Jeff De Cagna

Executive Advisor, Foresight First LLC

May 7, 2020
Published on: Linkedin
1 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic is an inflection point for the entire world and a wake-up call for every association: there will be no going back to the pre-pandemic normal and there will be no business-as-usual going forward. Instead, we are already adapting to "the discontinuous next," an indeterminate period of intensified turbulence and volatility in every aspect of our society, and an unrelenting source of complexity, uncertainty, and risk. To navigate our current context and create the best possible future for our stakeholders and successors, reinventing associations for the rest of this decade and beyond must be the immediate priority.

This reinvention will not happen on its own, however. It will require an intentional and sustained learning effort by both association staff and voluntary decision-makers. To jumpstart this process, I have developed these six questions for deep reflection and response. Please consider them in sequence, and look carefully at the challenge for each question. The first challenge below applies to all six questions.


In writing your responses to these questions, push your thinking to the greatest possible extent and do not use the words, “customer(s),” “member(s),” or “membership."


Imagine it is December 31, 2029, the last day of the decade. Looking back from that vantage point, describe how this decade unfolded and specifically how the COVID-19 pandemic shaped the decade for society and for the industry, profession, or field you serve.

CHALLENGE: In writing your response to Question #1, do not discuss your association or its stakeholders.


Thinking about your answer above, which three (3) other forces of turbulence (beyond the pandemic) do you believe have had the most significant impact on society and the field your association serves throughout this decade, and why?

CHALLENGE: Describe how the three forces you identify were accelerated and/or intensified by the pandemic.


Thinking about your answers to the first two questions, which current and future stakeholders were most profoundly affected (beneficially and/or detrimentally) by what happened during the 2020s, and how?

CHALLENGE: Describe the identified stakeholders in detail and on their terms; do not default to the language of customers/members/non-members.


Thinking about your responses to the first three questions, what is your association’s purpose, i.e., the most compelling rationale for its existence, during this decade?

CHALLENGE: Do not restate your association’s current vision/mission/purpose. Instead, propose a new purpose based on the content of your answers to the first three questions.


Thinking about your answers to the previous questions, what three beneficial actions can your association take during this decade to 1) provide meaningful support to the stakeholders identified in Question #3 and 2) make progress toward fulfilling its purpose as expressed in Question #4?

CHALLENGE: Do not include any current association activities in your response. Instead, propose new actions consistent with your responses to the first four questions.


Thinking about your previous responses, what learning does your association need to pursue to move forward with the three meaningful actions you have identified?

CHALLENGE: Please be specific as possible about the necessary learning required to move forward with each identified action.


If you're interested in receiving feedback on your responses, please send me a LinkedIn message or an email to foresightfirst [at] gmail [dot] com.