Jennifer Jenkins, association champion, PCO lead and director at Worldspan shares her thoughts on why trade associations have an important role to play in helping the industry recover from the coronavirus crisis.
We know there are four main reasons why we join associations – why we choose to actively ‘associate’.
- To achieve a sense of belonging; we are tribal.
- To achieve a degree of distinctiveness; we are unique.
- To achieve a sense of status; we are peer‐minded.
- But most importantly, to reduce uncertainty; we are reassured.
Evidence suggests that in times of crisis – in troubled times like these – we feel the need to associate more and not less. To compare experience, to share practice, to set benchmarks and to map a collective way forward.
The irony is that associations – so needed to provide this collective reassurance – will be struggling too. To make financial ends meet when meeting revenues are down. To keep in‐house teams onboard and motivated when staff are absent or stood down. When communication with members is more difficult and communities feel remote.
In these long days of lockdown, I found myself returning to The Reith Lectures from many years ago. In one lecture in a series, Niall Ferguson speaks about the role that associations play in civil society and the inherent need to associate more – not less – in troubled and troubling times.
In one of his lectures, he talks about the impact of technology on membership communities and says this: “I doubt very much that online communities are a very good substitute for trade associations. Facebook and its ilk create social networks that are huge but weak. Facebook’s network is a vast tool enabling like‐minded people to exchange like‐minded opinions about, well, what they like.”
He maintains that online communities can only exist once they have been fully constituted and only traditional associations and societies can create communities of interest and shared practice albeit technology can help them to endure.
So, there is real and pressing work for associations to now do. Being a member of a trade association is more important now than it has ever been. Firstly, to support trade associations to continue to serve their members. Secondly, in doing so, to help them to continue to connect communities of common interest to share new and emerging but also enduring good and best practice post‐Covid19.
And, if in doubt about what your trade association can do for you remember this.
“The most successful people in every industry belong to and are active in their trade associations because iron sharpens iron. If you want to supercharge your career, join your association, get involved, and get around the most successful people in your field.” Ruben Gonzalez, four time Olympian and motivational speaker.
AMI editor James
Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international
association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation
for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk,
read, listen to music, and drink beer.