Download of the article (pdf)
Benchmarking of Business Chambers and
Associations as a Tool to Stimulate Change Processes
By Simone Lehmann and Rainer Mueller-Glodde
Benchmarking is a powerful tool to improve
business chambers and associations
in developing countries. A framework of benchmark criteria
was developed to reflect key elements of successful business chambers, tested in
reference to known chambers in Brazil and Sri Lanka and then applied in Vietnam.
It was new to the Vietnamese culture to compare the performance of a group of
business chambers and discuss the results. This article details out this
intervention that resulted in the stimulation of learning processes and changes
for each business chamber and for the chamber system as a whole.
When working with business chambers in
development cooperation the decisive question is on how to stimulate its leaders
and members to improve the chamber’s performance. The most common approach
carried out by technical consultants refers to international standards
concerning services, lobbying and organisation of chambers. The technical
advisors try to convince the chamber leaders to improve their organisation by
showing them international best practice. But frequently chambers are rather
reluctant concerning changes in their organisation because of traditions,
culture, history, economic reasons and politics. The local context may differ
considerably from international conditions. A solution can be to demonstrate the
performance of other chambers in the same local context.
Comparisons are one inherent element of the
Nucleus Approach: A “Nucleus” is a working group of entrepreneurs (e g
carpenters, hotels) within a business chamber, which is moderated by a chamber
Within a Nucleus the entrepreneurs compare their enterprises through
discussions, cross visits and mutual evaluations. These comparisons enable the
entrepreneur to “benchmark” her/his enterprise, often for the first time. These
results stimulate upgrading activities in most cases.
Development cooperation programmes applying
the Nucleus Approach work with groups of business chambers. Meetings, trainings
and counselling of groups of chambers provoke comparisons and lead to gradual
A more methodical comparison is a benchmarking
executed by a neutral external person or team. The decisive point is the
definition of the applied criteria for business chambers and of scores. In order
to sustain the benchmarking as a quick and moderately expensive tool it is
necessary to keep it simple, easy to handle for the users and easy to understand
for the benchmarked organizations.
The criteria correspond to the products of
business chambers and the conditions under which they are produced. The
individual scores have been encountered in practice in business chambers in
Latin America, Africa and Asia.