How is the South Island Prosperity Partnership different than a Chamber of Commerce?

By Dallas Gislason, Director of Economic Development, SIPP

The South Island Prosperity Partnership (SIPP) takes an approach to economic development that is uncommon in Canada, which can sometimes cause a little confusion. Most cities across the country have economic development offices operated and funded by the municipal government, but SIPP is different. We operate as a regional alliance of municipal governments, First Nations governments, industry and business associations, institutional partners, non-profits and private businesses—with a shared goal of increasing prosperity throughout the Greater Victoria region of Vancouver Island.

Because of SIPP’s member-driven organizational model, which includes 25+ private businesses, we are often asked How is SIPP different than a Chamber of Commerce?

We think it’s a great question, and one worth exploring in detail.

First, let us explore Chambers of Commerce and their long history in our communities (the term “chamber of commerce” first appeared in 1599 in Marseille, France). According to the International Chamber of Commerce:

“Moving beyond individual interests to that of a collective group, the establishment of chambers provided merchants, traders, craftsmen and industrialists a public forum to discuss issues facing them as a business community. This representation of common interests became, and remains, the foundation of chambers of commerce worldwide.”

In other words, Chambers became a way for individual businesses to have a voice as part of a collective whole. As a result, Chambers of Commerce appear in almost every country in the world.

There are five Chambers of Commerce across the South Island. The largest is the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce, and the others are the Westshore Chamber of Commerce, the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, the Esquimalt Chamber of Commerce and the Sooke Chamber of Commerce. In addition to their own service offerings and events, each of these Chambers helps bring the voice of business into conversations about local issues. In fact, the Greater Victoria Chamber has earned a reputation for championing local issues and raising them in provincial and national conversations. And not just that, the Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce invested several years of time and energy to ‘incubate’ a regional economic development approach that eventually evolved into what SIPP is today.

Around the globe, Chambers have proven that they are critical to ensuring that governments and other players are responsive to the many thousands of local businesses that create jobs, make investments, pay taxes, and support local charities and causes in any city or region. It is a fact that vibrant businesses are essential to a vibrant community and region.

SIPP, as an economic development alliance, plays a different role than the Chambers of Commerce. The distinction between the two was the primary basis for why the Greater Victoria Chamber incubated the first ‘version’ of SIPP under a separate banner known as the Greater Victoria Development Agency (GVDA) from 2007 to 2016. Thanks to the Greater Victoria Chamber’s leadership, the GVDA was able to evolve into SIPP. As a regional alliance of diverse partners, SIPP incorporates many perspectives into the regional strategic planning processes that inform our mandate, which is ultimately to pursue a strong and diversified regional economy on South Vancouver Island. SIPP delivers on this mandate through convening our partners—including Chambers of Commerce—around joint projects and initiatives.

A recent example which illustrates this strength is SIPP rallying the entire region around Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge, with the hopes of bringing a $10 million grant to the region. This project united our region around a common goal and created momentum and buy-in that would have been impossible with partners working in isolation.

While SIPP does pursue membership from local businesses to be part of our public-private alliance (which is where the confusion sometimes lies), our model has an intense focus on working with members that are altruistic in nature. Our members primarily join SIPP because they want to pursue a more vibrant region, not because they are receiving a specific benefit or service from being involved.

We hope this explanation provides some insight on how SIPP differs from Chambers of Commerce, and also how we work alongside Chambers of Commerce (and all other partners) to pursue long-term, region-wide goals that can have big impact on all of us. While SIPP and the Chambers of Commerce differ from each other in our mandates and the major activities on which we focus our day-to-day work, our goals are complimentary.

To learn more about SIPP, read out our most recent Annual Impact Report for 2018/19.

Sign up for our monthly newsletter This is Prosperity here.

Leave a Reply