Voluntary and Professional Associations: Signal and Noise

I receive regular blog post alerts from the Scholarly Kitchen.

The Society for Scholarly Publishing (SSP) established the Scholarly Kitchen blog in 2008.

SSP’s mission is:

To advance scholarly publishing and communication, and the professional development of its members through education, collaboration, and networking.

The Scholarly Kitchen, a moderated and independent blog, aims “to help fulfill this mission by bringing together differing opinions, commentary, and ideas, and presenting them openly”.

I admire the way The Scholarly Kitchen goes about sharing openly. I have linked to their posts in a number of my posts.

This morning Kent Anderson has a stimulating post about associations. In his introductory comments he observes:

It’s no secret that associations and membership organizations are facing generational, attitudinal, practical, and economic challenges simultaneously. Many things are going on, but a sampling shows how profound the challenge is becoming:

  • Younger people don’t want to join organizations they see as either irrelevant to them or as fusty leftovers of their parents’ or grandparents’ generation.
  • Organizations haven’t shifted their value propositions sufficiently — they haven’t trimmed benefits to match their members’ needs or added the right new benefits, which means they have value propositions that are hard to explain or just plain wrong.
  • Time pressures are everywhere but associations and societies have bylaws, structures, and practices that demand a lot of time and commitment. You have to work your way up to Board work; there is only one big meeting per year; or all meetings demand travel and multiple days away.
  • Dues are expensive relative to other things competing for the same money — as much as a new iPad or an airplane ticket. All these things compete for money, and there is less discretionary income at the same time.

These trends seem to be cultural universals for voluntary organisations as well as professional associations.

In his discussion of these trends, Kent links to Harrison Coerver and Mary Byers’ 2011 book Race for Relevance: 5 Radical Changes for Associations. He links to a Steve Rosenbaum post too.

Harrison and Mary suggest that relevant associations:

  1. Have a small, competent Board
  2. Empower staff and the CEO
  3. Examine membership categories
  4. Rationalize programs
  5. Build a framework for the future

In his discussion of the framework for the future, Kent links to Steve Rosenbaum and the role of associations in information filtering at a time of digital overload.

Steve suggests that:

Associations are a veritable content creation machine. These groups of thought leaders are blogging, tweeting, meeting, and plugging in to social media with innovation and enthusiasm that in many ways surpasses many of the media organizations.

While media is suffering from audience erosion, as the web gives readers and viewers and ever widening array of choices — association membership remains strong and solid. Why? Because professionals need access to high quality information, professional networking, and professional development resources that a consortium of their fellow members can provide.

Steve adds that:

Professionals need access to high quality information, professional networking, and professional development resources that a consortium of their fellow members can provide.

I am fascinated by how individuals and groups share (or do not share) information. Much of my thinking these days is related to open sharing and the flourishing that is possible through such sharing.

I appreciated Kent’s discussion of relevant associations and am grateful to him for the links to Harrison, Mary and Steve. I believe that knowledge and learning organisations can help distinguish signal from noise and do so in a ubiquitous and asynchronous way.

It necessitates addressing a clear point made by Steve:

So thinking about how to share information from other sources, and how to walk the line between making members aware of other voices without necessarily endorsing them is a complex bit of content calculus.

I think it is trust that can address this complexity. I see trusted collaboration as both energy giving and energy saving. I see this becoming increasingly personalised too.

Photo Credits

Curation Nation Book Party

Woman sitting on a beached boat reading a book

Share @ Mehanata Bulgarian Bar, NYC

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