CU Water Cooler

It Slices, It Dices: Introducing the New CU Water Cooler

Matt DavisComment

Late 2009, it was becoming clear that significant forces were making credit union social media consumption difficult. The space had matured significantly over the years, thanks in large part to Trabian’s OpenSource CU and a close-knit group of credit union bloggers, contributors, and lurkers. What OpenSource CU did so well was to create a central point of conversation and push to add as many new voices to the mix as possible.

Through time, this small network of credit union personalities blossomed into a thriving ecosystem of credit union talent generating an ever-increasing amount of new, thought-provoking content. For credit union information gluttons, this was a step in the right direction. However, this increase in the supply of content, coupled with a decentralization of the conversation, made navigation of this space quite difficult. Where were people to go to find a filtered list of what stories are worth reading? How do new contributors find a way to get their voices heard? How can we get the online conversation to spread outside the credit union social media echo chamber? 

We came up with the idea of CU Water Cooler to help tackle these issues. A dozen credit union thought leaders in the online space committed themselves to combing through online content to discover the top 3-6 stories worth reading each day. The goal was to create, yet again, a centralized point of conversation, and make sure that credit union professionals had no nonsense access to the content that would incite thought, action, debate, and progress. Over the past 18 months, we have linked to over 1,500 stories, blog posts, and multimedia content, helping to grow the credit union social media tent, and build traffic for content providers. 

We’ve learned a lot over this time span. Primarily, we realized that we needed to rethink our communications and delivery channels. Even though our daily links were primarily made available online, through RSS, and on Twitter, we were not pushing hard enough on email subscriptions. We were delivering content through the channels that we primarily use, erroneously assuming that everyone else shared our preference. It is clear to us now that email continues to be the dominant force in credit union content sharing. We will make opt-in email delivery a core delivery channel going forward.

We’ve learned that curating content isn’t enough. If we are going to establish the site as a true water cooler, we need to generate unique content alongside our daily links. We are committed to delivering exclusive content from contributors of all stripes, affiliations, and points of view to help us challenge credit unions to move our system forward for the members we serve.

We’ve realized that a constant refreshing of our editorial board aligns well with our vision of inclusivity. Our founding editors are among the busiest professionals in and around credit unions. Their generous gifts of time, energy, and insight have turned this tiny idea for a website into an exciting change agent for financial services. Not surprisingly, our ability to contribute regularly to the site has peaked and waned with our hectic schedules. In the coming weeks we will be reaching out to thought leaders in our field that will help us build on what has already been created, and reinvigorate the site with new perspectives, tastes, and energy. These new editors will replace co-founders who will forever remain friends of the site. 

Last, we wanted to start building a library of “how to” videos to leverage the considerable talents of our readers. In 5-10 minute crowd-sourced how-to video clips we call hope to help readers learn from each other – whatever their various talents may be. We envision tutorials being submitted on every topic under the sun, whether it be how to use an emerging technology, how to manage change in an organization, how to create an iPad compatible newsletter, or even how to build a water balloon launcher. Everyone has a talent that, if shared, can help someone else succeed. We want to help encourage this sharing.

So, that’s about it. We have a new site, a new look, and a new perspective. Oh…and we have a date for CU Water Cooler Symposium 2011. We hope to see you in Fishers, Indiana, September 29-30. This year's event will be better than ever.


Matt Davis lives in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the Innovation Director of the Filene Research Institute specializing in implementation. Matt presents, advises and completes project work with credit unions based on Filene's i3 ideas and innovative processes. The thoughts posted here are his own, and do not reflect those of his employer.