Today is Vancity Member Day at The Fair at the PNE and I’m excited to focus this article on building community with #theGoodMoneytalks because you can experience them at the PNE today!

Inspired by dinner table conversations, #theGoodMoneytalks are focused on sharing good food and having open and honest dialogue that will transform the way that people see banking. One of the ways that we do this is by asking folks where they think our money goes when we invest it.

To be honest, they’re kind of a big deal.

good money talks - dragana and john

John Horn and Dragana Panic – #theGoodMoneytalksSelfie

And I’m well placed to understand and articulate the community building power of #theGoodMoneytalks because I co-facilitated them with my fantastic colleague, Dragana Panic (pictured with me), at the White Rock Farmers’ Market on Sunday. Well-equipped, coached, fed, and caffeinated by our colleagues from the Vancity Events Team, Dragana and I experienced myriad community connections with Vancity members and non-members alike.

Here are five reflections on how #theGoodMoneytalks are a great example of positive community engagement.

Fuel conversation with delicious food

Our table was loaded with delicious snacks from A Bread Affair (I highly recommend their Love at First Bite bread) as well as some veggie treats. Whenever you’re attempting to deepen or enhance dialogue, try to do so over a meal – human beings will be more candid, honest and vulnerable when they’re sharing a meal.

Community building begins with listening

Vancity’s business model is member-led innovation – we build trust with our members, listen to them, empathize with where they’re at and what their community needs, and then we transform these insights into financial tools and products that do right by the communities where our members live and work. That Dragana and I were there to listen more than talk, frankly, surprised people, many of whom were prepared to tolerate our sales pitch in order to munch on tasty snacks.

Whatever community you’re building, know that listening to peoples’ stories, ideas and concerns is the most important thing that you can do to connect as many objectives as possible.

“You are awesome. Tell me more!”

People tell me I’m enthusiastic because it’s true – I’ve written about it before! And I like to think that I’m a pretty darn authentic person, too. It was with genuine interest and excitement that I encouraged people to share more of their story; from “I may as well be running the Bank of Canada” to “yes, I suppose I was a pioneer in the labour movement” we heard about experiences that were as hilarious as they were heart wrenching. By demonstrating enthusiasm for peoples’ stories with smiles, laughs, high-fives, and eye-contact, the conversations became richer, much more intimate, and downright fun.

With interest comes deeper understanding

Dragana and I, in my opinion, were more interested in where our guests were at in their lives than how interesting our financial co-operative is. We played a few icebreaker games with folks, which got people talking about why they visit the market, why they think buying local is important, why they think everyone deserves a home, and what banks and credit unions can do (and should do) to make the world a better place. Mostly, though, we talked about the things that people wanted to talk about – we focused on the stuff that interested them. Sure, sometimes this meant talking about a dog named Honey that is upset by the arrival of a great grandchild, but it also meant rich conversations about food security, green space, and balancing private banks with public ones.

When we were genuinely interested in what people had to say they shared much more about their needs and wants and, most importantly, were willing to be a bit more vulnerable and sincere with their questions and ideas.

“The jujitsu of impact storytelling”

Vancity has so many stories of impact. Dragana and I heard many impactful stories from many people last Sunday. “Storytelling jujitsu” simply means being really, really good at all the stuff that I’ve written about above and being really, really good at making meaning of peoples’ experiences in a way that connects them to the idea of how to redefine wealth that’s most relevant to them. For example, Honey the dog’s owner was blown away by Vancity business member Spa Dog’s commitment to world-class pet grooming and environmental sustainability. Folks were also impressed by the collaboration between businesses, non-profits, governments, and Vancity that launched Skwachàys (pronounced squa-chizeꞌ) Lodge and Residence. Not once did I repeat a story of impact to our table guests – whenever I used an example it was customized for their experience and where they were at on Sunday at the White Rock Farmer’s Market.

Because people are unique and expect to be treated so, which is a complex undertaking to say the least. But nobody said that re-defining banking as a people business, not just a money business, would be easy. And if any organization is well-positioned to lead this change it’s Vancity.

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