AGILE ASSOCIATIONS 101

This note outlines an agile operating modality and structure for small and medium sized associations. 

WHY membership of the organisation is desirable should be visible and clear to members, potential members and stakeholders alike. The association is just a collection of members and the “WHY” should be from a member perspective.

The Membership should meet on a regular basis to keep contact with each other and to maintain the purpose of the association. These contact points could be social or work related or perhaps a mix of the two.

The board of the association should decide the “WHAT WE DO”

Open task teams and special interest groups can be used to implement the work of the association. The groups should be open, allowing any member to take part. These teams should consider HOW the work should be done within budget and strategic guidelines from the board. 

The secretariat of the association supports the functioning of the board, teams and groups with operational management, communication, as well as financial and administrative services.

The chairman of the association chairs meetings of members and of the board, and may be involved in representing the association with external stakeholders. 

Commercial competitive activities should be avoided. If an industry already has many conferences, or publications, rather focus on advocacy and lobby work, or professionalisation, or just plain old networking. 

Modern technology such as list servers and instant messaging offer great ways of keeping members or groups of members connected. Avoid systems that do not work across corporate firewalls. 

Operational efficiency can be enhanced by not over-planning activities. Go with available resources, plan as you go, and think agile, not sequential. Members will often change their minds and over planning can create tensions between members when plans are not met.

Use the core strengths of the association. Crowdsource content, speakers, experts, money. Allow the network to communicate for you, the association itself is a communication and marketing machine, avoid the types of public marketing practices associated with commercial companies. Be open, allow relative free entry and exit of members within the funding model. 

Avoid being abused for criminal activities. Industry collusion is a criminal offence, so is being used to funnel corrupt money for third parties, or fronting for third parties. 

Develop efficient traditions and standing practices. If members know and are comfortable with how the organisation works, they will be less inclined to dash off on tangents with resource intensive initiatives. 

Use sturdy and integrated information systems. Keeping track of many groups, persons and companies and finances can be an administrative disaster if systems are not integrated. Note that trading with larger corporates and state entities is increasingly complex financially and could be too complex for volunteers to deal with.