Are You A “Wavemaker”?


  • How can we get more Millennials interested in our work and become members?
  • What is our role in addressing community and social issues?
  • Is it possible that we could lose our support from corporate investors?

Everywhere you turn — whether it’s tuning in to CNN, NPR or the local news, social media posts, gatherings with friends, and engaging with peers in the industry — there is no escape from realizing that there are a lot of problems to solve. Concerns about talent shortages, the public education system, rising costs of healthcare, poverty and the impact on children, mobility, government policies and fiscal shortfalls can make us feel overwhelmed. As a membership-based organization, what role do we have in addressing these challenges when our resources are limited, and we are consumed with delivering value to members?

There’s a movement underway to address the challenges that affect our communities and countries. The book, The Solution Revolution surfaced in 2013 and has caused a ripple effect around the world.

Authors William Eggers and Paul Macmillan (both with Deloitte) state that the biggest challenges cannot be solved by government alone and requires Wavemakers who create innovative products/ services, or collaborate through private/public partnerships.

Wavemakers are corporations, organizations, tech entrepreneurs, and everyday citizens who are serving as changemakers and leading the charge. This short video gives you the essence of what’s underway.


Notable business leaders have brought others together to incite action. The U.S. Chamber hosted the Corporate Citizenship Center conference where corporate executives talked about the need for businesses to “step up” and the summary, Who Better to Solve the Biggest Problems? is compelling. Michael Porter, author of the Competitive Advantage, delivered a similar message with his TED Talk, Why Business Can Be Good at Solving Problems. Businesses with their resources have expertise, resources and a lot to gain.

What I find even more compelling is that it’s not just corporations that are serving as Wavemakers, it’s everyday people like you and me who are also “stepping up” to the challenges. Anyone can create a Wavemaker campaign to support a cause and fundraiser. Our friends on Facebook ask us to support various causes with GoFundMe asks and we do, because we support our friends and what they care about. And Female Way of Change is an international group that encourages women to become Wavemakers and to share their compassion and expertise to help others. So, this really quite the movement. And as an association or chamber of commerce, why should you care?

If Not You, Then Who? And If Not You, Will You Be Irrelevant to Your Stakeholders?

In my earlier blog The Future of “Membership” Models, I referenced thought-provoking research and messaging from association leaders who shared trends and influences, and challenged our status quo. The Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE)’s Horizons Initiative: Chambers 2025, Eight Influences Shaping the Next Decade for Chambers of Commerce has triggered more meaningful dialog in the board room and strategic planning sessions. The Western Association of Chamber Executives (WACE) challenges chambers to rethink their “why” and roles, and reinvent their brand to lead communities.

The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) continues to provide the “windshield” of what’s coming next and how associations need to prepare for change. Its ForesightWorks Program focuses on leveraging 41 Drivers of Change to focus on and create a culture of foresight in their organizations.


VOI of Membership | Hight Performance Group


Here are three things to do to serve as Wavemakers for your communities and industries:

1. Convene leaders to discuss top challenges facing the community/industry.

Serve as the facilitator to bring together executives from the private and public sector, policymakers and other organizations. Discuss current challenges and possible solutions to address them. Consider how private/public partnerships could share assets, expertise and resources. Serve as the convener and collaborator to develop committees, goals, action items and timelines.

2. Practice inclusion by offering a “seat at the table” and expanding your pool of “thought-leaders.”

Our tendency is to “draw from the well” and include the same 40 leaders in the most thoughtful discussions. It’s just as important to invite under-represented community segments and emerging leaders, especially Millennials, to engage in dialogs that impact them. The Millennial generation’s interest in quality of life for all drives their cause engagement, and recent studies like the Millennial Impact Report debunk the myths of a “me” generation that lacks engagement. Including them in conversations about social issues and collaborative social responsibility will add more voices and resources that yield to positive outcomes.

Community Segments and Emerging Leaders | Hight Performance Group

3. Recognize that stakeholders go beyond the walls of “membership”.

Rather than being “member-centric”, accept that a broader group of stakeholders have a vested interest in serving constituents, whether they are members or not. Sharing concerns with a broader community and inviting others to donate, volunteer or provide ideas will create awareness, support and ownership to address issues that are bigger than all of us. Cast a wider “net” and you’ll be surprised at the ripple effect you’re creating from the waves!

Associations and chambers of commerce are perfect conduits for the Solution Revolution to bring Wavemakers together for effective change. The movement is already under way. Are you in the center of the action?


Cathi Hight helps organizations manage constant change, develop customer-centricity and “work smarter, not harder”. She is President of Hight Performance Group and the developer of The Member Retention Kit, A New Approach to Tiered Membership and Work Smarter, Not Harder programs. Learn more at


Are You Ready to Grow, Retain, Evolve or Die? | Hight Performance Group