A few years ago I was involved in some research that explored the changing role of the Chambers of Commerce. The findings from this research were made available in a paper called Chamber 2.0: Digital – Connected – Global. The paper outlines both the main challenges currently facing Chambers, and the steps they can take to thrive in such an environment.
Among the main challenges identified by the research was a fundamental desire to change and modernize, with a strategic positioning and business model that would allow Chambers to flourish. There was also a strong desire to work more effectively with partners, both inside and outside of the Chamber network, sharing both resources and insights.
The report then concluded with a road map derived by molding these findings from within the network with best practice from the wider business world. The road-map consists of five broad stages, with each one containing more detailed steps Chambers can take to prepare for the modern world.
- Become a one stop shop for members, including positioning the Chamber brand for the modern world as centers for Business, Innovation, and Economic Development with a new and modernized approach to business that sees an adaptive and responsive leadership style essential to a revitalize business model.
- Offer new value, with a new emphasis on virtual services to reflect modern ways of working. Chambers will become a solution hub that connects and match makes members, with co-working spaces connecting the physical and virtual worlds.
- Collaborate beyond borders, by building an extensive Chamber alliance network, allowing Chambers to become specialized regional hubs, whilst tapping into the collective wisdom of the entire network as well as offering “health-club” type e-memberships to professionals, academics, entrepreneurs and “free agent” millennials alike.
- Nurture new economic development, by facilitating entrepreneurial collaboration between members and stakeholders, connecting the right people with the right resources, helping to forge an innovation economy and a thriving business community and jobs.
- Foster global innovation ecosystems, by tying all of these communities together to form a hyperconnected ecosystem, with Chambers at its heart, thus empowering the next wave of new economic development around the world.
In the years since the report was published, it’s not immediately clear what progress has been made by Chambers of Commerce, and indeed other professional bodies, to bring themselves into the 21st Century.
Nowhere is this more evident than in the 2nd step outlined above, and particularly around the way that people increasingly both learn but also communicate their knowledge.
MOOCs have undoubtedly garnered much of the publicity around new ways of learning, but platforms such as Skillshare are venerable veterans of the field, allowing people to create and consume content from peers and experts from around the world.
Increasingly that kind of service is now available to institutions such as the Chambers of Commerce via software as a service such as Kajabi. They’re powering what the founders refer to as ‘knowledge commerce’, whereby highly qualified individuals not only share their knowledge with others, but use modern platforms to monetize it.
“The working world is changing so quickly today that it’s vital that we learn all the time, but traditional models are not only hugely expensive but also take too long to create the curriculum to suit busy working professionals. Being able to learn from your peers is a great alternative that can allow people to learn when they need to,” the company say.
They claim to have generated approximately $500 million in revenue from people creating and consuming content via their learning platform, which underlines the willingness to not only learn online, but to share our own knowledge as well.
We’re entering an age where the concept of lifelong learning is more important than ever before, and with governments failing to really adapt to provide the kind of support citizens need, and employers struggling to invest sufficiently in the development of employees they worry will jump ship at the first opportunity, there remains a sizeable gap for those able to provide valuable knowledge exchange, whether in byte size chunks or via meatier, long-form content.
The future of the ‘university of life’ is unlikely to be a one size fits all approach, as our needs and wants will differ depending on time and circumstance. Having a mixture of means of learning will therefore be crucial to allow you to access the knowledge you need, when you need it, whether that’s via a MOOC delivered by a top ranking university or a peer to peer learning session delivered via a platform such as Kajabi.
The likes of the Chartered Management Institute have already branched out into this world via a partnership with British MOOC platform FutureLearn, but the opportunity to offer members more inclusive peer-to-peer learning remains untapped. Time will tell whether it’s a market that will eventually be filled by the likes of Kajabi.