Loud and serious about legacies

Bragging is frowned upon but association chiefs are realising that there’s a critical need to shout about the extensive public good their organisations are doing to clearly convey the legacies left behind by their work

Professional associations perform more than self-serving roles for their members and the industry they represent. Fact. Professional associations, through their meetings and events, leave behind more than just tourism receipts for the host city. Fact.

John Graham

Unfortunately, also a fact, a lot of the good that associations do are kept within their walls.
Illustrating the extensiveness of associations’ work, John Graham, president and CEO of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), said: “Everything in life is touched by associations. Associations set the safety standards of the smartphone you are using, the production standards of the blouse that you wearing, and the quality of the medical care you are receiving. And that’s just the standard-setting part of the work associations do.

“Associations also boost the economy, create jobs and conduct research to improve lives. But not many people know about the public good that associations are achieving, and it is important that associations talk about that.”

For years, the ASAE has run the annual Power of A Awards in North America, which recognises associations that are able to leverage their unique resources to solve problems, advance industry/professional performance, kickstart innovation and improve world conditions.

Award winners have traditionally been North American associations, but ASAE is now hoping to globalise it by including nominees and winners from Asia-Pacific.

“The concept of the Power of A is relevant in any part of the world, and so we thought why not try to get some associations based in Asia-Pacific to apply for the awards in 2019 and into the future? Furthermore, the awards is one way to bring wider attention to the legacies of associations,” he added.

Here in Asia, the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE) organises the Ang Susi Awards which recognises individuals who have sustainably managed an association and produced remarkable results, and also membership organisations that have demonstrated outstanding achievements in helping the environment, empowering people, serving communities, enhancing trade and industry, developing technology solutions, and for being agents of change.

Graham believes that associations need to “get smarter” in publicising their good work, something that Richard Holmes, director of the International Bureau For Epilepsy (IBE), echoes.

“It could be talking to the press or using social media to spread the word on what the association is doing in the lead up to, during and after its meeting,” Holmes said.

Association leaders who spoke to TTGassociations also emphasised the importance of measuring and communicating the legacies of associations to the government and relevant agencies, so that their meetings aren’t only recognised for their contribution to tourism. This in turn would encourage more local government and national agencies to support hosting bids for global association meetings.

Another critical aspect of association legacies, opined association leaders, is the need to carefully build opportunities to do good into their programme.

Iain Bitran, executive director of the International Society For Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM), said: “Legacies don’t just fall from the sky or materialise with the wave of a wand. Associations must plan for it to happen.”

On ISPIM’s part, the association has moved to “build legacy into our Asia-Pacificmeetings” by having challenge-based content. In preparation for the ISPIM Connects Fukuoka conference in Japan in December 2018, Bitran met with the city government and had them identify seven to 10 local issues that could be addressed with innovation.

“From that we picked three: ageing, energy transition and building a start-up ecosystem,” Bitran explained.

“Our members worked on possible solutions in the lead up to our conference, and presented them to the city and local participants at the meeting. Our solutions became the legacies we left behind for Fukuoka.”

Far-reaching goodness of associations
From improving safety and living conditions of people to conserving wildlife, associations can effect deep social benefits through their meetings and the work they do.

AIDS Society of India
The AIDS Society of India lobbied successfully for the establishment of an AIDS/HIV law in 2017 that protected patients from abuse, as well as government support and recognition for the need for AIDS/HIV public education which has helped to reduce the number of infections. Its intensive promotion of far more affordable AIDS/HIV medication produced by qualified Indian pharmaceutical companies and their export to Africa have allowed more patients in that continent to access medicine.

Life Saving Society Malaysia
When the World Conference on Drowning Prevention 2015 was held in Penang, Malaysia, the local host, Life Saving Society Malaysia, took the opportunity to call for the creation of a council to promote water safety culture, and to lobby for swimming lessons in school. A year after the conference, the Malaysian cabinet approved the formation of the Water Activity Safety Council, which was placed under a ministry. The conference itself also brought about nation-wide awareness of the vast number of drowning cases and prevention methods.

International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA)
ICCA, through its annual ICCA Congress, runs the Gift of Love project which allows delegates to contribute to charitable causes in the host city. As well, in the lead up to ICCA Congress 2016 in Kuching, Sarawak, ICCA ran a year-long Borneo Orangutan Project which invited delegates to adopt one of six orphaned baby orangutans. It drew excellent response, where companies – not just individuals – offered large sums of money to support the programme.

This article was first published in TTGassociation April 2019, a sister publication of TTGmice

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