Using History to Bridge the Gap Toward Your Association’s Future

August 22, 2008 at 5:36 am Leave a comment

It’s often said that you can’t get to where you are going unless you have an understanding of where you’ve been.  Your leaders lead from where they stand using their unique point of reference… for better… for worse.

If there is any question of how powerful history can be, one only need look back to the role of the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution to see how these documents continue to shape our future as a country. 

In the future, I’ve long held the belief that the core mission of associations will not change, rather it is the way in which our missions are achieved.  Put another way, we’ll be playing the same game, it’s only the playing field which is changing and expanding.  As association professionals, it is up to us to help guide our associations to adapt to this new playing field which is full of seemingly limitless opportunities to achieve what has historically been our purpose and mission.

As we manage our own evolution, the closest distance between two points in creating a bridge to the future is not to focus on how “different” the world will be, but rather building from the perspecive of what will build upon the same… people coming together to engage and advance a profession to create a strong voice which will shape the future of the profession.  

Be careful not to fall into the trap of the “otherworldly” language spoken in the web 2.0 and beyond world to cast a confusing shadow of what is at the bottom-line of these technologies.  

One suggestion would be instead of introducing and explaining the functionality of new technology, such as blogs, social communities, wikis, Twitter, etc, focus on the core capabilities as it relates to mission and how such capabilities can strengthen and expand mission, member engagement and participation.

Let’s use a wiki for example.  Instead of suggesting your association launch a wiki, start instead with painting a scenario in which like-minded members with specific expertise connect with each other to contribute and strengthen the associations conent-matter which is presented to both members and the public… all of which is not dissimiliar to what associations have been doing for hundreds of years. 

Chances are, if you stand up at your Board meeting and suggest the association launch a wiki, every word you say after that moment will likely sound more like “blah-blah-blah-blah” to your Board members. 

So, my point is to use history and tradition as a tool to connect your association with its future.  SM

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Entry filed under: Managing Change, Web 2.0 and Beyond. Tags: , , , , , .

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