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December 15, 2005

Hey, horse! Look! Water here!

In a post to the Association Renewal blog on Tuesday, Jeff De Cagna asked:

What will it take for you and other leaders in your organization to shift their mindsets from the association as the locus of value creation to the context in which value is created by others? ... How will you challenge your association's leaders (as well as yourself) to embrace the paradox of taking greater responsibility for driving more work from the edges of the organization that is beyond the leaders' control?

This is a major challenge for me. Not the "shifting mindsets" part. I'm already there. It's the "responsibility" part.

We give our members many opportunities to participate in content development, but they don't do it -- not as much as I'd like them to, anyway. How much energy do I expend trying to get members to participate, and at the expense of which other important program(s)? As they say, you can lead a horse to water, but...

I often wonder how many members have the time, desire and/or professional confidence to be active, meaningful contributors to their field. There are opposing trends in play. Yes, there is a trend towards the decentralization of knowledge creation, but there is also a more well-established trend towards a lack of time or desire to (be defined by and) participate in one's profession. Is a large body of dispersed knowledge generators really possible for all industries and professions?

It will be interesting to observe these opposing trends as they continue evolving, and to see which associations and industries will benefit from "decentralized content generation" and which ones will suffer from "disengagement."

I wonder which trend is most affecting the association management profession? Judging from the association blogoclump activity*, I'd have to say disengagement. For now, anyway.

* This isn't a critique of the current clumpers, but of the small number of voices in the clump.


Nick said...

Okay, I have an opinion (I know, scary). I agree with you Ben in that it is often extremely hard to get volunteers to do stuff, or sometimes to find them in the first place.

I'm listening to the MP3 today, and the thing that is striking is the resistance you get IN PRACTICE from implementing this kind of technology. For example, I've got a project group going right now, and people aren't signing up to use the wiki. So I have to work the phones to make a wiki happen.

They are also discussing how the leaders obviously have to at least be on board before any change can occur. That is true, and unfortunately, hard to make happen.

Ben said...

Yeah, and what COULD you be doing if you weren't dragging your kicking and screaming members into the wiki? How important is the "fringe content" compared to other priorities, like implementing a membership retention campaign?

Sue Pelletier said...

I think a lot of times, members just don't get asked, personally, to volunteer. I'm not talking about a form that lists everything anyone might want to help out with, but a personal invitation to join in an effort that might appeal to someone specifically.

My recent experience: I just joined a professional organization this spring. My chapter started up a blog, and of course I was all over that and corresponded with the person who runs the blog. She saw from my blog that I'm involved in the meetings business, so she asked me to join the local chapter's board to help get more attendance at its meetings. Perfect fit, how could I say no? But I never would have thought to ask or join on my own. This Appaloosa needed to be led to just the right water hole.

The question of how much is it worth it to get to know that much about your members so you can get personalize invitations to something a particular member can't say no to really should be: How much is it worth to have engaged, psyched up members?