Being passionate about associations, I love finding associations that have a member-centric culture. So it was really great to see that came up as one of the seven characteristics of remarkable associations.
Culture is how you do what you do. It is the unwritten personality of the organisation – how it behaves and its attitude. It leaks out in the everyday language and actions of everyone that works in the association.
I believe three sources are involved:
The history of the organisation – especially in the stories told about its successes, failures and hero’s.
The personality and traits of current leadership – how they make decisions, how they treat people, the quality of the thinking, wisdom and insight.
Finally, what I call market conditions – the things from the outside that affect the association that it has little control over. These can be encouraging or threatening, and the latter can be a real test for the association.
Knowing the history of membership associations gives us a sense of perspective to the profession we work in.
Here are some interesting points along the timeline of the history of associations:
- According to Andrew Marr’s latest UK TV series and book ‘History of the World’, ‘associating’ first emerged when we discovered tribalism was a weakness. To solve bigger problems, like trying to be better prepared for natural disasters, we needed to come together.
- Medieval Guilds, from around 1200, were set up for people practicing the same skill. But in practice they were like a secret society or cartel, with the aim to keeping others out.
- In 1830’s, the keen intellect, Alexi de Tocqueville, left Europe to visit the USA. He wanted to find out why democracy was flourishing, whilst Europe was still in the grips of the ‘lofty’ aristocracy and powerful private individuals, who thought they knew best. His conclusion was that the success of democracy was due to associations – ordinary people, with a common bond, who when they combined could act as a powerful and challenging force that had to be listened to.
So how does this relate to today?
Associations today often act as facilitators for people to mutually exchange and share information, knowledge and insight. They help individuals with a common bond, move each other forward.
I like what I see in the IET’s annual report. They have positioned themselves as being the ‘facilitators of knowledge exchange’ for its community and society and become your ‘career home for life’.
The idea that the role of associations is to create knowledge is certainly very challenging in a world where everyone can publish information! In a world that is suffering from infoglut – too much information and not enough time – it seems to be that an interesting role to emerge is to be the place where a community can go to get good quality advice. To facilitate ‘quality’ exchanges. For the best information to rise to the top, so members don’t get distracted and waste time. That sounds really relevant and meaningful to me and a good reason to join and stay.
I also reflect on one of the three strategic value disciplines organisations can adopt to move forward is ‘customer intimacy’. Having an in-depth and unique knowledge of your customer base, enables the development of superior solutions and value. Surely associations are in a position to consider how having a focus on ‘member-intimacy’ can help it maintain a leading position?
- What is your culture? What is it driven by?
- What can you do to create a member-centric culture?
- What role can you strategically play in the centre of your community to add most value?