Does your chamber exist to be... The Catalyst for business growth? The convener of leaders & influencers who make things happen? The champion for stronger community?
Important questions posed by the 3 C’s and fortunately these principles have been implemented by chambers around the country. Chambers have been forced into being catalysts, conveners and champions over the past year and have stepped up to the challenges posed to our communities and members by COVID-19 and the resulting public health restrictions and the business impacts.
There is another C that is on my mind as I step into the role of board chair for W.A.C.E., and that word is “community”. The past year has reinforced and reiterated the need for chamber executives to nurture their networks and grow their community.
Every day we hear the word community used by government officials, businesses, news anchors, and – yes - chambers of commerce. But what does it really mean? According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, community can have many meanings, but the one that most closely defines the way I see it is, “a unified body of individuals” further explained as “a group of people with a common characteristic or interest living together within a larger society.” Your neighborhood is a community, your gym, your child’s school are all communities. For us, it is our professional association – W.A.C.E. - which is also a community. It makes sense that the communities we gravitate toward, both personally and professionally, are made up of like-minded people who make us feel uplifted, encouraged, inspired, and supported. Being part of a community gives us a sense of belonging. But what, exactly, does community mean and how does it manifest in our lives? Just as denoted by the root and the suffix of the word (common-unity), a certain segment of the population is united by a familiar thread. In our case, it is running chambers of commerce. Community is where we find comfort in difficult times. It isn’t a luxury, a nice thing; community is essential to our well-being. Community is about growing with, and providing support to, others. The very idea of community comes into being because people like to cooperate with each other.
Being a part of a community makes us feel as though we are a part of something greater than ourselves. It gives us opportunities to connect with people, to reach for our goals, to make us feel safe and secure. A true community is about being connected and responsible for what happens. Not just watching, but actively participating and making a difference through their actions. Our professional communities allow us to develop our own internal relationship capital and grow personal and professional friendships.
It is my hope that our chamber community – nurtured by W.A.C.E. – can help everyone grow their network and build their professional community. The truth is, every one of us is put in this world to contribute and make a difference in our own unique way and we do that every day at our chambers. We contribute and work with the intention of doing good and helping others. It is meaningful, yet often exhausting, work.
We cannot be expected to do it alone; we need our tribe, a collection of others who understand the challenges and the opportunities, others with who we can share our successes. It is not getting easier and as our chambers and communities continue to recover and face challenges in the months ahead, I encourage you to ask yourself, how can I use WACE to build my network and expand my professional community?
Chris Romer, ACE 2021-2022 W.A.C.E. Board Chair President & CEO Vail Valley (CO) Partnership