Management Cases

Generating public value with a company-centric approach: the case of the Cosenza Chamber of Commerce

The challenge

The Chamber of Commerce of Cosenza (CCC) is a public body that brings together businesses in this province of southern Italy. In the business landscape of this area, the CCC’s role is twofold: monitoring the entrepreneurial system from an economic and administrative standpoint, and supporting the local business economy by providing financial backing, promoting companies nationally and internationally, and carrying out initiatives to spotlight the cultural heritage, encourage tourism and bolster competitiveness in Cosenza. Political and administrative directives for the CCC come from the Chamber Council, whose members represent the different economic sectors of the province of Cosenza, appointed by the President of the Regional Council (of Calabria in this case). Executing these general directives is the responsibility of the President and his or her Council, who are tasked with adopting the necessary provisions to carry out the CCC’s action plan. At the top of the organizational chart is the Secretary General, who leads a team of around 45 employees working to provide services effectively for companies and generate value for the entire province. In recent years, the CCC has faced myriad challenges. For one, a legislative decree that came into effect in 2016 shifted the perimeter of the institutional functions delegated to the Chamber of Commerce system, and reduced the annual fee that companies were asked to pay. (These fees are the primary source of funding for the CCC.) At the same time, hiring freezes meant the size of CCC staff shrunk dramatically (-32% from 2014 to 2021), with no chance of hiring on new professionals. So, the Chamber found itself having to guarantee continuity and expand its service offering to companies, but with fewer economic and human resources on hand. And this in a province that has always been a fragile one from an economic-social standpoint (as we can see from employment data for women and young people). On top of all this came the additional damage wrought by Covid-19 emergency in 2020, bringing with it demand for new services from the Chamber to the meet the proliferation of complex needs in the business world of Cosenza.

The numbers:

  • Foundation: 1862
  • Employees: 43 in 2021
  • Population of the province of Cosenza: 676,119 
  • Unemployment rate: 22.3% (13 percentage points higher than the national average) 
  • Sectors: commerce (33.56% of the total for region of Calabria), agriculture (36.75%), construction (37.52%), hospitality and food services (38.98%), manufacturing (35.36%)

To tackle these challenges, the CCC kicked off a process of change by rolling out a company-centric strategy called “#Let’s Open the Chamber of Cosenza." In line with this new vision, entrepreneurs would no longer physically go to CCC headquarters or branch offices; instead the Chamber would redesign its services to match to the needs of companies. The CCC’s aimed to come up with customized solutions to their problems, reaching out to all businesses by proactively doing what needed to be done to bolster the competitiveness and shore up the social capital of the area. No more simply waiting for businesses in Cosenza to ask for economic support. The CCC has gradually been actioning this strategy, which revolves around the business community’s needs ("our north star, guiding all our efforts,” in the words of President Klaus Algieri). In fact, these needs are what underpin the selection of services to provide and the construction of a network of relationships connecting companies with the institutional, economic, cultural and social actors of the province of Cosenza. Implementation of the CCC’s company-centric strategy consisted of integrated managerial actions that serve to innovate the organizational model, human resource management systems, external communications and accountability, and methods for onboarding stakeholders. The CCC has reorganized sectors and offices, always with an eye to the needs of businesses, placing all services in the same “organizational container.” This move enables the Chamber to better respond to specific user needs. Theme-based Chamber Committees have also been set up to handle all stakeholders’ requests, incorporating them into decision-making processes. As for human resource management systems these were refocused to fit the new strategic vision. The aim here is to provide the organization with the necessary expertise and skills to meet the needs of companies. To this end, the CCC recruited qualified professionals to fill innovative new roles, consistent with the needs of the territory (e.g. digital promoters, territorial marketing specialists). To attract prospects, the CCC developed Employer Branding strategies and revamped assessment processes to select the best candidates. Likewise, the CCC mapped out and requalified employees’ skills as per the requirements of an open organization, capable of reaching out to businesses using a multichannel approach. Finally, the CCC has launched various initiatives to bridge the information gap regarding Chamber activities, building physical and virtual spaces to publicize CCC services and opportunities, and to encourage company participation in inter-institutional collaboration networks.

The takeaways

The aim of an effective company-centric strategy is to center all action around meeting users’ needs. This means adopting and coordinating a number of managerial levels, such as revamping organizational models, innovating human resource management systems, redesigning external communication and onboarding stakeholders. By using these levers strategically, the CCC has succeeded in generating public value, raising its profile in the business community and enhancing user satisfaction with regard to the services it offers.