Tag Archives: ChamberL.I.N.K.S.

Working Together for the Future of Serbia’s Youth


 By Milos Djuricanin, Program Manager at Serbian Association of Managers. Duracanin was a 2014 ChamberLINKS participant.

“It is clear that youth unemployment is one of the biggest problems of our society. If we want to successfully solve the problem of unemployment, we have to listen more to the voice of the economy and private sector. This is the absolute priority of the Government of Serbia. That’s why we initiated conversations with businessmen, in order to get first-hand information on their personnel needs and to create a common set of measures which will enable increase of youth employment”– Vanja Udovicic, Minister of Youth and Sports.

The status and position of young people in the labor market in Serbia falls into the category of challenges with no quick fix. Year after year, we are faced with statistics that continue to confirm that every second, a young person is left without a job. According to data presented at the National Youth Strategy for 2015-2025, youth unemployment in August 2014 in the Republic of Serbia is 41.7 percent for people aged 15-24, and 33.27 percent for people aged 15-30 years. Young people are inactive in the labor market: last year the inactivity rate of young people aged 15-30 years was over 50 percent and in 2013, it was noted that 20 percent of young people ages 15-24 belonged to the category of young people NEET (not employed, in education or training).

One of the key issues affecting the high youth unemployment is a mismatch between the skills that young people acquire through formal education, and the knowledge and skills that employers expect them to have. According to research conducted by the Union of Employers of Serbia, young people throughout the formal education system receive and adopt only theoretical knowledge and only 4.12 percent of young people are considered to possess the knowledge and skills for real business. Eighty-six percent of young people reported that they felt they did not possess any practical knowledge.

Among the barriers for business development in Serbia, the lack of adequate staff is increasingly climbing on the list: from an 8th place ranking in 2006 to third place ranking in 2013. This is a clear indication of how difficult it is to find high quality staff.

Given this information, the Serbian Association of Managers (SAM) with the support of the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) organized an event titled “Support for the youth – future for the country,” during which a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed between the Ministry of Youth and Sport and SAM aiming to increase opportunities for top university students in the country to intern for SAM’s member companies.

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Lessons from U.S. Manufacturing Associations for Kenya

Executive Summit

Frida W. Mbugua is a CIPE ChamberLINKS participant at the Manufacturing Alliance for Productivity and Innovation in Arlington, Virginia.

For the past four weeks, I have been participating in CIPE’s ChamberLINKS program in the Washington, DC area.

The program commenced on April 15, 2014 and runs for six weeks. I am based at the Manufacturing Alliance for Productivity and Innovation (MAPI) for the first five weeks, and so far it has been amazing. The President and CEO of MAPI, Stephen Gold, together with all the members of staff, have been very warm and welcoming and have made these four weeks a great experience so far. Gold put me in touch with other manufacturing associations, and I have had the privilege to learn so much from them.

I was with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) for one week, Society of Chemical Manufacturers and Affiliates (SOCMA) for three days, Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) for three days, and will be at the Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) next week for two days. This opportunity has given me the chance to interact with various members of staff in different organizations, learn what they do, and learn how they run their activities while actively serving their members and maintaining valuable relations with the various government agencies.

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Learning from the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce

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Aliya Ahmed is a CIPE ChamberLINKS participant at the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce in Denver, Colorado.

It’s been three weeks now since my arrival here in the Unites States for CIPE’s 2014 ChamberLINKS program. It gives me immense pleasure to be fortunate enough to participate in this year’s program; I am excited to experience the differences between Pakistan and the United States, as well as to learn the best practices chambers in the U.S. are adopting. After my selection, I was anxious to further augment my knowledge about the work of chambers in foreign countries by joining the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

The most inspiring aspect of the ChamberLINKS program for me is that it is in line with my professional goals, which are to learn as much as I can about chambers’ work and acquaint myself with the latest trends in the field, contributing to my overall mission and professional skills.

I have been placed with the Colorado Women’s Chamber of Commerce & Industry (CWCC), which is located in Denver. CWCC, established in 1988, is a progressive chamber actively engaged in providing opportunities and visibility for women in business through relationship development, education, mentorship, partnership, and alliances.

I am shadowing Director of Events Katie Knorr, with whom I partake in daily chamber operations such as planning meetings, events, and conferences.

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One Week at Ponca City Chamber of Commerce


Milos Djuricanin is a CIPE ChamberLINKS participant at Ponca City Chamber of Commerce in Oklahoma.

A few months ago I applied for the ChamberLINKS program. I saw it as an amazing opportunity for my personal and professional development, but also for the development of Serbian Association of Managers, where I work as a Coordinator of Young Business Leaders Section.

When I was accepted to the program I received an email saying that I would spend 5 weeks in Ponca City, Oklahoma.  I had heard of every state in the United States before receiving that email, and knew where most of the states were. However  I had never heard of Ponca City. I googled it and saw it was a city of 25,000 people, which is a small number compared to Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia, which has a population of 2 million people.

But numbers often don’t say anything. And one week into the program that proved to be true and I’m just so happy to be here.

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Welcoming Future Business Association and Chamber Leaders

dc chamberlinks participants

Washington, DC area ChamberLINKS participants (from left to right): Frida Mbugua (Kenya), Mariana Araujo (Venezuela), and Nini Panjikidze (Georgia).

This week five young professionals from different countries arrived to the U.S. to partake in CIPE’s ChamberLINKS program. The program, which is taking place for the fifth year, matches rising young stars from chambers of commerce and business associations around the world with similar organizations in the U.S.

This year’s participants and placements include:

For the following six weeks, these participants will shadow senior staff of their host organizations to observe and take part in the daily operations of successful associations.

Through the ChamberLINKS experience, the participants will gain valuable skills such as advocacy, membership development, and events management. At the same time, these international participants will provide their U.S. hosts with intercultural understandings such as insights into how associations operate in other nations.

The program also has a long-term impact because the participants bring back what they learned from their experiences to their home organizations after the program ends. For instance, Kipson Gundani, a 2012 ChamberLINKS program participant, raised funds and created momentum to start several new initiatives at the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) based on his experience at the Ponca City Chamber of Commerce in Oklahoma. This included internship programs connecting 50 university students with ZNCC members, evening networking events for ZNCC members, and improving the Chamber’s governance systems by making the board selection process more transparent.

Everyone involved in the program –the international participants, the host organizations, and CIPE – are excited to see what the participants will learn from the next six weeks.

Maiko Nakagaki is a Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.

Support CIPE on #GivingTuesday!


What will you be doing next Tuesday?

CIPE is partnering with #GivingTuesday  to celebrate a day of philanthropy on December 3.

After enjoying some delicious food on Thanksgiving, and shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, why not join a global movement to give back to the community?

On Tuesday December 3rd, join the movement by supporting CIPE’s efforts to develop young leaders from around the world. Through our ChamberL.I.N.K.S.  program and the Think Tank LINKS Fellowship, CIPE empowers youth to become active leaders in civil society and work toward meaningful change in their communities.

Watch videos for both programs and learn more about how to support here:  http://www.cipe.org/givingtuesday/

Your donation (whether that’s $20 or $100) will help make a difference! By investing, you are developing young people’s skills to become future champions of change!


Lessons Learned From U.S. Business Associations

ChamberLINKS participants with Global Program Officers Anna Nadgrodkiewicz and Maiko Nakagaki (left) and CIPE Executive Director John D. Sullivan (center). (Photo: Staff)

The participants of this year’s ChamberL.I.N.K.S. program came together last week in Washington, DC to meet with various policy-makers, US Chamber of Commerce staff, CIPE staff, and other non-profit organizations. This was also an opportunity for the participants to reflect on lessons learned, and strategize how they’re going to translate their fresh ideas and energy into their everyday work once they return home.

While it’s too early to determine how the ChamberL.I.N.K.S. experience will have an impact on the participants’ future, they were able to pinpoint what they learned from partaking in daily operations of successful chambers of commerce and business associations in the United States. Here are highlights of what they noted:

1. What are some things that associations in the United States do differently from associations in your home country?

The differences between my Chamber [Zimbabwe National Chamber] and the Ponca City Chamber of Commerce range from the governance structures, committee systems, the extent of membership services, categorization of membership, and largely the way of doing business.  Professionals in the United States run on time and meetings are very structured; this is something that’s very uncommon in my country. (Kipson Gundani, Zimbabwe)

U.S. associations plan and budget everything and are also very organized in terms of procedures and details of events. The follow-up they do is impressive. Also, it was very interesting to see how staff interact: everyone respects each other’s work and trusts one another’s capabilities. (Esteban Strauss, Bolivia)

One major difference I’ve noticed is how “success” is defined in terms of membership development. Back at [SNNPR Chamber of Commerce and Sectoral Association], we simply look at the numbers and set only quantitative goals (e.g.: raising the number of members). However, my host organization in the U.S. taught me that it’s also important to look at how the members are developing because they’re gaining value from being part of the association network/member. It’s a completely different mindset; and the first thing I’m going to do when I return to my home chamber is to evaluate what value we’re offering to our members. (Meselu Sefiw, Ethiopia)

I observed that at the Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce, the flat organizational structure  and high level of delegation of authority gives employees more autonomy to work with high accountability. I also noticed how much emphasis the Greater Cheyenne Chamber put into engaging with not only its members, but also with the Greater Cheyenne community at-large. That’s something my home chamber [the Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce], doesn’t do, since we only focus on the business community. (Shumaila Khalid, Pakistan)

2. What are some leadership qualities that you have observed from shadowing senior members of your host organization?

Time management is a significant quality I admire. The Oklahomans in general are very punctual and it helps. The constant contact by [the President of Ponca City Chamber] with his board members and the chamber members is exceptional, and I hope to emulate that when I return [to the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce]. Another important observation I have noted is the inclusively of their programs. Almost every staff member knows exactly what is happening at any given point in time. Transparency helps run programs much smoother – and I hope to bring that back. (Kipson Gundani, Zimbabwe)

From my experience, I was impressed with how open the CEO and Vice President were with their staff members.  They were always trying to help and motivate their teammates. They know that the key asset of their organization is the staff, so the senior managers were always keeping the team spirits high so that everyone felt encouraged and motivated to their best. That’s something I respect a lot. (Esteban Strauss, Bolivia)

The president of my host association was an inspiring leader who knows exactly what makes the difference between management and leadership, and who also knows that leadership is about inspiring others through one’s own example of integrity, commitment, transparency, and willingness to foster other team members’ growth. (Paula Anastasiade, Romania)

One important leadership quality I’ve observed is that creativity should be encouraged – and that it’s never bad to suggest new ideas! (Dalil Batryov, Kyrgyz Republic)

3. What fresh perspectives do you think you’ll bring back to your home organization?

When I return to my home chamber [Chamber of Exporters of Santa Cruz], I will definitely encourage implementing the “follow-up” culture so we track each other’s activities. Also, I hope to work towards building a sense of team spirit with my staff and start building a stronger support system for the team. (Esteban Strauss, Bolivia)

An important programmatic knowledge I have gained so far is the use of webinars. Instead of asking my home association [the Association of Agribusinessmen of Kyrgyzstan] members and board of directors to come the association’s office, I will encourage the use of webinars to distribute quarterly reports and expense reports. That way, not everyone will have to travel a long distance to come hear a 30 minute presentation. (Dalil Batryov, Kyrgyz Republic)

The concept of volunteerism. Instead of appointing people to lead various Chamber committees or activities, it’s much more effective to have individuals nominate themselves to run them.  This way, we have people who are self-motivated and who want to engage in Chamber activities – they won’t feel “obligated” or “forced” to do them. (Kipson Gundani, Zimbabwe)

I’m interested in promoting the concept of volunteerism when I return home. I’ll start by involving myself and inspiring people in my network for some sort of community work. At my home chamber, I’d be interested in initiating a women’s empowerment seminar, similar to the one I attended through the Greater Cheyenne Chamber called “Women Wisdom Series”, to encourage and train professional women in the Rawalpindi area. (Shumaila Khalid, Pakistan)

All the participants saw this experience not simply as a chance for professional development, but also as an opportunity to observe how they can help develop their communities back home. And they all seemed eager to return to their home countries and apply their new knowledge and improved skills. CIPE will keep in touch with them, and we’re excited to see what they’ll do in the future!

Update: Shumaila Khalid completed the program at a later date than the other participants. Her responses are now included above.