Re-inventing our organizations

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Organizational growth, whether it be in a corporate setting or a volunteer, ethnically based one such as the JCCIA, can be challenging as we face competing interests, time constraints and the need to balance our work and family responsibilities. Somewhere in there, we want to stay in touch with our roots, but often cannot find the niche in which to do so.

As the JCCIA has grown since its inception, it has seen the world change through the lens of new generations of Italian Americans who have taken the success they have found in this country and parlayed them into iconic careers and institutions. Many have also flocked to organizations that nurture goals that are not necessarily Italian-American based.

As other volunteer organizations have, the JCCIA has had to re-invent outreach strategies and look to ways of providing a seat at the table for people who want to participate in the preservation of their cultural roots. Doing so often means changing what we know and/or change how we have done things for 30 or 40 years. For many, 40 years ago the thought of a telephone that would fit in the palm of your hand and be able to turn on the lights in your house, draft documents and shazam you the name of a song, would have sent heads reeling. But today, what used to be the big black phone connected to the kitchen wall is now in the palm of our hand, and takes us to a new way of communicating and building the new generations of Italian Americans we seek to bring to our ranks.

Today, Italian Americans in the Chicago area live throughout the western suburbs and beyond, and many Italian Americans are mayors of those towns, which is a great source of pride for all of us showing how successful we have become in government. Many have built incredible social networks for their residents, many of which are Italian American, to participate in and build new friendships and business relationships.

Today, capturing the interest of up-and-coming leaders in the Italian-American community demands casual settings where people can network and meet to talk business or pleasure and conduct major relationship building. Venues need to be created where culture and business can mesh and not clash. We need to create opportunities for mentoring to occur, and most of all, make it convenient for people to attend. The most important part of growing an organization is to listen to what people want and what is important to them. To that end, some changes were made this year with event planning and it has proven to work well.

Earlier this year, the JCCIA held its first-ever business networking event at DRAFT Bar in the Dunning neighborhood of Chicago. It was a great success. We had over 70 people attend, many of whom had never attended a JCCIA event before, and we signed up new members to the JCCIA. Business contacts were made and everyone had a good time. We had wonderful food donated to us by Tony’s Finer Foods and Supreme Lobster. Our 2017 Columbus Day Chairman was on hand as were JCCIA officers and Executive Committee members. The key to the evening was that people were able to mix and mingle and stay as long as they wished. Participants inquired about the committees that have been established within the JCCIA this year and wanted to know how they can help. There is no greater compliment then when people tell you they want to join.

The other piece that is important to people to ensure organizational growth is the grooming of future leaders. Basically, if the same people are always in charge, why would anyone want to participate? To nurture the future, you have to give people a stake in the organization and take in their new ideas. The key to leadership is to surround yourself with a team that you can give the keys to when your term is up. As the current leader of the JCCIA (the term is two years), it is incumbent upon me to provide opportunities for those that want to participate and put people in leadership roles within the organization so they feel valued.

My hope is to have given enough opportunities to those who wish to participate in their culture to do so within the JCCIA through the Columbus Day Parade, Scholarship, Strategic Planning and Social Media committees, among many others. We have many talented people within our community. Having them involved is a great gift. It is truly the best way to leave an incredible legacy.

Please join us at future meetings if you haven’t had a chance. You will be glad you did!

Ciao for now.

About Enza

Enza Raineri is the president of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, having previously served as second and third vice president of the JCCIA. She is the associate clerk of the Criminal/Juvenile Bureau for the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County, and has spearheaded the Clerk’s office annual Italian-American Heritage Month Celebration for more than a decade. She is a board member of the Italian American Political Coalition and is active in the Justinian Society of Lawyers, serving as a liaison with the Clerk’s Office. She has been honored by the Order of Sons of Italy in America and the JCCIA Women’s Division.

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