By Brian Rich aka BRich aka the guy from Idaho
It’s not often you meet someone, spend six days with them, and create such a bond that you’re brought to tears upon separation. It’s even less common when you can say this not only happened with one individual, but with more than 50 of them simultaneously. And yet, this is exactly how Crash the GAC 2015 played out for dozens of young credit union professionals from across the country.
Call it a product of sleeplessness, physical exhaustion and emotional depletion if you want, as those individual factors undoubtedly created the perfect environment to reduce 50+ Millennials to a sobbing mess on the final day of the conference. But these realities aside, this emotional breakdown (or crash, if you will) couldn’t have existed without a passionate buildup first taking place; the kind that happens when community-minded young people are glued together for six days to cultivate the future of the cooperative financial movement and determine how our careers will contribute to that development. Six days where 10 miles of walking and 18 hours of activity each day, followed by four hours of sleep each night, is not only common but incapable of subduing the enthusiasm generated by the bonds forged through the process. A process that took a group of disparate individuals scattered across the country and, with a touch of beautiful irony, created a cooperative group greater than the sum of its parts – a group that could serve as the very model of cooperative behavior we seek to establish across the cooperative national landscape as we know it.
Just as the 2015 crashers are greater than the sum of our parts, so was our experience crashing the GAC. What could have been a tremendous – albeit isolated – learning experience for any one of us instead became a movement within a movement. Because of this shared experience, we now enjoy an unstoppable momentum across the country, where this group of crashers has ignored the reality that we now span 5,000 miles and has instead grown even closer, thanks entirely to social media, this brilliant Cooperative Trust website and the simple fact that Millennials are obsessed with texting, group chat and instant messaging. To wit, in the week since we returned home, dozens of messages have been exchanged on the topics of business development, cooperative partnerships, financial literacy and other topics that allow our collective wisdom to spread far beyond the walls of our offices and credit unions. Many of us – myself included – have even joined with our state’s former crashers to create local young professional groups to keep the momentum going locally.
I know I can speak on behalf of my fellow crashers (we’re close like that) when I say this program changed our lives. And with the same degree of certainty, I can tell credit union leaders across the country that this experience, and the action items generated by it, will permanently bolster the credit union movement as a direct result of our time spent together. It would be impossible to quantify my gratitude for the privilege that was Crash the GAC 2015, but I’ll attempt to say thanks nonetheless. To James Marshall and Filene Research Institute/The Cooperative Trust, CUNA and The Foundation, to the Idaho Credit Union League and to Connie Miller, my CEO and awesome boss leader, thank you for your support of the crash program. I can’t tell you how much this program meant to the crashers, but I can promise we’ll attempt to show you through our actions over the coming months and years.