise.

Change Everything, Vancity CU’s social networking website, encourages members and non-members alike to change something in their lives, or even just to talk about changing something.

The site has produced a “thriving community” of more than 1,000 registered users who offer up some “inspiring” social and environmental changes, explained William Azaroff, interactive marketing and channel manager at Vancity CU.

Pleased that the credit unions are getting this kind of information so more can start harnessing the power of the social web to engage their communities.

Verity’s blog has kicked it up a notch.

Wow. I spend a lot of time looking at blogs and after a while they all start looking the same. But Verity Credit Union in Seattle has launched a new blog and has taken blog usability and readability to a whole new level.

By moving to 1024×768 they have three nicely sized columns to work with and they make a lot of their real estate. The left column works like you’d expect a blog to work. The middle column gives you easy access to different posts by department, laid out in a very graphically pleasing way. Really makes you want to click to find out more. And the right column surfaces the people who post and some other blogs they like. Impressive.

It was designed and built by the fine folks at Trabian. It’s one thing to know a lot about social media like Brent and Trey do, but to be able to design a site that’s attractive and functional, honestly this gives me a whole new appreciation for what they are capable of. Kudos to all of them, and Shari Storm, Verity’s CMO who has stuck with this and made it work better than anyone else. If you’re thinking of creating a corporate blog no matter what industry you’re in, you’d be well served to study what Trabian and Verity have done here.

Jim also gave it a rave.

Check it out, it’s well worth a visit.

America Saves

Interesting article in the NYTimes: Can Poor People Be Taught to Save?

Why can’t poor people save money? Part of that psychological barrier… was social pressure to not save; the minute people got a little surplus, friends and family would start asking for loans. There were other obstacles too. People in both communities feared losing welfare benefits if they accumulated cash. Many families didn’t even define savings monetarily; they talked about the things they would sell in desperation – baseball-card collections, heirlooms or other low-value assets.

Enter AmericaSaves.org. What is America Saves?

America Saves is a nationwide campaign in which a broad coalition of nonprofit, corporate, and government groups helps individuals and families save and build wealth. Through information, advice, and encouragement, we assist those who wish to pay down debt, build an emergency fund, save for a home, save for an education, or save for retirement.

It’s a social network changing the peer pressure in poor communities from spending and lending to saving. According to the article, “about nine million households have effectively no financial assets – nothing to fall back on for emergencies or retirement.”

Banks help out by joining the program and creating accounts that charge no fees and have no minimum balance requirements. Amazing.

Something credit unions should get involved with. Creating wealth and assets for those with none. Banking for the under-banked and under-served. Hey, isn’t that already our mandate?

PS: Thanks for the link, Rob

A new direction

I have recently been asked why I don’t give my opinion about web 2.0, social marketing, banking, etc on my blog. Why I limit it to a more frivolous link blog. I was surprised by the question: lots of people are talking social web and FIs. My favourites include:

Social Signal
Open Source CU
Net Banker
NextCU

But then it occured to me, all of those are written by people outside of an FI. They’re written by supporters, vendors, partners, but not insiders. So I’m branching out and will start blogging more about trends I’m seeing, things I’m focusing on, ideas percolating under the surface. I hope I’m not stepping on anyone’s toes at these other fine companies and blogs. I admire and respect all of them, and merely am attempting to join their online conversation.

I also hope I won’t upset anyone at Vancity. I love the company and my job, and will strive to merely represent how we do business without giving away any trade secrets, inside information or anything else. I’m going to assume I have that freedom unless I’m told otherwise. Sara, I’ll wait for your call…

Now the question is, am I doing this for myself only, or is anyone else listening.

Thanks,
Wm