Unprecedented boating summit underway today

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It reads like a Who’s Who in boating . . . the list of the more than 150 attendees gathered for the opening of the “Recreational Boating Stakeholders Growth Summit” in Chicago today and tomorrow.

Haven’t heard much about it? That’s not surprising. Perhaps it should have had more advance notice, if for no other reason, because of its truly unprecedented nature. Nevertheless, this initiative is, hopefully, defining and charting a comprehensive strategy that can ensure sustainable growth for boating’s future.

You’ll note this isn’t called an “industry” meeting because it’s clearly not. Correctly, it is dubbed a “summit of stakeholders” because it is the most inclusive gathering of boating interests ever assembled. As a body, the summit participants are from across the U.S. and Canadian boating spectrum. They are leaders from virtually every facet of recreational boating. Here’s a partial participation breakdown: Bankers/insurers (nine); consumer organizations (14); retail dealers (23); distributors (four); marinas/boatyards (11); boat manufacturers (19); engine builders (10); marine trade association execs (17); yacht brokers (four); marine reps (two); big-box retailers (one); government agencies (three); fishing industry (three); boating safety organizations (three); publishers (seven); among others.

The summit is being conducted by an expert facilitation team from the FCRC Consensus Center at Florida State University and the University of Central Florida. The FCRC’s strength is guiding consensus building, and serves an independent public resource facilitating consensus solutions and supporting collaborative action.

The FCRC leaders will be covering a lot of ground in two days. From stimulating an honest exchange of challenges and barriers preventing sustainable boating growth, to exploring actions that can address and overcome the barriers, the facilitating team has its work cut out for it when you consider the size and varied interests of the participants. That said, however, we should expect this summit to be successful. Here are some reasonable expectations:

(1) This summit cannot be expected to miraculously solve all the problems related to boating’s future growth. (2) But it can improve understandings among all the stakeholders. (3) It can generate consensus and commitments to joint actions. (4) It can establish a clear process for initiating a comprehensive strategy for success. (5) It can be the foundation for collaboration across the entire spectrum of boating, something that’s never been forged before.

Why should it all happen? Truth is, if you study the list of participants and what or who they represent, it seems crystal clear that every one in that Chicago hotel today has an undeniable stake in discovering consensus and collaborative actions that will ensure the growth of participation in boating going forward. I repeat: Every one!

We wish them a hugely successful summit.

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