Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

ACCE DEI Resource Roundup

Will Burns on Friday, June 19, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

As communities grapple with the challenges of racial inequity, we’ve seen an uptick in questions about best practices for chambers of commerce to engage on diversity, equity and inclusion issues.

In recent updates we’ve highlighted chamber responses to the current national dialogue on racial equity. We’ve also laid out steps your chamber can take to boost your organization’s credibility and begin to take action.

This week’s ACCE Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Division roundtable call featured a discussion of actions taken in the St. Louis region following the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. St. Louis Regional Chamber Senior Vice President of Inclusion and Talent Attraction Valerie Patton joined the call to discuss the work of the Ferguson Commission, a group of regional leaders that come together to solutions for equity in the region by addressing systemic racism.

If your chamber is exploring how it can support meaningful change in your community, the Ferguson Commission Report is a great place to turn for actionable ideas. The report includes 189 policy recommendations. There is also a follow up action plan that measures the success of the work, continued to push for policy change and establish the action strategies necessary to sustain the work. We hope these resources are helpful. You can listen to the complete call here.


Recent Chamber of Commerce Equity Pledges 


Chamber Executive Articles 


Recent DEI Division Roundtable Call Recordings


Chamber Best Practice Examples


What is Your Chamber Working On?

Send us updates on your diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives and programs. Contact Amy Shields at

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Tips for Chambers to Engage on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Amy Shields on Friday, June 12, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

As protests and demonstrations continue across the country, chambers are examining their role in responding to racism and systemic inequities. Below, we have provided some steps for chambers to consider as they chart their path forward. There are also examples from chambers who have done this work. ACCE encourages everyone to consider taking one or more of these actions. As a member recently said, “You can come for this issue, or it will come for you.”

Internal Actions

All work on diversity, equity and inclusion has to start internally. If we want to be seen as credible in this space, we need to take steps with our own board and staff.

  • Have open and honest conversations with your staff and board. Your staff may be struggling, and it may be uncomfortable to have a conversation with them about racism and equity. We will not become more comfortable having conversations about race if we aren’t willing to be uncomfortable in the process. If needed, consider brining in external facilitators or consultants to support the conversation.
    • Matt Pivarnik, president and CEO of the Greater Topeka Partnership, spoke to his staff about his commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion
    • The Greater Cleveland Partnership’s board voted to support the city council’s declaration of racism as a public health crisis
  • Provide specific training for your staff and board on diversity, equity and inclusion. Training will not solve systemic racism, but it is a start to creating a culture that supports equity and inclusion. Consider working with a local nonprofit or an organization like the Racial Equity Institute. Topics might include implicit bias, microaggressions, lessons on historic policies that have contributed to current inequities, or other topics.
  • Evaluate your policies and procedures with an intentional DEI lens. Your chamber’s policies and procedures should reinforce your organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. Review your bylaws and governance documents, hiring and evaluation practices, employee manual, staff onboarding procedures, internal communications and other relevant policies and procedures.
  • Be honest about your chamber’s past. Our industry isn’t perfect, and some chambers have been on the wrong side of history when it comes to issues of equity and inclusion. In order to move forward, we must be honest about our mistakes and reconcile that with our desire to be better moving forward.
    • Mike Neal, president & CEO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber, acknowledged troubling passages from historic chamber meeting minutes in the aftermath of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre and reaffirmed the organization’s dedication to doing better. The chamber also donated a copy of its historic meeting minutes to the Greenwood Cultural Center.
  • Consider where your chamber should lead efforts and where you should support. Chambers are natural conveners and leaders, but you don’t have to be at the center of every conversation. In this work, identify community partners and others who are already embedded in this work, and ask them how you can best support their efforts.
    • Chris Steinocher, president and CEO of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber, talked about the importance of listening and working in partnership at a recent virtual workshop
    • The Greenville Chamber released a joint statement with the Urban League of the Upstate & United Way of Greenville County calling for more community dialogue

External Actions

Chambers can choose from a wide array of options to support diversity, equity and inclusion in their communities. Even small steps can be valuable in the long run.

  • Issue a statement of support or place an op-ed in the local paper. A public commitment to equity and inclusion makes a powerful statement, whether individually, in partnership with other organizations. Consider how it might be interpreted if your chamber chooses not to say anything publicly in this moment.
  • Host or promote dialogues for your members, the business community, or the broader community. Does it make sense for you to host a conversation, or does it make sense for the chamber to be the listener in the conversation? Who is the right audience, and are you ready to hear the perspectives of community members no matter what they express?
  • Support minority-owned businesses. Support for minority-owned businesses is particularly important during this time, in part because these businesses have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.
    • The Indy Chamber is administering Rapid Response Loans for businesses impacted by COVID-19, including those who may not have been able to access PPP funding
    • The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber has a successful minority business accelerator, and Darrin Redus, Senior Vice President, spoke to Congress about the importance of their work
    • The Dayton Chamber’s Minority Business Partnership creates supply chain opportunities for minority-owned businesses with large buying organizations within the region.
  • Provide training and support for members on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. Many organizations, particularly smaller businesses, may not have the resources to bring in their own speakers or instructors. Chambers can step in to fill the gap and provide important information to members.
    • The Grand Rapids Chamber offers its Institute for Healing Racism, a two-day program design to “attack the disease of racism from all sides”
    • The Raleigh Area Chamber of Commerce runs the Triangle DEI Alliance, which offers a variety of programming, including virtual and in-person conferences and learning events
    • The Greater Cleveland Partnership offers members a Diversity and Inclusion Assessment that helps them benchmark their company’s diversity and inclusion data against others in the region
  • Integrate diversity, equity and inclusion into everything you do. Chambers are examining everything from their economic development incentives to their legislative agendas. Use the same lens for external work as you do for internal policies and procedures.

Other Resources

Many people, especially white people, may be at a loss for where to begin when it comes to learning more about diversity, equity and inclusion. It can be tempting to turn to colleagues of color and to ask them to elaborate on their own experiences. In this time, remember that your colleagues may be feeling a variety of emotions about the current situation. Instead of asking them to expend their emotional and mental energy for your benefit, consider checking out one of these resources:

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Chambers Contribute to National Dialogue on Racial Inequity

Will Burns on Thursday, June 4, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

Chambers of commerce play a pivotal role in the communities they serve, a role built on leadership, trust and collaboration.

As communities grapple with the challenges of racial inequity, chambers are connecting with and listening to their community's most relevant stakeholders and seeking to be productive partners in local and national efforts to pursue meaningful solutions. Here are a few trends we identified during peer calls this week: 

Talk to Your Team: Many chambers created opportunities for their teams to come together to share how they are feeling about the current situation and provide input on how the chamber should respond. Some used professional facilitators, others simply tried to create an environment of candor and trust. One interesting idea was to offer for your chamber to buy each staff member a book on a topic related to racial inequity. Then hold periodic meetings for staff to discuss and exchange the books. Here are a few recommendations. Send me your recommendations and we’ll publish a chamber reading list next week.

Identify Key Stakeholders: Many forward-thinking chambers have developed relationships as part of ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, but it’s never too late to start conversations with organizations like the NAACP, Urban League, United Way, faith-based organizations, minority business owners and elected officials and more. Open lines of dialogue and …

Listen: Chambers have a propensity for action. They see a problem, they pursue a solution. Take the time to listen to the stakeholders you identified. Understand how your organization is perceived by their leaders and the communities they serve. You are not going to build trust overnight. Be a good listener, and identify ways to support and build alliances that could lead to meaningful change.

Here are some of the initial statements we've seen from chambers across the country. If your chamber has taken action, please share your examples with Will Burns at

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I'm heartbroken, but determined

Sheree Anne Kelly on Monday, June 1, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

I'm heartbroken to see our country look and feel the way it does right now. I'm angry at the injustice I see. I'm sad for so many who are personally impacted across the country as community leaders, business owners, and most importantly as individuals. I'm worried for members of my staff, my friends, my neighbors, my own community… I've heard from so many who have emotions that run from anger, to fear, to exhaustion.

My personal ethics don't allow me to simply watch this unfold. Racism and systemic injustice cannot be tolerated. Discrimination and acts of hate are not OK.

We are community leaders, conveners and trusted voices across the country and around the world. We need to use that power to help. Convening many stakeholders and bringing disparate voices to the table for meaningful local conversations are critical. We have a voice we can use, but we also need to listen first. Listening builds mutual understanding, and there's not enough of that right now.

Now is the time to bring your community stakeholders together to share perspectives and find ways to work collaboratively through and beyond where we are today. Thoughts and prayers alone won’t build us a stronger, more united country. We need action.

All of our peer group and division calls this week will focus on how we as an industry can be active partners in affecting change. I look forward to hearing your thoughts – and as always, I'm also happy to be in touch directly. Thank you for all you're doing for your communities and let's build a path to a better future together.

United with you,
Sheree Anne

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