Chamber, GHACF partner on ‘Envisioning Our Community’s Future’ series

In partnership with the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce Grand Haven, Spring Lake, Ferrysburg offers area businesses, leaders, and community members an opportunity to look to the future collaboratively.

A six-part breakfast speaker series, “Envisioning Our Community’s Future,” is a chance for participants to learn about and discuss critical issues impacting Northwest Ottawa County and strategically plan for a shared future. 

The conversation about the series began nearly a year ago around the desire to bring residents together to learn, discuss, and envision ways to create a thriving community. 

It’s partly inspired by the success of the chamber’s speaker series called the Tuesday Forum Series, which ran from 2006-09 and was more focused on local businesses. The new series features nationally recognized speakers on ways to discuss issues impacting the community.

The final meeting will feature a facilitator to lead participants in a conversation about the lessons of the previous sessions and generate community goals. 

Space for conversations

“We came up with a reinvention of a series that we did here at the chamber back in 2003-2006,” says Chamber President Joy Gaasch. “It was at a point in time when there were a lot of things going on in our community, and we really wanted to bring folks together to have some good discussions and bring speakers who could provide us with a different way to look at the issues we were facing.

“We decided to move ahead with a Tuesday Forum Series this year to bring a diverse population together. We wanted to create a space where we could have good conversations and respectfully hear different people's points of view.”

The goal is to foster learning and dialogue, says Hadley Streng, president of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation (GHACF). The series is intended for collaboration, not for people to stand on a soapbox. 

“Our hope also is that individuals will pick up on a couple of things and maybe do something new or different because of this series,” Streng says. 

The funding provided by the foundation allows members of the foundation’s Youth Advisory Council to participate at no charge.

“We thought it was important to have voices at all ages and different perspectives,” Streng says,” so we extended the invitation to our Youth Advisory Council, which are high school students, as well as other youth in the community.”

Feb. 28 
“The Infinite Game,” with Matt Dunsmoor, a Simon Sinek master trainer  

Matt Dunsmoor is a Simon Sinek Master Trainer specializing in company culture, innovation, purpose, and leadership development. In “The Infinite Game,” Dunsmoor will discuss the difference between finite and infinite games and the practices required to lead in an infinite game. In addition, he will explore a new way of looking at leadership, the environment inside an organization, and how to maintain and rebuild trust. 

March 21
“Inclusion: A Healthy Community Imperative,” with Justice Richard Bernstein, Michigan Supreme Court  

Richard Bernstein was elected to the Michigan Supreme Court in 2014 and is the first blind justice. He is an attorney, educator, and former Wayne State University Board of Governors chair. Throughout his career, Bernstein’s cases often set national standards. For example, he partnered with the U.S. Department of Justice to force the city of Detroit to fix broken wheelchair lifts on its buses, establishing a precedent for accessibility in public transportation. Bernstein will discuss how inclusion is necessary for a healthy community. 

April 11
“Retooling for Growth,” with Jennifer S. Vey, senior fellow, Brookings Metro  

Jennifer S. Vey is a senior fellow with Brookings Metro and the director of the Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Center for Transformative Placemaking. Vey’s work focuses on how place-based policies and practices can generate widespread economic, social, and environmental benefits. She is the co-editor of “Retooling for Growth: Building a 21st Century  Economy in America’s Older Industrial Areas” and “Hyper-local:  Place Governance in a Fragmented World.”

April 25
“Breaking Out of the Housing Trap,” with Norm Van Eeden Petersman, Strong Towns  

Norm Van Eeden Petersman is an enthusiast for Strong Towns, an organization that advocates for cities of all sizes to be safe, livable, and inviting. A skilled communicator and community builder, he leads Deltans for People-Oriented Places, a conversations group in Delta, British Columbia, and is a Strong Towns Toastmasters Club leader. 

May 16
“Surprising Ways Coming Together Moves Us from Surviving to Thriving,” with Christine Porath, author of “Mastering Community.”
Christine Porath is an author and associate professor at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University and a consultant who works with organizations to help them create a thriving workplace. Her research has appeared in publications such as the Harvard Business Review. She has been featured on “20/20,” FOX News, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. 

May 23
“What have we learned?” A roundtable discussion with Karen McPhee, leadership coach and strategic planner 
Karen McPhee is a leadership coach and strategic planning facilitator for school districts and other education-related initiatives in Michigan. In 2015-2016, McPhee was Gov. Rick Snyder’s senior education policy adviser. Before this, she worked at the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District for 31 years and was superintendent for 11 years. McPhee will facilitate each session and wrap up the series by guiding a roundtable discussion, including reactions to each session and how attendees can apply the information to their communities. 

The Tuesday Forum Series will be held at the Trillium Event Center,  17246 Van Wagoner Road, Ferrysburg.  Check-in opens at 7 a.m., the breakfast buffet is at 7:15 a.m., and the keynote, followed by community conversation, will be 7:30-9:30 a.m. Pre-registration is required: online, go to; email chamber@grandhavenchamber; or call the Chamber at 616-842-4910. 

Individual tickets are $25 for each forum or $110 for the all six sessions, a $40 savings.

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.