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Takeaways from Dubai

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The Dubai Association Centre (DAC) invited me as one of over 30 international speakers at its inaugural Dubai Association Conference held last December 11 and 12, 2017 at the Dubai Trade Centre. The event was attended by more than 300 participants, mostly association executives and professionals like me from around the world. I was the lone Filipino speaker and represented the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE) and the Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations.

The program consisted of a balanced mix of presentations and panel discussions on a wide range of topics from association governance and management to impacts of associations and their activities in national development. I wish to share the following eight takeaways I got from the conference:

  • Associations make the world smarter, safer and better. They provide, among others, continuing education, create industry standards and guidelines, and serve underserved sectors of society. “Everything we touch and do is influenced by an association,”  American Society of Association Executives Foundation president Susan Robertson said.
  • Associations must support members’ needs in a changing world. Susan gave the following recommendations: (a) practice anticipatory intelligence, i.e., stay ahead of members; (b) do experience mapping, e.g., “What’s your members’ journey?” To be a better association, “meet members where they are” at their lives and in their careers; (c) provide “micro-learning,” i.e., little bits of readily available knowledge that fits in members’ schedules; and (d) build networks and coalitions for soft skills development, such as leadership and mentoring.
  • Associations need to move from a membership community to one with a broader ecosystem that includes, among others, the government, academia and other stakeholders, said Dr. Noah Raford, futurist in chief of the Dubai Future Foundation. “The old world is dying and the new world is here,” he concluded.
  • Associations as lobby groups are passé and that a “single window strategy” doesn’t work anymore, said Dr. Samir Hamrouni, CEO of the World Free Zones Organization. He added that “collaborating and working with others is the best approach for associations to prosper.”
  • Associations are changing from all about information to engagement, from programs to people, and from content to community, based on the presentation of Greg Bogue, vice president for Experience Design at Maritz Global Events USA. This means associations should be focused on people development and relationship building going forward.
  • Associations need to be mindful of their post-event legacy. Association events have economic, social and reputational impacts to the country, said Marjan Faraidooni, senior vice president, Legacy Impact and Development, Expo 2020 Dubai. As such, their legacy must go beyond the physical aspects to more sustainable business activities.
  • Associations are only as good as their passionate members. This was according to Martin Sirk, CEO of the International Congress and Convention Association in the Netherlands. In the context of legacy of association events, he added that there is a need to go “beyond tourism” and build on the intellectual and the economics of people involved in events.
  • The formation of “associations of associations” is gaining ground in emerging economies, such as in Asia and Africa. Jeffers Miruka, president of the African Society of Association Executives, and I, shared our experiences in building our organizations as platforms for wider knowledge exchange and networking opportunities.

Original article published by Octavio ‘Bobby’ Peralta in the Philippine Business Mirror column, “PCAAE Association World”

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