I have recently returned from the World Chambers Congress in Torino, Italy, and am feeling thoroughly inspired. The congress is held every second year, and it is an absolute “must” for chamber management to attend.
The World Chambers Congress brings chamber leadership from around the world together under the banner of the International Chamber of Commerce’s World Chambers Federation to discuss issues of global trade as a driver of growth, job creation and sustainability. The session is used for business to consolidate contributions for the WTO trade negotiations under the B20 (business component of the G20), currently chaired by Turkey and led by Ambassador Rifat Hisarcikioglu.
The conference agenda items this year were drawn from the theme of community, identity and global vision, and in addition to some insightful presentations and interesting debate, there was the opportunity to network with some 1500 chamber representatives from across the globe.
My favourite part of the congress though, is always the chamber best practice presentations, and this year did not disappoint. They ranged from an incredible small business advocacy programme run in Australia called “Small Business, too Big to Ignore” (which I am hoping that the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry will consider running locally) to some really practical economic interventions. One that has stuck in my mind was part of a programme run by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce in Ireland, called “Activating Dublin”. The programme was developed in response to the catastrophic economic collapse that Ireland experienced around 2008/2009, when they lost approximately 20% of their economy overnight and one out of every ten people lost their jobs. The chamber invited all the leaders of global companies to a strategic thinking session to try and identify possible economic interventions, and of course, being Ireland, this included companies like Google, eBay, Facebook etc.
One of the things that they discovered was that 3 out of every 4 Euro’s spent online in Ireland was being spent outside of the country. Using the expertise in these global companies, the chamber developed a series of workshops to assist companies to develop platforms for online sales. 55% of companies that participated in the workshops enjoyed noticeable sales growth.
Four other interventions were developed in consultation with the chambers global partners, namely a start-up enterprise assistance programme, an online youth interface platform, a resource for the people of Dublin called “Dublin Online” and an advocacy programme aimed at reinstating employers rights, because it was felt that employees enjoyed far too many rights when, in fact, employers build the economy. They found that the rights imbalance was dampening the desire to run a business, and so this was addressed and employers were given back ‘their voice”.
At the end of the activation, Dublin had experienced a 29% decrease in unemployment.
It certainly seems to me that we can learn from their success.