Crowdsource: A Gem of a Summit

How the jewelry industry came together to address its biggest challenges.

The jewelry industry is a complicated one, with different types of professionals who have different goals, standards, and budgets. That sometimes makes it difficult for the industry to unify around challenging issues like responsible sourcing. Professionals with smaller budgets, says Cecilia L. Gardner, an attorney and jewelry industry consultant, had been largely shut out of the conversation about sourcing.

“They wanted to address it,” she says, “but the mechanisms that were offered to them were complex and expensive.”

Gardner’s solution was to organize a summit of representatives from multiple associations to have an open forum on its professional issues. At the time, she was CEO of one such association, the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, and she had a Rolodex full of contacts—and enough experience to handle pushback. She cut through it by clarifying that the summit was a talk-it-out session. It would not serve one organization’s interests or create another advocacy group or standard-setting bureaucracy.

“We wanted to make sure that this was a very independent initiative,” she says. “I very specifically said, ‘No one’s starting a trade association.’”

The first Jewelry Industry Summit, held in New York in 2015, emphasized sharing industry success stories that showed good ethical practices regarding sourcing and the supply chain. The summit was so successful that follow-ups have happened every year since then.

“We acknowledged that there are issues,” Gardner says. “But there are examples of things that we’re doing that are responsible and good for communities, good for the Earth, and good for business. We amplify them, learn from them.”

Cheri B. Torres, CEO of Collaborative by Design, who helped convene the summit, says a successful event needs to emphasize outcomes. “Intentionally frame the conversation around what’s desired,” she says. “Frame it around long-term goals that the group as a whole is after.”

A funny thing has happened since the first summit: The Jewelry Industry Summit is now an association of its own, with Gardner as its chair. Its focus isn’t on advocacy; rather, its mission is to organize the contents of future summits and keep connections going via webinars and other tools. And to make sure it preserves its inclusive spirit, dues are kept low at $60.

“The goal is the same,” Gardner says. “Preventing people from turning away from engaging in responsible sourcing because it’s too complicated, too burdensome, and too complex.”

(bonetta/Getty Images)

Mark Athitakis

By Mark Athitakis

Mark Athitakis, a contributing editor for Associations Now, has written on nonprofits, the arts, and leadership for a variety of publications. He is a coauthor of The Dumbest Moments in Business History and hopes you never qualify for the sequel. MORE

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