Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Community Schmoonity"

Every time I turn around someone is waxing on about "community". Building Community. Protecting Community. Growing Community. The LOCAL Community....the GLOBAL Community..., blah, blah, blah.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of this place we call the community of Chico. I grew up here, my folks still live in the house I was raised in, my husband grew up here and our kids want to make their lives here. In short, I'm not dissing the place. I just think the word "community" tends to be overused as a touchstone.

I say that because I think there is something even more basic than community as a basis for our shared lives. For me it all boils down to relationships. Without personal relationships with those we live, work and play with, there is no community. It doesn't matter if you live in a great neighborhood near a great park in a great city that's part of the greatest country in the world. Without relationships you are not part of a community.

When I took over the job as CEO of the Chamber of Commerce I heard a lot of folks referring to 'the business community'. Historically this seems to be a label that is applied to companies that make up for-profit industry. Big mistake!

I think the term should apply to every person and every organization that helps makes this economy run. That means everyone...government, non-profits, service providers, manufacturers, sole-proprietors and publicly traded corporations. Anyone who works here has a connection to the business community in one way or another.

So how do we determine if we're really living as a business community? By thinking about the relationships we've built, or not built.

Things are different now. None of us have the luxury of sitting back and letting success roll over us. Our mere survival may very well depend on the relationships we've built and how hard we're willing to work on them. This is where the Chamber of Commerce can really shine.

I can't speak for the Chamber of the past, but today we are all about relationship building. That will be our primary objective going forward. Connecting people and building relationships. There is no higher purpose for this organization. We will define specific activities as we move forward but trust me, relationship building will be the undergirdings of every decision we make.

So from now on, even though I might say "community", I'll be thinking "relationships". Try it and see if it changes your perspective, too.

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