Spreading Kindness Can Build Community

Lorraine Clarno
Lorraine Clarno, ACE

As the “champion” for each of our communities, the “catalyst” for business growth, and the “convener” of leaders and influencers, it may seem odd, but I am about to challenge you to prioritize spreading kindness in 2024.

Imagine what outcomes could be had if every chamber of commerce championed a local “kindness initiative.” Our country is polarized, and the potential for divisiveness to grow in magnitude this election year is almost frightening.

As chambers of commerce, we have the unique ability and channels to foster healthy, respectful and kind conversations with diverse members of our community. This would not have to be expensive or overly burdensome. We could easily add small things in each of our meetings, communications, events and publications that deliver a simple message — be kind.

Ideas

Here are just a few ideas to get your wheels turning:

• At community-building events, find ways to increase interactions and encourage people to listen to hear and not respond in our meetings. Always have a “parking lot” for things brought up that aren’t on topic but can be addressed going forward.

• Create collaborative initiatives that foster partnerships, perhaps, with underutilized community stakeholders and invite them to your table. Dig deep and find untapped voices in your community.

• Encourage our members to internalize kindness campaigns and promote employee roundtables to host discussions on issues that are important to them. Encourage civility and respectful discussions and set ground rules.

• Most of us provide personal and professional educational programming. Incorporate some topics on conflict resolution, effective communication and cultural sensitivity to businesses and community members.

• Recognize and celebrate member businesses that are contributing positively to your community using digital platforms.

‘Red Notes’ Campaign

What could an internal kindness campaign look like with your team in your chamber? We could take an example from Keller Williams and their “Red Notes” campaign. It is a simple concept where everyone has a special pack of Post-it® notes, and you spread words of affirmation, congratulations, and good luck to team members

Spread kudos and high-fives in a quiet but meaningful way. Encourage random acts of kindness and challenge teammates to be intentional with each other. Have everyone at weekly staff meetings report one win from the previous week and one priority for the next. Find ways to celebrate those wins and find ways to support each other’s priorities and goals.

By actively engaging in these initiatives, chambers of commerce can contribute to building a more united, kind and respectful community. Anything we can do to tamp down the rhetoric and meanness we all see daily will be a win for our chambers and communities.

Build kindness into your brand, welcome different perspectives to understand them, and model ways to deal with differences of opinion, stress, and conflict. With more than 385 chambers represented in W.A.C.E., just think of the difference we could collectively make.

I am so grateful for my year as chair of the board and look forward to seeing the results of our bold and courageous leap of faith to take our future into our own hands. We are in fantastic hands with Whitney Diver McEvoy at the board helm.


Lorraine Clarno, ACE, is the president/CEO of the Discover Kalispell (MT) Chamber and 2023–2024 chair of the W.A.C.E. Board of Directors.