A couple of years ago, the Downtown Boulder Partnership was hosting its annual awards event and the CEO for DBP, Chip, made the quip that the audience should do a toast whenever someone mentioned the word, “partnership,” in their award acceptance remarks. Though it was a tongue in cheek jest in reference to an oft-used term, it speaks to the unique collaborative character of Boulder. Very little in this town happens without the benefit of significant partnership among local business support entities, civic institutions and non-profit organizations.
Ironically, Chip offered his quip during an event that honors individual community leaders for their support of Downtown Boulder Partnership goals. The Boulder Chamber similarly singles-out local leaders who are deserving of special appreciation for their personal business success and community contributions during our annual Celebration of Leadership and Women Who Light the Community awards events. Maybe we should also offer a toast for every reference to, “Leadership.”
The fact is, leadership and partnership go hand-in-hand when understanding the root successes we’ve enjoyed in our economy and as a community.
We’ve had our share of inspiring leaders who shaped the community we enjoy today. Reflecting on my own institution, the 30-plus year Boulder Chamber president, Franny Reich, achieved his vision for Boulder’s economic future by recruiting our first federal laboratories. Community leaders, such as Ruth Wright and Oak Thorne, helped lead the drive to preserve our open space and mountain views. Brad Feld has been an inspiring force for the vitality of Boulder’s local startup business ecosystem.
While each of these individuals deserves credit for an original vision or championing a plan for success, I’m sure they’d all acknowledge it took collaboration with a diversity of individuals and organizations to realize that vision or implement that plan. Fortunately, Boulder has that partnership muscle in abundance. I’ve opined that it’s our western frontier mindset, where so many are new to town and need to rely on the support of strangers to survive, that is the foundation for our unique collaborative character. Regardless, I see evidence of it every day, from the support successful business leaders give to budding entrepreneurs to generous assistance the Boulder Chamber has secured for our economic vitality endeavors.
I mention all of this because the Boulder Chamber and the Community Foundation Boulder County have begun the annual recruitment for our Leadership Fellows program. At its heart, the 11-month Leadership Fellows program is a professional development training course. With a focus on inclusive leadership, it gives each fellow the tools needed to step into personal leadership strengths and to find a path toward making a contribution, whether in their own business, on a non-profit or civic board, and/or in elected office.
Just as important, the Leadership Fellows program is designed to educate a new generation of diverse individuals from a wide range of professional fields on the full range of civic, non-profit and business resources that keep Boulder County thriving. Inherent in this process is a clear message: The capacity these future leaders develop for building partnerships across our different institutional sectors, let alone the inclusion of voices from all sectors of our community, is critical to overcoming the challenges we face and achieving desired goals.
As a Leadership Fellows graduate, myself, I can attest to the value of those lessons throughout my work in the public sphere, including in my position with the Boulder Chamber. A recent example was our announcement of the Homelessness Solutions Policy Framework that the Boulder Chamber, Visit Boulder and DBP collaborated to adopt, after extensive outreach to other human service, government and business interests. It was a collective effort to generate and, very clearly, it will take the partnership of all those same interests to implement.
For those who are interested in the opportunity to become more engaged in the work of sustaining our economic and community vitality, I urge you to consider applying to become a Leadership Fellow. You can get more information on the program and access the application here: https://boulderchamber.com/member-services/groups-programs/boulder-county-leadership-fellows/. I note, in an effort to expand the diversity of our Leadership Fellows classes, scholarships are available for those needing assistance to participate in the program.
Of course, there are other avenues to becoming engaged in the life of our community, and I urge you to take the path that fits best with your interests and capacity. We need your leadership and partnership to keep Boulder strong.
John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at 303-442-1044, ext 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.