On two separate occasions I recently encountered the phrase "transformation not information." The first time I heard it. I remembered a seminar where associations were positioned as information providers. I can picture my notes in the margin of the handouts - that this was our role - to provide a one-stop resource of the best information our professionals needed to do their jobs better. Of course this was in the pre-Google-you-can-find-out-anything-on-Wikipedia days.
As I was wondering how associations can become transformation providers instead of information providers, I found myself thinking about Kafka and put together a few thoughts about member metamorphosis.
- Transformation is personal. It happens because someone sees a quality in themselves they want to change or are unsatisfied with and probably one in someone else they want to obtain. We can't tell our members, "Here's what it means to be a leader. Now go be one." Members need to be inspired by superior qualities in their peers, feel a connection to their cause and commit to making a change.
- Transformation requires support. Did you ever watch Iron Chef? The chef transforms a slab of wild boar into Carpaccio with Grilled Watermelon and a Sweet Potato Polenta. The camera seldom pans to the chef's team that is frantically chopping, steaming, sautÃ©ing and making sure it's plated beautifully on time. How often do we provide our members with our secret ingredient "tool kit," send them on their merry way and expect greatness?
- Transformation is active. It happens through experiences - by going and doing, not by reading an article or watching slides at your desk. It's meant to happen and not just be talked about. I don't want to hear another member testimonial that says, "My membership developed me both personally and professionally." I want to hear the before and after story.
- Transformation takes time. We've had some newer members step up and say they were interested in serving on our Board in the next few years. Since our Board is generally comprised of members with certain volunteer experience and knowledge of the association, we're reaching out to those members and offering suggestions on how to build their membership resume. We know it will take time, so we'll check back with those members regularly to see how they're progressing. We'll need to resist the temptation to put them in a position before they are ready just because we can't find anyone else.
In the end, transformation needs information. Information leads transformation, but doesn't guarantee it. You can learn stuff and know it forever and never be changed. Or we can help our members build on a foundation of information, apply it to their strengths, weaknesses, goals and passions and watch them transform into association activists.
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