Collaboration: When the Rubber Meets the Road

Getting Down to Business with the OPRF Chamber

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By Cathy Yen

Executive Director OPRF Chamber of Commerce

Collaboration is tricky.  We overuse the word given how many instances of true collaboration you find around town.  Collaboration is not simply following a parallel course toward the same finish line.  You actually have to share the ride.  It takes work.

Collaboration has many synonyms.  We've talked about synergies, shared services, combining nonprofits' back offices, merging or co-locating organizations like Visit Oak Park, the Housing Center and the Development Corp.  We've considered combining units of government.  The best we've come up with is quarterly iGov meetings in Oak Park and an agreement to maybe talk some more in River Forest.

True collaboration means disparate people or organizations coming together to work towards shared goals.  That comprises three separate challenges.  First, different groups come together.  Second, they determine how to work together.  Third – and most importantly – they agree on what success looks like.

Despite those challenges, at the Chamber we understand the business principles supporting collaboration and appreciate the gains to be had when we share resources.  We are willing to do the work to make it work, starting now.

We share close quarters with our landlord, the Wednesday Journal.  Effective immediately, we also will share front office staff.  The receptionist at our offices on Oak Park Avenue will support both the Chamber and the Wednesday Journal in a brazen act of collaboration that walks the talk.

Both Wednesday Journal and Chamber leadership teams are enthusiastic. We've cleared the first hurdle.  The second hurdle, process, is more onerous than you would think.  Do we have adequate training manuals? How will we measure time and tasks? Will competing priorities sort themselves out naturally?  How is this going to work? 

It will be fine.  We are committed to figuring out the process because we agree on the shared goal:  effective, personable and affordable customer service. Our shared mission of serving community sets the tone for a truly collaborative relationship.

Fortunately, we also have a built-in advantage.  Maria and Carolyn, who currently manage the front desk with aplomb, are more than equal to the task.  Collaboration? Let us show you how it's done.

Email: Twitter: @OPRFChamber

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