Jeff De Cagna

Executive Advisor, Foresight First LLC

Aug 25, 2021
1 min read

This afternoon, I participated as a panelist on a webinar hosted by Fonteva. With four panelists, there was not much time to fully explain the five pieces of advice I shared with webinar participants. With that in mind, I have written this post to provide a bit more detail on each point.

Think and act beyond orthodoxy--Orthodox beliefs, i.e., the deep-seated assumptions we make about how the world works, are the primary obstacles to meaningful association reinvention throughout this decade. Orthodox beliefs encourage short-term thinking, promote complacency, and intensify risk aversion in decision-making. The association community's continued adherence to outmoded beliefs will compromise its future.

Make a commitment to ethical purpose--It is time for associations to let go of their past vision and mission statements in favor of making meaningful commitments to an ethical purpose that shape a different and better future for the association, stakeholders, successors, and broader society. A commitment to ethical purpose is not a form of website adornment but a clear-eyed recognition of every association's larger responsibilities as essential 21st-century societal institutions.

Challenge the board to set a higher standard of performance--The profound challenges in front of associations today and throughout this decade demand that they build fit-for-purpose boards. In The Turbulent Twenties, associations must nurture new board capacity for stewardship, governing, and foresight [SGF] through next practices that focus board attention on intentional learning, including critical learning with the future through the board's duty of foresight.

Negotiate and design new relationships with more diverse stakeholders--The orthodox belief that membership is the only relationship associations can have with stakeholders is highly detrimental. Rather than always defaulting to members, associations must be willing to explore how they can create high-value relationships with new stakeholders through a careful process of listening and learning to discover mutual benefit and identify positive-sum outcomes.

Use technology responsibly--Consistent with a commitment to ethical purpose, associations must exercise great care in their adoption of technology tools and platforms. The work of reinventing associations is primarily about building more resilient human systems for coordination, cooperation, and collaboration. Through the responsible implementation of ethically-developed technologies, associations may be able to strengthen these critical human systems rather than undermine them.