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Promoting Diversity and Inclusion

Inclusive regions prosper. According to a new ACCE commissioned report, DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION FOR THE 21ST CENTURY ECONOMY: An Imperative for Chambers of Commerce (Feb. 2017), cities and regions that embrace diversity do better economically. The report outlines the business case for why chambers need a strategy to leverage diversity and champion inclusion.

Here are examples of chamber-led efforts to promote diversity and inclusion both organizationally (membership, board, staff) and community wide.

Board Connector - Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

Community leader and City Attorney Wade Hinton launched a networking website aimed at connecting minorities with opportunities to serve on nonprofit boards called Board Connector, a web portal designed to help connect persons of color and women who want opportunities to serve on boards with nonprofits that want to be more diverse and inclusive. Board Connector launched in April 2017 with support and feedback from Chattanooga charter nonprofit partners, the Benwood Foundation, the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga, United Way’s Center for Nonprofits, the city of Chattanooga’s Office of Multicultural Affairs, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, Chattanooga Women's Leadership Institute and the Mayor’s Council for Women. This Nooga.com article describes the portal and launch (July 2017).

Minority Business Accelerator - Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber

The Minority Business Accelerator is the flagship economic development initiative of the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber focused on growing sizable minority firms. The MBA's mission is to accelerate the development of sizable minority business enterprises and strengthen and expand the regional minority entrepreneurial community. The MBA works with regional companies to increase their utilization of and spending with local minority owned businesses by helping them identify and connect with local minority suppliers who can meet specific needs for products and services. More info about the Minority Business Accelerator (MBA):

Greater Cleveland Partnership

The Greater Cleveland Partnership is serious about diversity. From their employment practices to their purchasing priorities, they strive to be a civic model for the development and implementation of diversity and inclusion strategies that advance productivity, innovation, and economic growth. Their diversity philosophy is organized into four primary areas:
  • Board Composition and Engagement: The GCP embraces board diversity as a calculated strategy to enhance organizational creativity, promote competitiveness throughout its markets, and ensure responsible and responsive corporate governance. In 2008, their Board of Directors adopted a Resolution on Diversity and Inclusion.
  • Operational Objectives: The GCP endeavors to develop a staff and supplier network that reflects the diversity of their region. They believe this allows them to better connect with members’ business and policy priorities.
  • Member Commitment: Through the Commission on Economic Inclusion, a network of more than 100 Northeast Ohio employers committed to a shared set of business priorities, the GCP works to foster economic inclusion as the operating norm for businesses and organizations in the region.
  • Social Equity: For the economic prosperity for the region, the GCP supports initiatives that promote the improvement of urban education systems and prepares the local workforce to meet the needs of current and emerging industries.

Student Membership Program - Eden Prairie Chamber of Commerce

Eden Prairie Chamber started the program in 2006 with the goal of connecting students to the chamber and helping them gain business experience as well as helping students to build awareness of what a Chamber is, what it does and why it is important. The Chamber started the program by connecting with a local high school teacher who instructs the Business and Marketing Classes and runs the DECA program. The planning phase of the program included putting together the student requirements and timeline for a full year. This is important because the requirements do take some time to complete and the students do have a busy schedule; plus it takes them a little bit of time to jump in and get involved. The kick-off occurs the first week of the school year (September) when the Chamber CEO goes into the classroom, explain what the Chamber is and what the student membership program is all about. Application forms are passed out to the students and they have to submit a letter to the CEO explaining why they want to participate in the program. The Chamber selects only 20 students to participate and then holds an orientation meeting with these students and a parent/guardian to cover the expectations. Costs and how the program is structured: The students do not pay anything for their attendance at programs. The program is free for students and the Chamber instead focuses on business sponsorships for the students and their costs. Outcomes and impacts: The students have capitalized on this program to do job shadows, mentorships, as well as learning about careers they want or don’t want. The Chamber has received thank you letters from parents who appreciate the Chamber providing this experience and have even received checks as donations to the Chamber. Some of the students are reconnecting with the Chamber as they finish college and get jobs – some locally. An ultimate goal is that the students either get involved with their local Chambers – whether in Eden Prairie or their city they live/work in – and ultimately strengthens the Chamber brand!

Program Samples:
  • Student Membership Planning Guide - Lists guidelines for high school student members of the chamber who are participating as part of a business and marketing internship. It lists requirements, deadlines and grading guidelines.
  • Student Membership Program Application - Application for high school students interested in a free membership to the chamber. It lists the benefits of joining and provides feedback from previous student members. Students are also required to write a letter of interest.
  • Student Membership Sponsor Opportunities - Describes the chamber's student membership program and offers three levels ($250, $500 and $1000) of sponsorship.

Grand Rapids Area Chamber

The chamber manages several programs to help promote and connect diverse talent in the community.
  • Black Women Connect GR - The chamber's newest affinity group offers opportunities for African-American women to meet with each other and develop meaningful personal and professional relationships.
  • MAP - Offers mixers and social events to cultivate relationship opportunities for professionals of color who are new to the area, as well as for people of all backgrounds.
  • OutPro - Promotes a welcoming culture in the West Michigan community for LGBT professionals, and offers opportunities for both social and professional networking through monthly gatherings at various venues throughout the city.
  • Diversity Visionary Awards Celebration - Recognizes individuals and organizations for their exemplary efforts, advancements and contributions to ensure diversity, inclusion and equity within their own institution or community. The celebration also includes a keynote address on diversity, inclusion, and economic prosperity.
  • Minority Business Showcase

CAPACITY Builders - Greenville (SC) Chamber

CAPACITY Builders is a 15-month program of the Greenville Chamber in South Carolina. Established to assist members in developing strategic diversity and inclusion efforts, the CAPACITY initiative facilitates and assists organizations in structuring and integrating strategic inclusion practices into their operations for optimal results.

Greater Kansas City Chamber

The Greater Kansas City Chamber values and promotes diversity because it enhances the business community and the economic development of the region through: increasing regional and global business development; expanded educational opportunities; and creating a robust community infrastructure that encourages all community members to make contributions using their special talents, expertise and knowledge.
  • The Power of Diversity Breakfast is the region’s premier celebration of the metro area’s culturally diverse business community, recognizing diverse workforce members and corporations that have demonstrated a commitment to diversity and inclusion. The event honors the chamber's Champion of Diversity and ACE Award winners.
  • The Champion of Diversity award recognizes a regional company that is demonstrating a durable commitment to diversity and inclusion in its workforce and in the community, serving as an example for other businesses on how to promote and value diversity and inclusion.
  • The chamber's ACE Awards recognize culturally diverse mid-to-senior level managers who are achieving excellence and who are having an impact that exceeds expectations for their employer and the company’s bottom line.

Diversity Champions - Knoxville Chamber

Diversity Champions is a group of 60 Knoxville-area business leaders focused on communicating the importance of a diverse workforce. They work within their companies, and with elected officials and the media to communicate diversity and inclusion as core values. In 2012 they released a report on workplace and marketplace economic inclusion in East Tennessee.

Mosaic - Tulsa Regional Chamber

The Mosaic council is the Tulsa Regional Chamber's effort to create awareness about the competitive advantage of having a diverse and inclusive business climate. Mosaic seeks to leverage the region’s diversity to improve perceptions about community and grow the economy. Downloads from Mosaic:

Convention & Seminar Resources



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Last Updated: 8/1/2017

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