RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — CO-OP Financial Services has named the winners of its THINK Prize 15, the first time that winners were named in five categories, instead of just one overall winner.

Also new this year: entry was open to people from all walks of life, not just credit union employees.

"We had tremendously diverse ideas that ranged from the invention of a new currency to a new process for loan approval," said Samantha Paxson, chief marketing officer for CO-OP.

The originators of the five top ideas will receive $2,000 each from the $10,000 CO-OP THINK Prize 15: The Challenge. The winning ideas include (listed alphabetically by originator):

Community Coin

Originator: Justin Bean, founder of 3D Printing for Humanity in San Francisco.

Idea: An online and mobile app platform for the exchange of goods and services between individuals. The idea calls for a new reputation- and service-based currency that can be created, distributed and managed in several different ways, without reliance on or validation from financial institutions.

Libraries as Financial Literacy Hubs

Originator: Trevor Hallstein, an entrepreneur and fund manager based in Oakland, Calif.

Idea: Use libraries as a community hub to teach skills and expose community members to tools that will help them reach their financial goals. Drawing inspiration from existing programs and resources, the idea proposes a financial literacy program for the patrons of Oakland Public Library, with the goal of scaling the approach to other libraries and community spaces.


Originator: Nicole Lopez-Conti, Community Outreach Manager, Patelco Credit Union, San Francisco.

Idea: Re-look turns credit union members' declined loans into approvals. For those who have been declined for a loan, it offers borrowers a 30-, 60-, 90- or 180-day track to reapply successfully. Credit union representatives will examine the reasons for loan decline and offer advice to put members on a path to successful borrowing.

Harnessing the Power of Volunteerism to Empower Youth and Women

Originator: Jean-Marc Mercy, CEO/Founder, the Bridge Initiative, Democratic Republic of Congo.

Idea: Train youth volunteers in financial literacy and community development from the Bridge Initiative, a nonprofit NGO based in Kinshasa, whose mission is to promote volunteerism and social entrepreneurship as pathways to decent work. Volunteers would serve as community ambassadors to help the young — especially girls and women — gain financial knowledge.

A Grassroots Youth Campaign to Initiate Change

Originator: Tori Adele Signorelli, a freelance designer and writer based in Cincinnati.

Idea: This idea taps into the power of young people to change the way we think and talk about money. Inspired by the Rock the Vote initiative, this grassroots campaign would engage 17 and 18 year olds through channels such as social media, a classroom kit and on-campus events.

"With the 2015 THINK Prize we sought to inspire unique problem solving and collaboratively address the question: 'How might we use the power of communities to financially empower those who need it most?'" said Paxson. "CO-OP worked with OpenIDEO and an expert advisory panel to assess ideas produced by people from all walks of life, sometimes comprising large, international teams, and which often included high school and college students."

Multiple Stages: Refinement to Impact

THINK Prize 15 was co-sponsored by MasterCard and hosted on OpenIDEO, an open innovation platform. With the new format unveiled in March, the contest attracted close to 15,000 visitors to OpenIDEO's collaborative platform, more than 500 active participants and nearly 2,500 online comments and contributions to team efforts.

A total of 26 ideas were selected for consideration in the "Refinement" phase, which ran from May 5 to June 3. The final five top ideas were selected based on how well the idea met a six-point criteria: human-centered, collaborative, community-centered, unique, showed a vision for success and implementable.

CO-OP's Paxson said the challenge is not over, but now is entering a new phase. "After today, the challenge will remain live for an 'Impact' phase, in which we are encouraging all individuals and teams to continue collaborating and sharing progress on their ideas," she said.

All of the ideas can be read — and contributed to — at https://openideo.com/challenge/financial-empowerment-challenge/brief.

For more information about CO-OP Financial Services' year-around THINK initiative, visit www.co-opthink.org.

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