Sunday, December 04, 2005

Association obsolescence

Did I spell that right? Kevin Holland has a discussion of that topic over at his blog today. Very interesting. My quick reaction is to say that a lot of associations probably *are* in danger of being overthrown. More market forces are in competition with them than ever and people have high standards. The younger folks like me make quick connections on the internet, and have access to more information than ever. The gap between the information-rich and information-poor just grows and grows, yet so many (you know who they are) says things like, "I don't do the computer." I'm like, okay, it used to be that if people were illiterate they at least weren't proud of it. I hope that's not too harsh, but I am seriously scared for people (many of whom are charged with making important organizational decisions) who have that attitude.

Still, my thought is that associations in general have lots to offer people: a sense of belonging, a community, advocacy and having a voice in policy and the media (a big one, I think), so it's a matter of marketing and creating a need. If people are not able to do that, the organizations will fail I think. One of Kevin's things is the need for lean, mean organizations:
Starting out small and flexible means very short governing documents that leave a lot of room for play, picking one or two services that they can implement immediately with a maximum impact, and then hitting the ground running.
I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment. I really think this is the point when an organization needs to say, "let's do x," or "let's do y" and then makes it happen. So often you see the energy just sapped by loads and loads of wannabe bureaucracy. Which is perhaps code for "I don't feel like doing anything." Or is it just a lack of realism?

I think I see what is happening as a realignment of the association's modality, and a new definition evolving of what it means to associate. Not so long ago associations jumped for joy with all the savings that happened as a result of technological advances. However, they may need to realize that these same advances are really moving their cheese big-time and that the future will involve more than just delivering memos via email instead of in the mail. In the meantime, we'll have the slow "graying" of the traditional model and it will atrophy.