Post by Chris Mason, Next Level Research

As we begin 2018, it is time to reflect on how Australia’s co-operative and mutual enterprises (CMEs) can build on last year’s stellar achievements. Let’s play to our strengths and further develop our industry’s significant competitive advantage over other entity models, namely the ability of CMEs to co-operate locally, nationally, and globally.

Specifically, there is a lot to be gained from further pursuing the sharing of insights between member owned organisations. CMEs across the board, from customer owned banks to agricultural co-operatives, face many of the same issues given their common co-operative structure. These shared concerns include performance measurement, communicating the co-operative brand, outreach to Gen Y, and entity governance.

The advantage of sharing solutions to said concerns has been recognised at events such as the BCCM Leaders’ Summit last month. But how, in concrete terms, do we leverage the world of best practice examples?

A world of best practice

Last month I released a subscription report in conjunction with Instil, entitled ‘Going for growth: Best practice examples from mutuals in Canada, the USA, and the UK’. The underlying research highlighted the many effective ways that various international mutuals are engaging with their members and improving their internal operations.

The US credit union system in particular stands out for its sharing of best practice. The Filene Research Institute functions as a research house for mutuals. This group is an ideal example of how to further collect and disseminate best practice examples amongst CMEs.

As I have mentioned, in Australia we are already turning to international examples in the various research projects being undertaken on behalf of CMEs. For example, BCCM is working with its members and the advertising agency Tank on a project with some similarities with the Filene Research Institute model. One of the project’s outputs will be a ‘marketing mutuality’ guide that will help the CME sector take advantage of its mutual identity.

Going further in 2018

This sharing of insights should occur across all organisational levels. The customer owned banking sector has recognised the potential benefit for younger staff via its support of the Emerging Leaders Committee. In chairing this group in 2016, I found that young professionals in mutuals were keen to share their insights and learn how their colleagues were tackling the issues they also faced.

Perhaps in 2018 we should implement a young professionals development group for the CME industry as a whole? Such a group could also serve as a hub for collecting research around how best to engage with younger Australians.

One simple step towards improved knowledge sharing between CMEs would be a wider array of awards focused on entity and team level best practice, for Australia and the world. This approach is successfully utilised by mutuals in North America (e.g. see CUNA’s Diamond Awards for marketing).

As we all face many of the same challenges and growth opportunities, it is time to share our approaches to these common concerns so that no CME has to re-invent the wheel.

Chris is a CME Analyst and the Principal at Next Level Research

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