Networked Chambers of Commerce

We spend quite a bit of time wondering about how social networking technologies will affect the classroom and school environment, but what about other areas of our lives? I came across this article in a local paper this morning while I was waiting for my bagel. The title, “Internet Forces Businesses the Rethink Their Model” caught my eye, as did the opening paragraph:

Consider today’s young professionals, with their pod-casting,
Web-casting, blog-browsing, socially networking, online work-shopping
ways of staying connected. Now pan over to the local chamber of commerce, traditional organizer of card exchanges, golf fund-raisers and guest-speaker luncheons.

The struggle to remain relevant in the business world, particularly the world of small business is no less high-stakes than the very one we are in here in the field of education. Local chamber of commerce meet-and-greets at the Holiday Inn are as much in danger of becoming irrelevant as are schools married to the 20th Century style of teaching and learning.

“There’s definitely a gap between the traditional way that most chambers operate and the way businesses operate today,” said Angela Harrington, chief executive officer and president of Harrington Communications LLC in Springfield. “Technology to many of them is maintaining a database. But they don’t really use their site as an interactive medium.”

We see the same attitude in the business world that we sometimes see in the faculty rooms we encounter:

“At the end of the day, I don’t really want to look at a computer,”
said Scott Cohen, training director for Children’s Aid and Family
Services Inc. in Paramus. “It may be a networking tool, but do I want
to integrate that tool into my entire life?”

I think that in business or in education, getting the message out and providing your consumers with the necessary information to be successful (whether buying your product or learning a skill) is paramount. When I teach, I am a big fan of the “any means necessary approach” to getting students to learn, reflect, and be successful. Wouldn’t the same ring true for the business world, especially the small business world which depends on networking and contacts in order to compete for consumers in a small market?

We often wonder about the nature of the 21st Century workplace, and we should; however, are we as behind as some segments of that workplace? When I read articles like this one, I am reminded that the pace of change is slow at all levels.

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