July 25, 2012

An Olympic Celebration of Excellence

Happy Olympics, everyone! With the U.S. Women's Soccer Team kicking off the whole darn sportsapalooza this morning against France, the 2012 Olympics and the world's witness of performance excellence and resilience begins.

I just love the Olympics--the athletes and their gritty stories of perseverance, pain, and triumph; the cultural insights into the host country; the anxious coaches and families who sacrificed so much to enable their athletes just to be there; and the overall national pride that buzzes through America and around the planet when we see the best-of-the-best give it their all.

I've been fortunate to interview a few Olympians from figure skater Michael Weiss, who practices at the same ice rink that my family goes for a laugh and a tumble, to speed skater Apolo Ohno, who told me that his favorite inspirational book is In Pursuit of Excellence.

Both of these medalists have now joined our own ranks, leading active foundations to help next-generation athletes rise within their sport, set aggressive goals, and make healthy life choices. They are passionate about their nonprofits and causes, just as we are. They are committed to creatively communicating positive messages to their target audiences, just as we are. They do not fear the sheer scale of the social and economic problems they are tackling, whether reversing obesity trends, convincing under-age teens to avoid alcohol, or urging students to stay in school so they can secure a stronger spot in America's workforce. We don't back down, either.

As we unite around the world for the next few weeks to cheer the titans of sport, give yourself and your colleagues an extra yell as well. While we carry no ribbons with gold around our necks, we too have much to celebrate and strive for in the ongoing competition of association life. Happy Olympics!


May 31, 2012

Upgrading Diplomacy Skills the Albright Way

Want to refine your diplomacy skills?

Flash back to the enduring advice given by Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to association leaders in this "classic" (June 2002) article, "Education of a Diplomat," which I pulled from ASAE's Knowledge Center archives of Executive Update magazine pieces published by the Greater Washington Society of Association Executives (pre-merger with ASAE).

I thought I'd bring the article up for a re-airing when I saw that Albright and 12 other leaders received the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this week from President Barack Obama "for changing the world for the better."


May 2, 2012

Taking a Vacation on the Association's Dime, Eh?

In two morning sessions on the second day of ASAE's International Conference, at least one clear theme emerged: However much research an association does to find new markets around the world, there's likely going to be a skeptical/panicky/xenophobic board member who's ready to throw cold water on the effort.

Tony Keane, president and CEO of IFMA--International Facility Management Association, recalled an experience at a previous association where the board had signed on for an internationalization plan that would take three to five years to show ROI. Even so, one board member suffered a case of sticker shock at a meeting: "Why are you spending so money on travel expenses?" The board member was expressing the common and not-so-subtle suspicion was that staff wasn't really establishing important roots overseas, but gallivanting at the association's expense.

"You're going to get pushback," Keane says. "You have to be prepared for that."

But what to do? Here are three suggestions that emerged during the morning sessions.

1. Make it the board's initiative, not the CEOs. As with any new initiative that threatens to divide board members, support is better gained through board-member-to-board-member conversations. Champions of a new global plan on the board should consider it their role to persuade fellow board members who are on the fence or opposed to it. "We let [the board members] bring in the naysayers, instead of me going from one person to another," Keane says.

2. Make a clear, direct statement of your global focus, and have the board acknowledge it. At IFMA, Keane helped craft an international strategy with members of the board, former board members, staff, and an international development committee. Once it was created, it was distilled into a strategy statement---just a handful of lines that established the association's commitment to expand it's efforts internationally. The board approved the strategy statement---acknowledging its belief in the association's international mission, not just a particular initiative.

3. Build a board that shows how global you are. Rosa Aronson, CAE, executive director of TESOL International, pointed out that four members of the association's 12-person board are from outside the United States, in keeping with the 27 percent of members who are from outside the United States. "You want to be sure that your board is representative of your membership," she says. "It has some cost and cultural implications, but if you are a truly global association, it has to show up in your governance structure." Aronson added that you should make sure to check your bylaws during the process. Many associations were founded in an era when globalization was unacknowledged (or even actively resisted), so there may be residual language that effectively limits board participation to U.S. members.

How about you? What works when it comes to getting board buy-in for your globalization efforts?


May 1, 2012

Ignore, Destroy, Engage?

At the Opening General Session of ASAE's International Conference, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, and investment banker Sheryl WuDunn shared a story that symbolizes the kind of anxiety that China represents to many Americans. (And likely to the association and business leaders who are looking to find a foothold there.)

When she and her husband, New York Times correspondent Nicholas Kristof, moved into an apartment in China, they were informed that the apartment was bugged. Poking around, they soon discovered an "electronic sound device" behind a grate. The couple stepped into the bathroom, turned on the shower to cover up their voices, and had a quick huddle. As WuDunn recalled, they had three options.

1. Ignore it---why cause trouble when you don't know how things will go?

2. Destroy it---this was totally inappropriate!

3. Engage with it---acknowledge the bug's existence, but feed it inaccurate information.

As it turned out, the anxiety-inducing device turned out to be an innocuous part of a doorbell mechanism. But as WuDunn laid out China's astounding economic growth, as well as its by-no-means-modest challenges, the questions still linger. Here's a new experience you're unsure about---how do you respond?

As WuDunn pointed out, China can't be ignored: It now claims the second largest global economy, is the second largest importer of energy, and is the largest emitter of greenhouse gasses. More creepily, the nation is also a hub of cyberwarfare activity, as China-based hackers gather information about and gain access to U.S. infrastructure grids.

But economic power, WuDunn pointed out, does not alone make a superpower. That happens through a mix of "hard" power (economics, military) and "soft" power---the kind of cultural production and general social values that are hard to quantify but which matter when it comes to asserting dominance. To that end, the fact that China is hungry for American films but not vice versa isn't a small thing, WuDunn said---it suggests that the United States has resources beyond economic ones.

There's a downside to this, I think: Keeping ahead on the soft power front perpetuates a lack of understanding that complicates international relationships.The lack of a compulsion to understand the culture you're working with---and just assume your culture dominates---can be divisive. "We don't know China very well, which creates uncertainty," WuDunn says. "And uncertainty creates fear." And though she didn't say it, fear historically leads to option number two above.

For a lot of associations looking to make their first steps internationally, be it in China or anywhere else, facing up to such cultural biases may be the most important thing to do. That doesn't mean being Pollyannaish, but aggression (option two) and deceit (option three) are dead ends in the long run. The "ignore" option may be best---that is, speak freely and honestly, but know that your new partners are paying more attention to what you're saying than you might expect.


April 18, 2012

Earth Day Offers Visibility, Fun, Engagement

It's Earth Day this Sunday and National Volunteer Month for a few weeks more, so loads of associations and their member companies and professionals are organizing, educating, celebrating, volunteering, and just plain participating in this worldwide effort to bolster environmental conservation.

Here's a snapshot of what some are doing or already have done--and it's not too late to join in yourself!

Start by downloading the free Earth Day 2012 Toolkit , where you can also learn about and be inspired by "A Billion Acts of Green," the world's largest environmental service campaign. And if you're in DC, you may want to check out the massive party scene happening at the National Mall rally and concerts either in person or online (live-streaming at

Sounds like some more partying will go on over at the 2012 Mighty Kindness Earth Day Hootenanny on April 22 organized by the Kentucky Chiropractic Association. The fun is combined with a more serious purpose: promoting a new state license "Go Green with Chiropractic" plate that aims "to elevate the chiropractic industry and its environmentally friendly nature in Kentucky" and raise some money as well.

The Eco-Dentistry Association will host its first tweetchat for dental industry professionals and consumers worldwide "to discuss the essentials of a high-tech, wellness based, and successful green dental practice."

The American Bar Association's Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources (SEER) in sponsoring the One Million Trees Project-Right Tree for the Right Place at the Right Time nationwide public service project. Started in March 2009, the project "calls on ABA members to contribute to the goal of planting one million trees across the United States by 2014 - both by planting trees themselves and by contributing to the partnering tree organizations." It also is promoting nominations for the 2012 ABA Award for Excellence in Environmental, Energy, and Resources Stewardship.

Entertainment Cruises is partnering with the North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) has partnered with Entertainment Cruises to offer an Earth Day brunch cruise to enjoy Washington, DC, views while learning from the NAAEE about green energy, environmental initiatives and its upcoming conference.

More than 1,000 volunteers of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) are engaging in 10 signature Earth Day projects from prairie re-vegetation to exotic plant species removal on public lands across the U.S. on April 14 and 21. These events have some powerful sponsors, including American Eagle Outfitters, ARAMARK, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Exelon Foundation, Johnson Controls, Sony, and Southwest Airlines.

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) has released the First Annual Report of the eCycling Leadership Initiative, which details how the consumer electronics industry has dramatically increased its recycling in 2011 and advanced the goals set by the eCycling Leadership Initiative (also called the Billion Pound Challenge). For instance, participants of the initiative arranged for the responsible recycling of 460 million pounds of consumer electronics, a 53% increase over the 300 million pounds recycled in 2010. The number of recycling drop-off locations for consumers also was bolstered from to nearly 7,500 from just over 5,000 a year ago. And CEA launched to educate consumers about eCycling and energy consumption. By entering a ZIP code, anyone can locate the closest responsible recycling opportunity sponsored by the CE industry and/or third-party certified recycler. The initiative aims to increase electronics recycling to one billion pounds annually by 2016 and providing transparent metrics on eCycling efforts. A billion pounds of unrecycled waste electronics would fill a 71,000-seat NFL stadium.

The American Medical Student Association and Medical Alumni Association at Temple University are planting seeds and preparing a "Medicinal and Edible Learning Garden" and education event to discuss natural medicinal remedies.

The National Parks and Recreation Association is urging people to take advantage of waived entrance fees at U.S. national parks from April 21 to April 29 during National Park Week. Download your free Owner's Guide to America's National Parks. I know a few associations that are planning staff picnics and hikes at local parks and Great Falls National Park in sync with this promotional event.

The New York City Association of Hotel Concierges (NYCAHC) and its affiliate members will celebrate MillionTreesNYC at a "Dig In for Earth Day" tree-planting event May 5 in partnership with Mayor Bloomberg and NYC Parks and New York Restoration Project. Since the program's inception in 2007, thousands of New Yorkers have helped plant over 400,000 trees, with NYCAHC planting more than 2,000 of them.

American Forests' easy online calculator and offsetting options make it easy to offset your home or car pollution (I offset my minivan's emissions for about $17 last year through AF). Earth Day Network also offers an eco-calculator.

Whatever you do, just consider doing something green this weekend and join your colleagues in making the planet a bit healthier for us all!

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March 25, 2011

Associations Pledging to Participate in Tomorrow's Earth Hour

If your organization and staff are interested in an easy, fun, and free way to show support for protecting the planet and urging action on the problem of climate change, consider participating in World Wildlie Fund's global Earth Hour 2011 tomorrow night at 8:30 p.m. for one hour.

A phenomenal success, in part because of its simplicity, visibility, and measured impacts, Earth Hour has inspired pledges to participate from government and business leaders in a record 131 countries, along with hundreds of major companies such as Starwood Hotels and Resorts, Coca-Cola, and IKEA, and even more NGOs and individuals. Association participants include Building Owners and Managers Association International chapters, sports associations, astronomy organizations, and hospitality groups. For a partial list of participants this year, go here.

I've also been seeing hotels, restaurants and local shops use Earth Hour this year to plan and promote festive events to engage guests and customers, including dining-by-candlelight dinners, s-more making in hotel lobby fireplaces for kids, glow necklace distributions at clubs, lantern walks in art galleries and shops, and glow-in-the-dark crafts and family-night gaming. You'll also find that hundreds of major international sites such as the Empire State Building, Sydney Harbour Bridge, and San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge are participating, too.

I remember when this all started in 2007. I had heard that several associations were going to participate, and one was planning some tie-in events at its local conference since the events would overlap. Organizers were having a great time finding ways to integrate both fun and information into the single dark hour, and they apparently got rave reviews from attendees, especially about the candlelit pathway up to an outdoor stargazing event that had been put together with the local planetarium and a nonprofit chapter of astronomers.

That first year, Earth Hour drew 2.2 million individual participants and more than 2,000 businesses, according to World Wildlife Fund. Tomorrow, only four years later, those numbers have grown into the hundreds of millions of registered participants, and organizers have expanded the event by calling on each of them to go "beyond the hour" by committing to convert a single hour of darkness into a single commitment to do one regular thing that helps the environment address climate change. Suggestions include easy actions such as commuting to work or the subway station by bike one day a week, switching to CFL or LED lights, or holding "meatless Monday" dinners.

You can learn more about what people and organizations are pledging to do at


March 13, 2011

Responding to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami is one of a growing number of companies that are partnering with nonprofits and associations to help raise funds via their websites for disaster relief agencies such as Save the Children, Architecture for Humanity, Doctors Without Borders, and the American Red Cross in response to the record 8.9-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit March 11. The Japanese Red Cross has been assessing damage, activating volunteers, and communicating with emergency response organizations overseas that have hundreds of volunteer professionals on standby.

Charity Navigator has issued a tipsheet to help donors avoid charity scams related to the disaster, as well as a list of organizations already involved in relief efforts.

You'll also find a serendipitous article in the February issue of Associations Now titled "How Your Organization Can Help with Disaster Relief" that talks about the process four associations went through to be ready with member volunteers, a crisis communications plan, and other resources that may be urgently needed anytime worldwide.


March 8, 2011

International Women's Day: Celebrating Progress and Potential

In acknowledgement of International Women's Day today, quite a few associations are reporting about the progress or lack thereof of women in the industry or profession the organization represents. The news has been mixed, frankly.

The Society of Professional Journalists, for instance, bemoans the low number of women in leadership roles in the newsroom. The rapidly growing field of organic farming and product development, however, is celebrating the fact that women now top four leading associations in that arena--a first.

There also has been growth in "best places for women to work"-type articles and rankings among business publications, women- or workforce-oriented websites, and even some associations. These include , which focuses on companies with "progressive and diverse work practices and environments), National Association of Female Executives and partner Working Mother magazine, and Fortune's Top 100: Women.

It's unfortunate that these lists are as popular as they are. It tells me that the business world still can be sliced and diced into "gets it" versus "doesn't get it." Are there really still such prevalent ambivalence about the ability of women to lead well?

But that's not all of the story. It can be too easy to point fingers at "the man," e.g., the established organization. In truth, too many women still harm their own chances at success, in part by refusing to accept some harsh workplace realities such as believing that hard work alone, rather than connections, will lead to success.

A new Harvard Business Review Research Report talks about the "Sponsor Effect," the fact that many high-performing women "don't have political allies to propel, inspire, and protect them through the perilous straits of upper management." This includes issues such as adjusting their work and personal styles, clothing, and "executive presence."

Sometimes the sponsorship problem is blamed on an age difference. Sixty-four percent of senior men acknowledge that they avoid sponsoring junior women because they fear gossip of a possible affair. That's just plain sad--and frustrating.

How can a young woman address that directly? Or is it the responsibility of the organization to establish formal mentoring systems that ensure senior-junior mixed-gender mentoring is just part of the professional development program overall, and indeed, male leaders would be held accountable in their reviews if they did not mentor younger professionals of either gender?

The latter seems to be a manageable approach, but that assumes the association actually has a formal mentoring system in place, which is a pretty big assumption!

And finally, in the totally-not-surprising part of the study, the report also found that men "cultivate more sponsors than women because they're less constrained by family and domestic responsibilities." The vast majority of working women studied are responsible for up to 75% of the housecleaning/maintenance and almost 60% of the childcare.

That said, women have come a long way, baby, and they can go further if they--and the associations they work in--desire. But it will take work on both sides. Meanwhile, celebrate the progress and the potential by skimming through the more than 1,000 events scheduled worldwide to celebrate the economic, political, and social achievements of women at

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January 14, 2011

Haiti: Where And What Are Associations Still Doing?

The first Haiti earthquake anniversary this week has prompted myriad progress reports from the many associations and nonprofits who responded with volunteers, professional guidance, money, and resources. With almost 500 projects and 80 major NGOs doing on-the-ground work in the devastated region, it's easy to get confused about who's doing what as our community continues to respond to the crisis.

Luckily, this week also marks the release of a helpful free tool that aims to foster partnerships among nonprofits and associations, "strengthen corporate and NGO relationships, and increase transparency and accountability." It's called the Haiti Aid Map, and it's a who's-doing-what-where map with snapshots of projects and their coordinating groups. Created by InterAction in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Business Civic Leadership Center, it was funded by FedEx, a master of organization and mapping.

I encourage you to refer to it, whether you have ongoing projects there or not, because so many of your peers are making a difference in that challenging zone, and you may find something that would inspire your organization to get involved as well.

Meanwhile, here are a couple of things that associations are doing right here in the U.S. that are improving life in Haiti. If you're mostly interested in philanthropic giving, perhaps some of their projects will prompt you to write a supportive check.

The American Library Association (ALA), for instance, has distributed $25,000 to clear and prepare land and complete designs for one of three libraries it plans to rebuild and equip through its Haiti Library Relief Fund . Its needs a lot more money, though--just one library will cost an estimated $325,000-$350,000 to rebuild and equip.

The Haiti-inspired partnership between the American Dental Association's Division of Global Affairs and Health Volunteers Overseas has focused on raising $300,000 through an innovative Adopt-a-Practice program to rebuild 30 dental practices, almost one-third of all dental health facilities in the region. ADA also has developed an International Disaster Assistance Volunteer Inventory based on a survey for members interested in volunteering in the aftermath of an international natural disaster.

The American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, in collaboration with the ABA Family Law Section and Section of Litigation, and the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, hosted a free webinar on "How Attorneys and State Court Judges Can Aid in Finalizing Adoptions for Haitian Children Now in the U.S" and is offering its materials for free downloads to anyone interested.

Also, for the record, as a result of such outreach work, many organizations also have found that they've galvanized members, boosted innovation, and added meaningful value to their brand and membership offerings. Please accept my personal congratulations for your efforts and commitment. I've heard astonishing stories of what your members and staffers are doing even a year after the earthquake.


August 19, 2010

What motivates employees?

A number of people now leaving for ASAE & The Center's Annual Conference & Expo in Los Angeles Aug 20-24 may be hoping to learn about ways to recruit, retain, and motivate staff. A new article in Knowledge@Whartoncontains the results of a fascinating series of studies about whether ranking workers (and, in particular, sharing that rank with the employee) would inspire good performers to greater heights and poor performers to buckle down.

Short answer: no. The worker rock star began slacking off, while the loser workers became discouraged but--although companies apparently hoped otherwise--generally didn't quit their jobs to move on.

After reading the article, I wondered how old the workers were. Would age affect this result?

I had recently listened to the September issue of Success magazine's CD, which shares interviews with 3-4 leaders of interest to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Featured was a terrific conversation with three inspiring and insightful Millennial leaders of the nonprofit Invisible Children.

Invisible Children aims to prevent child soldiering, the kidnapping of youngsters by rebel tribes in Northern Uganda for use as horrific "soldiers" in their battle against the government. The nonprofit, born out of a documentary filmed by student 20-somethings, has been remarkably successful at raising political attention to the problem and engaging supporters of all ages to their cause. (See here for a short video of its Schools to Schools program.).

One quote really stuck with me. The interviewer asked the trio what companies and organizations can do to attract, retain, and motivate Millennial workers. "Millennials value the impossible," one answered. They'll "work like crazy" and are "extremely passionate," but they want to have fun doing it, and they are attracted to projects, causes, and programs that are trying "to do things never done before." They also want their organizations to think beyond themselves and to take their role as a global citizen seriously, the leaders said.

I'm hoping that conference attendees will keep an open mind and the reality check provided by these three brave nonprofit founders as discussions begin again on worker "reward" systems in associations.

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April 28, 2010

Postcards from Buenos Aires

If your association is expanding its operations overseas or you're just interested in learning about business, associations, and cultural life around the world, you may be interested in ASAE & The Center's current international study mission to Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Sao Paolo, Brazil.

Bojan Tercon, who blogged about last year's study mission to Dubai and Singapore, is blogging again this year, and he's had a lot to say so far:

- Study mission begins

- Study mission day 1

- Rural life near Buenos Aires

- Notes from speakers on Argentina, associations and their legal structure, certification, and more

- Last day in Buenos Aires

The study mission departs today for Sao Paolo. To follow along with Bo's posts as he continues to report on the trip, visit the main page of his blog, On the Go with Bo.


January 19, 2010

Earthquake Response Efforts Continue

To everyone who has been sending press releases and e-mails about what their organization is doing to respond to the Haiti earthquake disaster, I send you a big thank-you! To avoid weighing down Acronym with the latest updates, all responses are being posted in the commentary section of my earlier blog posts down below. I encourage you to continue emailing me news at Thanks again for all you are doing!


January 13, 2010

More association and nonprofit earthquake response news

***UPDATE - The latest updates on how associations and nonprofits are responding to the Haiti earthquake and aftermath are in the comments section of this post below.***

I’m posting more updates on the responses of associations and nonprofits to yesterday’s catastrophic earthquake. Please continue to post or to e-mail me news of what your own staffs, members, and organization are doing.

A call for hundreds of nurse volunteers has gone out to members of the National Nurses United, the largest and newest U.S. organization of 150,000 registered nurses since it was formed just last month through a merger of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee, United American Nurses, and Massachusetts Nurses Association. Its national Nurse Response Network, however, is not new and includes a cadre of nurses trained to help disaster victims. Many have prior experience with such medical emergencies after Hurricane Katrina, the South Asia tsunami, and the Southern California wildfires. Nurse volunteers are asked to sign up online and to watch the NNU Twitter stream for details and plans. "We are calling on nurses throughout the U.S. to join us in this critical effort," said NNU Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. "Nurses will be fundamental to the disaster relief process, to provide immediate healing and therapeutic support to the patients and families facing the devastation from this tragic earthquake."

Continue reading "More association and nonprofit earthquake response news" »

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Associations, Nonprofits Begin Haitian Earthquake Response

As they have so many times in the past, associations and nonprofits around the world are moving rapidly to help the hard-hit communities in and near the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, after a severe earthquake measuring 7.0 quake apparently flattened much of the area late January 12.

With communications impaired, electricity out, and roads blocked by fallen debris from collapsed buildings and homes, organizations were struggling both to track down local staff and members, and to assess how best to assist the densely populated, impoverished region that appears devastated.

Here’s a round-up of some association and nonprofit efforts and news underway:

Within hours of the quake, local Haitian teams of the nonprofit Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières were reporting that damage to their Port-au-Prince medical center and other facilities is “significant” as are injuries to staff, patients, and incoming residents. Additional staff are being deployed immediately.

World Vision International, a nonprofit that helps the poor, said on its Web site that staff in Haiti are trying to assess the damage and configure a response plan, but some workers are struggling just to leave their building because of aftershocks and damage that continue to send walls and building materials into the streets.

The American Red Cross, World Vision International, Oxfam, numerous faith-based relief services, and myriad other disaster relief charities have already set up emergency funds—many of them linked to mobile phone text giving--and e-mailed urgent donation appeals to millions of supporters.

Save the Children’s Ian Rodgers, who was in Haiti at the time of the earthquake, quickly became the eyes and ears for many media around the globe stymied by the lack of working communication technology and lack of access to the area.

Social media is again playing a riveting role in revealing the extent of the disaster, as well as the types of real-time decision-making occuring onsite and in offices far afield by nonprofit staff and government officials. Twitter updates from charities, federal and international agencies, and others have been running throughout the night as news and photos have slowly leaked out. While no association-uploaded videos related to humanitarian efforts is on YouTube yet, several groups expressed hope they would soon have footage or videotaped interviews to post shortly.

Many professional and trade associations have created global disaster relief funds in the past 10 years and are likely to tap them now, saying they want first to see what primary needs emerge.

Expressing fears about safety, shifting needs, and inadequate information from the hit region, none of the aid charities are accepting outside volunteers at the moment while the groups try to get their own trained staff onsite. Indeed, some are trying to get staff and members out of the Port-au-Prince area while aftershocks remain so strong.


September 23, 2009

Associations, nonprofits converge at Clinton Global Initiative

There are some crazy-good speeches and announcements of new partnerships, new commitments, new ideas, and more over at the Clinton Global Initiative meeting going on live. If you’re feeling a tad down about the sluggish economy, world poverty, eco-destruction, blah, blah, sigh, then you’re a good candidate for a big old dose of optimism, creativity, resourcefulness, and, yes, hope!

You’ll find a pile of your peers potentially making history as well as connections at the global gathering, so don’t hesitate to be a fly on the wall.


August 24, 2009

Insights into the World Economic Forum

Insights into the World Economic Forum
The always-excellent newsletter of Wharton School of Business has an insightful interview—"Connecting the Dots at the World Economic Forum: 'We Can No Longer Face Global Issues Alone'"—with WEF leaders, who talk about the effects of the global economy on its agenda, provide overviews of some major initiatives underway, and provide good industry examples of some collaborations taken by attendees (including non-governmental organizations).

I’d be interested in anyone’s stories of attending the WEF—their impressions, any inspirations they took away, the types of contacts they made, etc. Please post here for everyone to read.


August 11, 2009

What does Social Media have to do with "International"?

As we prepare to go to Toronoto for ASAE's annual meeting, you might want to ponder what Social Media has to do with "International"? In talking with associations these days, most are focused on learning how to leverage social media or at least to get started in using social media tools for their association.

At the same time, a good number of associations have recognized that international markets represent one of the best real opportunities for their association to develop and grow.

However, very few have recognized the connection between these two very different but highly complimentary topics.

By its nature, social media as an Internet based platform for open communication and networking, is ideally suited to be used for international outreach and connecting. It has several very distinct advantages:

1. It is extremely cost effective and relatively easy to put in place.

2. The benefit to the user is in the ability to connect and network therefore the social media network delivers the benefit from the user community to its members directly.

3. It allows you to aggregate a critical mass of members and prospects even if you are only able to attract a relatively small number per country but from many different countries.

4. More people are becoming familiar with and using social media tools every day so there is less of a learning curve to get people to join.

5. It is a great first step to offering online education and training, leading to in-person live events, leading to membership or other more meaningful engagement with your international audience.

Want to learn more? There will be a session at Toronto on "Using Social Networks for International Expansion" held in room 803AB held on Sunday, 16 August from 1:30 - 2:45. This will include information and examples of using social media for international growth that has relevance for anyone wanting to grow their association, home and abroad. Hope to see you there!


April 28, 2009

Hand Hygiene for Grown-ups

With the contining spread of the swine flu, we’re all hearing one directive drilled into us like never before—wash your hands! Often! In the right way! Sounds pretty straightforward, but even before the swine flu hit, the Soap and Detergent Association and the American Society for Microbiology were responding to data showing poor hand hygiene in many adults (a rather disturbing 25% of adults, for instance, don’t wash their hands in public restrooms).

Now, with 149 swine flu deaths on record and almost 1,700 people sickened, what seemed a small project last fall--creation of an online and print-version brochure ( about proper hand washing--takes on new and greater importance. Available in English and Spanish, “'Don’t Get Caught Dirty Handed' reminds adults that many cases of colds, flu, and food-borne illness are spread by unclean hands, and these diseases are responsible for billions of dollars each year in health care expenditures and productivity losses in the United States,” says the association.

No soap around? Reach for a hand sanitizer (keep one in your desk, purse, laptop pocket and car glove compartment) or hand wipes.

With a slight blush of embarassment, I suggest sharing this information with staff as a gentle but direct reminder that we’re all in this together when it comes to germ sharing and avoidance. For more info, visit


April 27, 2009

Study Mission heads to Dubai

Here's a report from ASAE & The Center's Chief Learning Officer Anne Blouin, CAE:

The first segment of our study Mission in Singapore has come to an end. Speaking for the group, Singapore has exceeded our expectations. The learning has been incredible and we have a much greater appreciation of how and why Singapore punches above its weight. Impressions include adjectives such as lush, clean, beautiful, structured, visionary and Master Planned. Itks relatively easy to do business in Singapore since the business language is English and there are 1500 multinational companies ding business here.

We're now off to Dubai for the second week of the Study Mission.

Meanwhile, Bojan Tercon continues his chronicling of the mission on his blog.


April 25, 2009

Associations in Action regarding Swine Flu and Potential Pandemic

With reports breaking all Friday regarding hundreds of both Mexican and American citizens sickened or even killed by a new form of swine flu, associations in the health care and agricultural communities have been busy confirming information, alerting and surveying members about any potential swine flu-related patients, and calming an anxious public even while acknowledging that much—including the original source of the illness--remains unknown.

"At this point, it appears to be human-to-human transmission only," said Dr. Ron DeHaven, CEO, American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), in a press statement Friday. "We've been in contact with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV), and there have been no reports of outbreaks among animals, although their members are certainly aware of what's happening and are stepping up surveillance for the virus with federal and state animal health officials."

According to officials, “there is little or no risk of catching swine flu from eating pork or pork products, but as always, proper food handling and hand washing should be practiced.”

The AASV is regularly updating its Web site at with news for its veterinarian members and the general public.

The American Lung Association in California quickly blogged about the six documented cases of this new strain of swine flu in the San Diego area and Imperial County, as well as two cases in San Antonio. It noted that rapid flu tests cannot tell this type of flu from seasonal flu, “and the current vaccine may not be protective. Tamiflu works, as does Relenza.” The post, found at, also notes that “while there are likely more cases in the U.S., there are no large-scale outbreaks.”

As of this Friday night post, however, CNN is reporting that 75 high school students in New York City are being tested for suspected swine flu.

The National Pork Board also has issued a helpful 4-page information sheet about swine flu at

In addition, the Centers for Disease Control has information on the human swine flu investigation at


April 24, 2009

Study mission to Singapore and Dubai

Several association executives are taking part in ASAE & The Center's third annual study mission to look at business, association, an cultural life in distinctive spots around the world (read reports from last year's mission to India. This year's trip takes association leaders to Singapore and Dubai.

Bojan Tercon is with the Singapore delegation and is logging the trip on his blog.


March 28, 2009

Associations Participate in "Earth Hour" to Call for Action on Global Warming

ASAE & The Center’s headquarters will join thousands of other organizations, businesses, cities, towns, major historic landmarks, and other sites in 84 nations in shutting off all non-essential lights during the second annual Earth Hour Saturday at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Sponsored by World Wildlife Fund with support from the United Nations and myriad global leaders, the one-hour event aims to be a call for action to address harmful global climate change. The event has attracted massive support, with everyone from the World Organization of Scouts to Hollywood celebrities signing on as a participant, sharing commentary and self-shot videos on social network sites, and detailing to others what they plan to do during their hour of darkness.

Earth Hour 2009 has special meaning since the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and leaders will meet later this year to discuss the issue.

Kudos to World Wildlife Fund for coming up with so many social network tools and outlets for its promotional efforts. For instance, you can download an Earth Hour iPhone application, upload a YouTube video, blog, and more. Go to for details.


March 13, 2009

Time to expand global reach?

There's been quite some activity on the International email list on what it means to be global and some additional chatter on how the economy is affecting U.S.-based outreach internationally.

I wanted to point to the latest series of videos on This Week in Associations. The first features Project Management Institute CEO Greg Balestrero who talks about how PMI has found success in becoming a truly global organization. He's followed by John Peacock, who leads the Association Forum in Australia (think of it as the Aussie's SAE) and Supratik Bhattacharyya, CEO of Association Management Initiatives in India. The videos were shot several months ago just as the world appeared perched on economic freefall, so they talk more about the how the market opportunities are different in different places than on what the global recession means. Still there is useful tips for organizations that have begun or are thinking of a more global perspective.

The opportunity to penetrate deeper into global markets quickly probably exists now more so than a year ago. But obviously there are barriers. First, despite the talk of opportunity, most associations seek to contract rather than expand in tough financial times. And when the global economy is as bad as it is today, I've heard of trade associations exerting pressure to curtail international initiatives, not just as a cost-cutting measure, but as a protectionist measure.

Watch the videos, and then share your thoughts: what should an association's international role be in such times of economic crisis?

See the other two videos.

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September 18, 2008

Partnering as a driver of international trade and investment

One of the more interesting facts among international business trends is that every year since the late 1980s the greatest increases in international trade and investment are to be found not among the large multi-national corporations, but among small and medium size enterprises (SMEs). The largest share of international trade and investment is still held by the largest multi-national companies, but this position is being eroded and eventually will be overtaken by the SMEs.

To borrow a line from Ernest Hemmingway, “The curious thing is that [they—the SMEs] should be here at all!” Without teams of lawyers and thousands of professionals on the payrolls in bricks and mortar structures around the world these small and medium size companies have been able to indentify and exploit opportunities in foreign markets—in many cases, even before the corporate giants know what has happened!

In the early 1990s Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu did a study that examined this phenomenon. Bear in mind that this was the time when the Soviet Union imploded, Europe’s Iron Curtain came down and serious trade for the West was opening in China. What the Deloitte study found was that the largest companies had too many investments in established markets that bogged them down and made them too slow moving to take advantage of these new opportunities as rapidly as did the SMEs. But without any international infrastructure of their own, how did the SMEs do it? The Deloitte study found that SMEs essentially formed partnerships using networks of contacts available to them through the associations and chambers of commerce to which they belonged.

“The Power of Partnership” discusses this tangentially, but I think it could be the subject of its own book ...


August 17, 2008

Honest Words about Diversity--for a Change

I've lost count of how many diversity programs I've attended in my career, but I thought this morning's General Session on "Looking Through the Lens of Others" was especially terrific. Here are some samples I valued:

--Nadira Hira, the impressive 20-something journalist for Fortune, is an articulate mouthpiece for young and younger workers. Her advice: "Be authentic. Don't try to pretend you're diverse when you're not." In other words, forget the BS.

--Doug Klein, executive director of the Association for Conflict Resolution, noted that the reason race or ethnic-based professional and trade organizations still exist is "because there's a need not being met" by the broader association in that profession or trade.

I immediately recalled a conversation I had with--of all people--actor Louis Gossett Jr. backstage at the last Nation’s Capital Distinguished Speakers Series. He had told me about the evolution of racism from a black professional's perspective, and I had asked him if the time had finally come for the association community to make a commitment to facilitate mergers of broad-based associations with similar niche groups grounded in race or gender as well as the profession or trade, such as the Society of Professional Journalists with the National Association of Black Journalists.

The actor, who founded and actively guides a New Orleans-based foundation to help at-risk youths, said no. He urged associations to instead focus on youth--the next generation of workers--rather than try to overcome the prejudices of the current workforce, which he said was essentially fruitless. Klein's comment today seemed to reiterate those conclusions on an organizational level.

--The always-blunt, always-superb Patti Digh laments that "people aren't focused on retention at all. They just want to 'get 'em in the door.' This lack of "diversity succession planning" was raised at ASAE & The Center's last diversity forum. Basically, no one knows how to do it or even what such a plan looks like. Perhaps that's a project or research idea for our Diversity Committee or for a select task force.

--Co-moderator Cokie Roberts noted, "At some point we have to be the token," but then that representative should "bring others in." That implies a responsibility, not a choice, on the part of the, say, female executive about actively attracting other smart, accomplished women into the organization.

I have mixed feelings on that. I think we should do what we can to attract all smart, accomplished people to our association IF that organization is best set up to leverage their talents and knowledge for the benefit of the members. I'm uncomfortable screening candidates primarily because they look like me or share a cultural commonality. That said, I'm likely to be a more successful recruiter within those desired demographics because of that reality. Comments? I need to think about this more.

A "Say what?" moment: Patti was called by a company that said its white employees were putting nooses on the lockers of black employees. Patti said she could design an intervention, etc. The response? "We're thinking of a two-hour training session."

Quotables from the General Session:

"We talk about diversity as an end in itself, not what that brings us.... Diversity is not a problem to be fixed.... We've damned ourselves in this country by being too PC [politically correct]. You can't know if you're talking to yourself only." --Patti Digh

"We're afraid of [diversity], even though we know it's good for us."--consultant Steve Hanamura

"Powerful" and "moving"--just some of the high praise I heard about the "Peer Perspectives" video clips of diverse association executives.

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May 9, 2008

Responding to Cyclone Nargis

I’ve gotten some inquiries about which nonprofits and associations have been able to overcome the many political and operational barriers and actually provide aid to communities devastated by Cyclone Nargis in Burma/Myanmar this week.

I have already heard about associations that are making donations to these and other aid groups, offering technical expertise, holding fundraising events, and keeping members informed. Association business partners also have been working to help aid groups respond. Hilton HHonors members, for instance, can donate their Hhonors points for cash to the IFRC.

While I can’t recommend one group over another, and the list varies by the day for political and operational reasons, I can say that the ones with staff already in the country pre-cyclone appear to be furthest along in their relief efforts and in their appeals for specific types of assistance. Already, online videos of their work and the difficult conditions facing staff, volunteers, and community leaders are on many of the Web sites listed below.

In related news, three of the largest charities in the United Kingdom—World Vision, Save the Children, and the Red Cross--set aside historical attitudes toward competitiveness and addressed the sheer scale of the relief response and political maneuvering needed to deliver workers and supplies on site. The powerful trio launched an unprecedented national fundraising appeal this week and pledged to work together on relief efforts, under the oversight of the Disasters Emergency Committee, an umbrella group of the largest 13 UK charities.

Nonprofits on the ground in Burma include the following:

- World Vision: Its 500 in-country staff have reported that the situation is “worse than in the [Asian] tsunami” of 2004 as they try to track down and help feed and shelter sponsored children and families who survived the 15-foot sea surge in the delta region.

- Save the Children: They report that they have supplied “food, plastic sheeting, water purification tablets, kitchen equipment, rehydration salts,” and more to 63,000 displaced children and families.

- International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC): A special section of its Web site is devoted to daily updates, videos, and photos of the response effort.

- Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF): With 43 international staff and 1,200 national staff throughout the country, “teams are treating wounded, distributing food, and providing water and relief items,” according to its Web site. Planes with 160 tons of supplies were scheduled to depart today.

All have been rushing more staff and supplies into areas already suffering from deep poverty and local health challenges. Access to safe, clean water is a major concern, along with poor sanitation, exposure and the risk of outbreaks of diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. Nonprofits and their allies have been urging the government to accelerate visa paperwork for aid workers.


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April 27, 2008

Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions

The bit on cultural distance in the Rethinking the American Model article (April 08 issue of Associations Now) serves as a good excuse to point to Geert Hofstede's Cultural Dimensions (nice summary at Wikipedia).

I often use the website's home vs. host country comparison tool to gain insight ahead of international "interactions" (ie, travel/conference abroad, foreign chapter stuff, etc). For example, the USA vs. China dimensions show the Chinese are way more long-term oriented, whereas Americans are significantly more individualistic, among other differences.

In addition to all the web resources, Hofstede has written several books on cultural comparison. All worth a look if your association crosses borders.

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April 23, 2008

Study Mission to India photos

Photo from Study Mission to India

For those of you who were interested in Anne Blouin's posts from the Study Mission to India, you may also be interested in the large set of photos now available from the study mission. A variety of pictures from the trip are now available on Flickr, as part of ASAE & The Center's Flickr photostream.

I hope you enjoy the photos!

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April 16, 2008

Quick clicks: Deep thoughts

There's some great thinking going on in the association blog community and elsewhere this week--plus some neat tools and ideas.

- Kevin Holland at Association Inc. proposes some new rules for association growth, and Tony Rossell at the Membership Marketing blog adds his thoughts.

- Jamie Notter of the Get Me Jamie Notter blog has some musings on the challenges of volunteer management, especially when some volunteers are more helpful than others.

- Lindy Dreyer at the Association Marketing Springboard blog talks about how associations can support members in transition.

- The Logic + Emotion blog shares some great examples of companies using social media to directly and imaginatively engage with their customers.

- Cindy Butts at the AE on the Verge blog has some great early results to share from a social media campaign her association is undertaking to promote home ownership in Maine.

- The Newseum's website has a cool tool: a map linked to the front pages of hundreds of newspapers from around the world.

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April 3, 2008

3 critical keys for planning international meetings

Here are the tips from Leslie Zeck, director, meetings & conventions at the American Council of Engineering Companies, in her session: “A First Timer’s Guide to International Meeting Planning.”

1. Hire a professional conference organizer in the country of your meeting. “This is not the time to be proud of those three initials after your name,” she said, referring the certified meeting planner credential. “It’s not the time to know you have your checklist and your experience and you can do it. Convince whoever you need to convince to hire a PCO—it’s money well spent.”

2. Network with your colleagues who have held meetings internationally and attend a meeting in the travel and meetings sector that is being held overseas.

3. Hire a customs broker. “If you’ve held a few international meetings and haven’t had trouble in shipping and receiving, then you must be touched by an angel.”

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March 25, 2008

Quick clicks: All atwitter

The association blogging community is debating the usefulness (or lack thereof) of Twitter:

- Cindy Butts asks if Twitter is the ultimate in boredom and interruption;
- Kevin Holland says, "Who cares?";
- David Gammel also sees little value;
- Maddie Grant argues that there is real value in the Twitter platform, and provides examples of why;
- And Dennis McDonald, on a somewhat related note, wonders if all of these social media tools are fragmenting the web and reducing the benefits of web-based communication.

Elsewhere, Peter Turner at the Growing Globally blog hosts a very interesting guest post about doing business in Dubai.

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March 3, 2008

Study Mission to India: Last day

Today was an amazing day with content presented by the diplomatic editor of The Times of India (one of the largest newspapers in India, if not the largest), and by a former ambassador of India who now is currently working at a think tank. Both presenters gave a very candid view of the political picture as well a look at societal issues.

Their presentations really put things together that we've heard during the week and brought into clearer focus all that is happening here in India.

Today was also the presentation of the budget by the finance minister. It is really a big deal here and everyone is glued to the TV because this is how they find out how their taxes will change. In any event, we watched some of the budget presentation and it was extremely interesting after hearing all of the presentations during the week involving healthcare, education, the tax laws, etc. Of interesting note, two people, the finance minister and the prime minister, develop the budget that 1.1 billion people depend on. Amazing!!

In any event, one can see how this country is changing so fast -- so much money is being spent in the rural parts of the country involving the farmers, more money for education and healthcare, more focus on transportation, etc. Being here has given us a great appreciation for the rapid pace this country is moving, although of more of course needs to be done.

On a cultural note, we toured Delhi in rickshaws, which was a lot of fun and saw beautiful Hindu temples and the Red Fort. This has been a tremendous learning and cultural experience.


Study Mission to India: Small world

Susan Sarfati sent us a note from India to share an interesting story:

Late last week, Susan had the opportunity to meet with John Davison, Minister Counselor for Economic Affairs, at the U.S. Embassy. When Susan started briefing John and his colleague Atul Keshap, Depty Minister Counselor for Political Affairs, John said that he knew about ASAE & The Center, because he worked at ASAE in 1982 managing the conference center. According to Susan, "We couldn't believe it."

The world gets smaller all the time ...


February 28, 2008

Study Mission to India: Telecommunications and infrastructure

The content for today focused on the fastest growing sectors in India including telecommunications and infrastructure. Some of the highlights from the excellent presentations included:

The Indian mobile market is at a tipping point with its explosive growth and this growth is expected to continue until 2010 and beyond. Although its now the third largest market after the U.S. and China, India has overtaken China in the growth of wireless subscribers now numbering 240 million.

800 million people live in the rural areas, which is where the growth will occur. Access to wireless communication will improve productivity and dramatically improve the lifestyles of the rural subscribers.

In terms of infrastructure, investments have almost doubled in the last 5-6 years, reflecting 8 percent of GDP. The private sector is heavily invested in the infrastructure and as a result roads are projected to dramatically improve. While they are putting emphasis on roads and rail, much attention is also being placed on building separate roads to move freight to alleviate congestion.

There also has been privatization of the airports and aviation is expected to grow 25 percent each year. Although the airlines are not currently making a profit, this soon should change.

Huge investments are also being made to the power structure to support India's rapid growth.

The Chief of Strategy from Tata, the largest conglomerate in India, gave a phenomenal presentation. He talked a lot about the history of Tata, which was formed in the 1800s. He indicated that excellent companies respect and honor their history and heritage! He also talked a lot about their value of Integrity, defining it as being fair, honest and transparent in all dealings. The companies of Tata are members of the UN Global Compact, and corporate social responsibility is key on their agenda.

Tata's companies have been inspired by the Malcolm Baldrige award, and they have instituted quality measures/criteria in all companies.

Following this morning's presentation in Mumbai, we flew to Delhi. From what we've seen, Delhi, the seat of the government, is a very green city and a very beautiful one. We'll see more of the city tomorrow but unlike Mumbai where we saw thousands of taxis, tuk tuks and motorcyles, here we've seen hundreds of rickshaws along with goats (we also saw them in Mumbai along with cows on the road) and donkeys! Stay tuned . . .


February 27, 2008

Study Mission to India: Education

Yesterday, in addition to getting an overview of the healthcare system, participants in the Study Mission to India also heard from a few speakers from the world of education. One was Dr. Misra, a director and professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, which might be considered the equivalent of MIT.

Some interesting facts:

- The role of education and its globalization is assuming an increased role and significance
In India. People with a high school certificate number 250 million, with 10 million getting a BS degree.

- IIT receives 300,000 applicants and accepts only 5,000. However, 400,000 graduate each year with degrees in engineering and science (more than the population of New Zealand). There has been a much greater focus in the last few years on research and on innovation and creativity.

- Lots of technology incubation. They expect that before long a "Microsoft" will be coming out of India.

- Indian universities are attracting many foreign students and are losing fewer students to U.S. institutions.

- Industries are becoming proponents of partnerships with universities; universities are also working to build international collaborations with exchange of faculty and students, research centers, and joint degree programs.

In summary, India is at a point where it can produce a high number of knowledge workers. This offers an enormous opportunity for the globalization of higher technical education.

- India will need a large base of knowledge workers to play its role as a leading knowledge economy.

- India will need to gear up for meeting the challenges by revitalizing its institutions of higher learning with greater freedom and momentum.

- Clearly, globalization has had an effect and will continue to impact higher technical education, offering enormous opportunities.

I have to say that after listening to all of the speakers over the past few days, there is an enormous sense of optimism. You can just feel the opportunities of growth--I think that India is really on the cusp of greatness!

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February 26, 2008

Study Mission to India: Healthcare highlights

Today we had a very interesting presentation on healthcare in India. Here are some of the highlights:

- Because of the explosive growth, there is a huge opportunity in India's healthcare sector.

- Healthcare equaled 5.2 percent of GDP in 2004 and is expected to be 5.5 percent in 2009. The sector employs around 9 million people.

- Standard of Care is the biggest opportunity for improvement, as is the ability to serve more people.

- Demand is expected to outstrip the supply over the next decade. Almost 80,000 additional hospital beds will be required to adequately meet the need.

- There is a shift from traditional diseases such as typhoid and cholera to problems such as heart attack, arthritis, and diabetes. Diabetes is rampant and obesity is increasing, which predisposes patients to cardiac disease.

- 85 percent of the population pay for healthcare out of pocket. There is no healthcare insurance.

- There is very little focus on preventive health, resulting in non-operable medical conditions.

- Wellness programs are needed – yoga, exercise and diet control are huge areas!

- India’s total expenditure on health, public and private, does not compare favorably with South East Asian countries.

- There is a huge need for qualified nurses because many skilled nurses go to Western countries because the pay is so much better.

Key drivers include:

- Access through health insurance

- Support capability building in R&D in healthcare

- Significant improvement in healthcare infrastructure

- Adoption of a broader view of healthcare costs

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February 25, 2008

Study Mission to India: Entertainment

The final presentation to the Study Mission participants today focused on India’s entertainment industry.

One notable fact: Unlike Hollywood, Bollywood is not a physical area. Instead, it refers to the film industry, which is based in Mumbai. Where India’s overall GDP is expected to grow at 9 percent, the entertainment industry is expected to grow at 18 percent over the next five years. The huge market potential and growth rates are attracting global media giants to enter India. Multiplexes are cropping up; there are more areas to distribute content, which brings rise to more content with more variety; and the retail boom is fueling the need for entertainment.

Challenges for the fast-growing entertainment industry include lack of training. In this industry, which employs 6 million people, there is very limited training. Very, very small numbers of employable talent are graduating from Film & Media institutes. Piracy and content regulation are two more issues facing the industry.


Study Mission to India: India's economy

A presentation to Study Mission participants on India's economy compared and contrasted India and China. As recently as 1991, China and India stood on similar levels of economic development. However, today the Chinese standard of living is more than twice of that of India. Here are some statistics that I found interesting:

- In India, 809 million survived in 2005 on less than $2 a day, compared to 591 million in China.

- Life expectancy in 2005 was 63 years, compared to 71 in China.

- Child mortality was 85 per 1000, compared to 31 in China.

- Morgan Stanley estimates unemployment in India at 20 percent of the workforce or 80 million people. The UN estimates that by 2015, the working population in India will have risen by 138 million, twice that of China.

India needs faster growth for reducing poverty, alleviating the misery that comes from poverty. They need to create the jobs to absorb the growing workforce, lest they have social unrest. For faster growth they need greater investment, for which they need funding.

How did China manage such funding? They had a much higher level of savings and foreign investment.

Looking at capital expenditures in India is eye-opening. India’s investment on infrastructure in 2005 was estimated at $28 billion compared to $201 billion in China (3.6 percent of GDP vs. 9 percent). Although the savings rate in India is beginning to increase, other sources of funding is necessary to accelerate growth, specifically foreign investment which they are actively pursuing.

Currently India controls less than 2 percent of global trade, but that is expected to increase with foreign investment.

The growth opportunity is huge for many sectors, especially in the area of telecommunications, where one company recently sold 400,000 telephones in one day!

Some growth projections:

- India will become the fifth largest consumer market by 2025.

- The Indian middle class will grow to 583 million.

- Rising incomes will lift 23 million out of poverty.

- By 2025, over 291 million (more than the population of Australia) will become extremely wealthy individuals.

- Most of these incomes will be generated in urban areas.


Study Mission to India: First impressions

[Note: Anne Blouin, chief learning officer for CenterU, is joining us at Acronym to blog about her experiences on ASAE & The Center’s Study Mission to India. We’re sure you’ll find her posts to be informative!—Lisa Junker]

Our Study Mission to India is off to a great start. Despite the weather problems on the East Coast on Friday, the majority of participants had no problems with flight delays. Only a few were unable to make their connections because of the weather and ultimately will arrive either tonight or tomorrow night.

After a very long flight from the U.S. to Mumbai (Bombay), we were met at the airport and taken to an oasis of paradise in this city of 18 million people, the JW Marriott Hotel. The hotel is in a beautiful setting on Juhu Beach. Staying at this hotel does not really give you a good sense of what Mumbai is like, so a group of us took taxis to the central area of Mumbai last night for dinner. Well, we got a much better sense of the congestion and the poverty that exists.

First of all, it took over an hour and a half to get to our destination. With lots of tuk tuks (three-wheeled cars), taxis, motorcycles carrying entire families, and horns honking, we got a good feel of the congestion. When the new Nano car rolls out, I can’t imagine what that will do to traffic. I don’t think we should complain anymore about the traffic in DC! It could take a few hours to go from one end of the city to the other because of the traffic. Mumbai does have a train system and more than 7 million people take the train each day—no more complaining about the crowds on our Metro system either!

Today, we kicked the content for the Study Mission off with a brief look at the history of India, followed by presentations on the economy and insights into the entertainment industry.

All of the speakers today alluded to the fact that India is a country rich in diversity and contradictions. It is a country of billionaires and beggars, with 30 percent of the population impacted by globalization and enjoying 70 percent of the GDP. However, 20 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day.

Some interesting points from today’s sessions:

- It wasn’t until the 1980s when India embraced a free economy, at least 10 years after China, Singapore, and Thailand. In the 1980s, the IT sector began to grow. Then, in the 1990s, emphasis was placed on R&D, especially in terms of technology development.

- Early in this century, India became a global player in exporting technology and acquiring companies, which instilled a sense of confidence in its people. The country’s GDP is expected to grow at a rate of 9 percent this year.

- Major challenges include the infrastructure—built infrastructure as well as social infrastructure (health and education).

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January 3, 2008

Hotel Fam Trips—Thai Style

Things get a little different when you ‘step offshore’ to inspect sites for a possible conference.

It all starts at the Bangkok airport – I was met by a uniformed driver in a Mercedes.

The first thing that hits you at the hotels is the service. Multiple people escort you and you bags to the room, and there is no discreet cough for a tip – they are gone before you can reach into a pocket. The second thing is how new and clean the rooms are. Huge bathrooms with separate showers and double sinks. A bathtub that you can almost swim laps in, a bedside console to control lights, TV, A/C and drapes (only seen at the Wynn in the US by me) and a TV the size of a movie screen.

And the rate I was quoted for my 2010 event? $225 a night. Only one hotel in town quoted me a rate over $300 a night, and they were almost apologetic about it!

The cost issue in Bangkok is an interesting one. Yes, you can get a (fake, and bad ones at that) Rolex for $25, and knock-off t-shirts for $3. You will notice that the people buying this junk are all western. The Thais are in the many high-end malls that surround the better hotels, shopping at stores like Prada and Gucci. Similarly, you can get a great meal at a ‘local’ place for $5, but I paid over $35 for the dinner buffet at a good hotel. Overall for an event, your costs will be lower than had you done it in a major western location like London or San Francisco – but not exponentially lower. Realistically, the greater the ‘labor input’ to what you are buying, the greater the savings. So the cost to rent an LCD might seem about the same as in the US, while the cost of an engineer to run A/V for the day would be much less.


October 11, 2007


I just finished reading a shattering novel for young adults called Sold (Hyperion, 2006) about a Nepalese girl who is sold into prostitution. While attending the recent National Book Festival in Washington, DC, I was compelled to buy the story after hearing its best-selling author--investigative journalist Patricia McCormick--share her emotional experiences from a month spent researching the child sex trade in Nepal and India. Bear with me while I explain the relevance to associations and their business partners.

During the Q&A, I asked McCormick both if she still communicated with the girls and women who described their horrific existences to her, and if she had been moved to activism by her findings. She affirmed both, noting that part of her earnings go to nonprofits that fight child trafficking.

More important than money, though, has been the simple fact that, despite post-trip trauma, she managed to write the book at all. Further, it just won the prestigious Quill Award for Best Teen/Young Adult Book, which will raise the visibility of this under-publicized social atrocity even more.

Association executives may not feel particularly connected to child trafficking as a business issue. But some of our sector’s largest industries—such as tourism organizations concerned that this crime is often conducted in hotels--are among the leaders working to stop the abuse. In addition, since associations hold events in many cities and nations that have become major centers for child trafficking—India, Korea, Thailand, San Diego, London, Sydney and New York, for instance—the problem has grown more relevant.

McCormick’s story of Lakshmi, the 13-year-old main character from an impoverished family, depicts a tale similar to that of millions of children ages 10-18 who are trafficked for sex annually in what has become a multi-billion-dollar business. Brazil alone is home to 500,000 child prostitutes ages 10-17, with some as young as six, according to UNICEF.

The author’s Web site links to some association efforts, including an international Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism” project by the World Tourism Organization and nonprofit End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes (ECPAT).

Created in 1998, the code outlines six conduct criteria based on the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Children. It also helpfully includes model language that associations can add to contracts with global suppliers of everything from accommodations to tours.

Members of the Code Steering Committee include the International Hotel and Restaurant Association, Federation of International Youth Travel Organizations and Tour Operators’ Initiative for Sustainable Tourism Development, among others. In August 2007, the group helped gather support for 21 congressional leaders who sent letters to CEOs of the four largest U.S. hotel chains, urging them to sign the code. To date, two of them—Choice Hotels and Starwood—have responded with interest in the code, and Hilton Hotels noted that its soon-to-be-issued Global Code of Conduct “will specifically address issues of child exploitation.” Regent International Hotels and Radisson are among the 50 companies that have already signed.

Here’s hoping that other associations and industry partners “get” Sold.

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September 25, 2007

Public’s Lack of International Experience Limits U.S. Ability to Lead Positive World Change, Says Speaker Series Presenter

With the run-up to the recent launches of ASAE & The Center’s new International and Social Responsibility initiatives, I wondered how much we as a nation and an association sector can truly contribute to the elimination of major world problems when only about one in four Americans possesses a passport—hardly the “global perspective” likely needed to build consensus and identify practical resolution strategies.

I turned to a rather unlikely source with this question: actress-turned-activist Jane Seymour, one of the last participants in the long-running Nation’s Distinguished Speaker Series hosted by ASAE & The Center.

Seymour serves as a hands-on ambassador for numerous nonprofits, including ChildhelpUSA, and works on social problems ranging from child abuse to preventable disease control. Her philanthropic efforts routinely take her to different continents, giving her unique insight into topics such as whether U.S. professionals and their representative groups should be doing more to strengthen their “world perspective” and recognize the power of possible involvement in social responsibility.

“Absolutely,” said Seymour, who speaks several languages and often takes some of her six children on her philanthropic trips abroad. “I think that Americans are very Ameriocentric. They believe the whole world is what they see on television and what they know about their city usually, not even the whole country. When you travel and see the perception of other countries [toward] America or perceive how other countries [feel toward different] countries, you see that we are a global society now.… With the Internet, with air travel, with everything that’s going on in every country in every group of people in every race, we are all interrelated…, so I think it’s incredibly important to send as many Americans abroad as we can, so they can see how fortunate they are and how different life is elsewhere.”

I asked Seymour to be more specific about the types of international experiences she would recommend that trade and professional associations offer their members. She suggested that they could raise and earmark money to send their members overseas, to start with, and shared a story about her involvement in a post-9/11 experiment conducted by the American Red Cross, on whose Celebrity Cabinet she serves.

Seymour and her husband, film director James Keach, agreed to take eight, inner-city, racially diverse 12-year-old children from a Los Angeles school to Africa and film their reactions to what they saw while they helped Seymour and Red Cross volunteers vaccinate 7 million children in one week. The results became a documentary.

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July 24, 2007

‘Round the World: Globalization Models

Many associations are thinking, talking and/or planning on some sort of globalization. But what is globalization, exactly? Should we do it and if so, how? Should we just sell documents globally or should we open regional full-service offices?

Perhaps the simplest answer is with another question. Or, perhaps two questions:

--Do you have global customers?
--If so, what do they want?

If you can answer these questions affirmatively, with detailed data, then you may be ready for the next step. If you can’t answer these questions, go back to square one and find your “Voice of the Customer." Spend your money on finding and understanding the voice of your customer before anything else.

Assuming you have global customers, with reliable data on their needs and wants, then you may wish to consider how best to structure your organization’s business model and business processes for global activities. Here’s a table of four business models for globalization, with key business processes, adapted from the Daniels research in the book Global Vision, which is a very good reference.

These options should help you assess your own association’s culture, business model/processes and approach to global customers to better understand where you are now, and where you need to be, depending on your goal for a global organization. Consider carefully if your association is willing, or able, to develop the key business processes for your envisioned global model. For example, an association that is only interested in marketing publications and conferences to a global market and keeps their business organization and staff in their home country, is never likely to become anything more than a cross-border exporter of goods and services. There’s nothing wrong with that, so long as that’s your organization goal.

Bon voyage! Happy globalizing!


July 11, 2006

More on Globalization

I am delighted to hear colleagues around the world on the blog. In one comment, Gary from Australia notes that:

There is so much embedded US culture in associations that it will take a lot of work and sensitivity to move forward (for example US-centric stuff like '401k', SOX, holidays).

It seems to me that the learning is: 1) global moves will take a lot of time, 2) there is no substitute for people living in the other culture.

But it applies to people of all cultures. The perception and image of the U.S. is as dysfunctional and skewed from "the global news as our perceptions in the U.S. of other countries is because of our news. Generally, we look at the world through our own experiences and what we perceive or see. We need to find ways to bridge that gap. Sam Palmisano, the current CEO and Chairman of IBM, wrote a compelling article (PDF) about the globally integrated organization. He said that the future organizations should be focused on managing different operations, expertise and capabilities to provide clear value locally, no matter where it is. It isn’t about going “glocal”, but rather being “local,” using expertise and capabilities that can help craft a value proposition that is pertinent in the area. It means accepting that there isn’t one business model that works everywhere.

It also applies to associations. We can’t take our models, whether U.S. or Australian or Indian, and shop them around the world to find a good host. But rather, we need to understand the value proposition in a given area and “plug in” to managing the operation locally to deliver on the value proposition. Like Jeff De Cagna said in his Principled Innovation blog, technology will let us do it better today than we ever could in our past…we just need to be creative with new business models.

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July 6, 2006

Not-so-clear view of a flat world

I was at another meeting of association CEO’s last week in West Virginia. Although the meeting was dominated by trade association executives. I found the meeting interesting. One of the sessions I attended was focused on “doing business globally” which left me really unsettled. I was struck by the isolationism and shear sense of fear displayed by the executives, as well as the high reliance on government intervention to help them go global as an association.

In their defense, many of the execs were representing members who were US businesses trying to do business in other countries. However, they exhibited a limited understanding of the benefits of going global, and a “fear of the enemy”. They consistently asked for “someone to intervene to level the playing field”. The global market community offers immense opportunities for associations and their members to prosper, regardless if the member is a US business trying to do business abroad. Yes, it is complicated, but certainly not impossible as is evidenced by the hundreds of companies doing well abroad. If association leaders exhibit fear and a lack of understanding of the global market, neither our profession nor associations in general will prosper.

Maybe we need to dig down deep and ask the question if association executives are really prepared for going global. I seriously doubt that, as a profession, we are prepared to go global. In fact, I would accuse us all as being North American centric and in desperate need of understanding what it takes to bring organizations into Thomas Friedman’s Flat World.

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