As I write this post, I am sitting in a gorgeous hotel with an absolutely breathtaking view of the city of Reno and the surrounding mountain ranges.  But what is even more incredible than the panorama in front of me is the group of people surrounding me.  Annette and I are attending the 2013 Chamber Nation Conference with more than 40 executives from Chambers across the US, and we’ve been struck by one very interesting thing over and over again.  These folks are here to COLLABORATE!

Time and time again in conference settings, we see Chamber executives and membership folks from different organizations, oftentimes from different states, huddled together to work on solving problems.  The conference organizers have done a great job of creating diverse sessions that educate on a variety of topics, but where the REAL work is done is in small groups that gather to discuss ideas and solutions around the lunch table or in a coffee shop or in the bar or hospitality suite. Whatever shape these gatherings take, it’s always the same; we came here to learn and the greatest opportunity for that is what we learn from one another.

It’s a familiar refrain in the Chamber world.  We all realize that Chamber professionals are a rare breed; we are the ONLY ones in our community that do what we do and for many of us, the nearest “colleague” may be a hundred miles away.  It got me to thinking:  We all do SOME partnering to bring about change in our communities, but are we doing enough? Could we recreate this casual, learning environment in our own communities or regions?

Webinar Social Media Ambassador Chamber Nation Conference

I think we’re doing some things really well, in general.  How many of these are going on at YOUR Chamber?

  • Building coalitions with other local Chambers…AND bringing in other community groups to get broader consensus and wider vision.

  • Working with our members to help them achieve their goals…as well as helping NON-members reach THEIR goals, too.

  • Collaborating with elected officials who share our viewpoints…but ALSO reaching out to those we often disagree with to help both sides understand the issues more fully.

  • Connecting with other Chamber professionals through our State organization…while reaching out to those professionals who HAVEN’T joined to try and gain new prospective and share ideas.

My guess is that most of us are doing about half of each.  We reach out where it’s easy, but we don’t build the bridges where they most need to be built.  My challenge to you today is to do something difficult.  Step out of your comfort zone and see if you can’t forge a relationship with someone you don’t know…someone you don’t already partner with…someone who can help you achieve YOUR organizational goals while at the same time offering you the ability to help them reach their own.

No matter WHAT we’re trying to accomplish, if we all work together, it won’t take very long!