By Stuart R. Levine

It’s Sunday, and I’m reading the newspapers and watching the talk shows, trying to digest the political commentary that consumes all of us. My perception and conclusion is that based on the content and the harsh tones, the environment in this country is filled with incredible toxicity.

Within this context, it is important to understand one of the rules in The Six Fundamentals of Success called “Hostile business environments require more communication, not less.”

Uncertainty in an environment creates isolation and fear. In business there are many uncertain situations. However our current economic malaise has led to significant numbers of people who are either unemployed or underemployed.

This “hostile” environment, particularly for young people, has created and will continue to create a sense of isolation and a resulting lack of self-confidence, not only for the individuals affected but also for their families.

People are defined by their work and by being productive members of society. When opportunities to work are no longer available, the hostility and despair become compounded and more widespread.

It is in that spirit of the current troubling economic environment that I want to reload last month’s message in the article, “Lets Help 50,000 Families” and the thinking that I believe we should all consider.

In that article we advocated for a mission-driven program that would benefit all participants, their families and the community and country at large. It would give unemployed or underemployed young people a way to work within the credit union movement towards a promising career.

Introducing a new generation to the benefits that credit unions offer will not only provide membership growth and sustainability over the coming years, but also truly reflect the meaningful purpose and value of credit unions for all to see.

This concept is representative of credit unions’ community-oriented values, and their “can-do” attitude versus the more corporate stance of the larger banks.

The response to our 50,000 Challenge has been profound.  People representing significant organizations reaffirmed my belief in the credit union world. The article generated responses from all areas, including innovative and enlightened CEOs, recruiters as well as trade associations and trusts, all focused on both doing good and introducing young people to the benefits of credit unions.

The proposition is clear. We are going to create a 50,000 Challenge Program that encourages credit unions to onboard new Gen Y interns. All that needs to happen is for every credit union in the U.S. to onboard five interns per year – 10 in larger institutions, and smaller credit unions can respond accordingly.

At least for a few days a week that individual will have a reason to get out of bed in the morning and place to go. And Gen Y will have a lot of value to add in terms of their technical abilities and social media skills that are important strategic drivers for credit unions to effectively compete.

This program will affect 50,000 people because for every intern hired, there will be parents and siblings who will feel the impact of the internship and the results will trickle down both financially and emotionally.

This program will serve as an example of the credit union movement’s ability to mobilize in order to address national issues that affect all of us. This program will give hope to new interns as well as self-confidence to people who are feeling hopeless right now.

We will be introducing a new generation to the credit union movement which will broaden membership bandwidth, while fulfilling our mission to the communities and members we serve.

Unemployment/underemployment continues to be a very serious national stain. Waiting for political leaders to “create a future” that is more fulfilling for our country is an interesting dilemma. This is a great country. If approximately 7,600 credit unions came together to try to reach young people who are experiencing despair, it would be a huge reflection on the capacity of people within our nation to take action on a critical issue.

Instead of wading through the taxing congressional dialogue, or waiting for government to provide a bailout, if we stand together and try to reach the younger generation, what a terrific accomplishment this would be.

There is an additional rule that is also found in The Six Fundamentals of Success called “If it’s important, say it twice.”  When a doctor in surgery asks a nurse for O-negative blood, the nurse replies, “I have O-negative blood.” Not “OK, there it is,” She repeats the request as part of a process that eliminates error. The stakes are too high for a miscommunication.

When the stakes are high in your world, say it at least twice. Following up on a conversation, making a phone call or sending an email are necessary because people find themselves juggling way too many balls today.

Building redundancy into a communication process or communication plan is especially important when there is a lot riding on it. Within this context, repeating the 50,000 Challenge is a re-affirmation of what we truly believe is in the best interest of this great country.

We are looking for volunteers to help us organize this initiative. We have gotten good responses, but we need to organize ourselves, so that we can turn this vision into a reality. To be clear, this is an opportunity for those of us who are incredibly frustrated with the lack of economic opportunities for young people within this country.

This is not a political statement. It is an appeal at the highest level for credit unions to bring us all together to participate in creating a better future for the next generation, based on the exceptional mission and values of the credit union movement.

Stuart R. Levine is chairman/CEO of Stuart Levine & Associates. Contact him at (516) 465-0800 or