DRC expertise shines at ACCE convention

One year after the Dallas Regional Chamber (DRC) was named National Chamber of the Year by the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE), staff from the DRC traveled to Salt Lake City to ACCE’s 2023 Convention to share unique expertise with chamber peers.

Mission-Aligned Leadership Programs

Megan Miers and Olympia Newman, each a Director of Leadership Programs at the DRC, hosted an engaging session about the DRC’s mission-aligned leadership programs, how other chambers can utilize the model, and the advantages that come with mission alignment.

“We’re talking about a concept, a way of thinking about your leadership programs to maximize what they do for your chamber and your chamber’s mission,” Miers told the room.

Miers and Newman defined mission-aligned leadership programs as “intentionally structured initiatives that incorporate and advance an organization’s mission to create ambassadors who champion the organization’s cause with a deep understanding of its vision.”

The pair talked through how the DRC’s mission has been incorporated into programs like Leadership Dallas and LEAD Young Professionals, or LEAD YP, through tactics such as basing class days around a singular element of the DRC’s mission and even having the class members themselves plan the class day in collaboration with DRC topic area experts to foster understanding.

“Many of the participants in your program show up as emerging or established leaders, so these types of programs are not solely focused on growing leaders,” Newman said. “The focus then is to leverage the skills and expertise participants bring to the table to create ambassadors who walk—or even run—beside you in the work your chamber is doing.”

Before they walked session attendees through a hands-on activity designed to help them apply the mission-alignment framework to their own programs, Miers and Newman shared data that evidences the positive impact of the DRC’s approach, including that 18% of the DRC’s 125 Board members are Leadership Program alumni.

“The strategic direction of our organization is being shaped by those who are knowledgeable and passionate about our work,” Newman said.

“We want our leaders to find their place in our mission,” Miers added. “So as soon as they’re done with a leadership program, we find ways to connect them to our work. The story here is that alignment builds engagement that contributes to a greater impact on the communities we serve.”

Business and Public Safety

Also at the convention, the DRC’s Matt Garcia, Senior Vice President of Public Policy, and Latosha Herron Bruff, Senior Vice President of Inclusion and Community Engagement, hosted a roundtable-style conversation about how the DRC approached public safety as an important piece of its Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) body of work.

“Public safety is so critical to the growth of our cities, our region,” Herron Bruff said. “So, there should be a natural relationship between the work we’re doing in economic development, education and workforce, and, of course, DEI. At the onset, public safety didn’t seem like a natural fit because we didn’t have the [in-house] expertise. Now, I don’t think we’d have a comprehensive program without it.”

As public safety conversations can often be packed with differing opinions and tumultuous dynamics, the DRC, beginning in 2020, focused on bringing the business community’s voice together with Dallas Region officials and other stakeholder groups to discuss how the groups could work together and support one another.

In response to a question about navigating the differing opinions and interest groups, Garcia recounted how the DRC’s engagement in public safety was initially met with skepticism.

“We had to show people we weren’t coming to the table to ask for anything,” Garcia said. “Our police departments are under a lot of scrutiny; everyone wants to tell them what they could be doing better, but we showed we understood our job is to support them and that we just wanted to have an open, honest dialogue.”

Garcia added that the DRC’s work has led to a strong sense of trust with the Dallas Police Department (DPD).

“They’ve seen the results we’ve been able to drive and come to us to ask for help in specific areas,” Garcia said, detailing how the expertise of the business community has supported DPD’s budgeting, human resources, and evidence storage.

“We’re not on any side; we’re on the side of the region,” Herron Bruff said. “The DRC’s role as a convener is to bring together these groups that may not otherwise talk and make sure all voices are represented. We’ve found an opportunity for the business community to have a listening ear into ongoing work instead of just what’s reported out. Now, our members see a direct benefit in access to public safety officials.”

While at the convention, Garcia announced to all attendees in a keynote session that the ACCE Convention will come to Dallas in 2024.

“The DRC looks forward to the ACCE Convention each year,” Garcia shared. “It’s great to connect and share ideas with people who understand the unique, important work we do. I know I speak on behalf of the entire team when I say we cannot wait to showcase our city and all our region has to offer when we gather next year.”