April 22, 2014
On June 20, Kellen Company will host Associations: 2020 and Beyond, a one-day conference in New York City exploring critical issues facing trade associations and professional societies. Association and business leaders will discuss emerging trends. Here, Alfons Westgeest of Kellen Europe discusses how globalization will continue to change the way associations work.
Globalization is a key trend that we’ve identified as impacting associations in future years. Regulatory developments and citizen’s activism could strongly influence the association’s future. Here are some examples of how the changes have already started to take hold and what associations can do to adapt:
- Regulatory Platforms. Regulators from local, national and international level will develop a smart “intra space” so that they can better communicate and coordinate their efforts. Online exchanges allow them new and faster ways to cope with immediate safety, security and other regulatory issues in certain industry sectors. For example, food regulators and agencies are considering how safety alerts will be shared or broadcasted immediately across borders. This will require companies and their associations to anticipate such warnings by gathering precise data.
- How can associations play a role? There is a need for faster developing standards through associations or alliances, which in turn would help create workable regulations. In addition, associations may have to deal with crises from a media perspective: not just on a national level, but rather across the globe.
- Citizens Activism. Global regulations and trade agreements are drawing the attention from citizen action groups. These groups use social media as a very efficient tool for advocating their message. For example, the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) raised protest from a number of groups that were not consulted as stakeholders. While the advantages of TTIP are economic growth and trade of the world’s largest economies (US and EU), it was perhaps not broadly discussed for input as well as it should. Considering stakeholder perspectives is an important step in the legislative process.
- Associations need to make sure their governance structure is adapted to deal with a wider group of stakeholders that influence outcomes of treaties or regulations. Some sectors are promoting a trade deal, others are against it, but the most important is to know who might be interested or involved, and why.
Tips for association leaders:
- Association leaders should estimate how international developments have relevance for their organization, and whether on national, state or local level membership. An emerging issue in another part of the world can quickly become important to your group.
- Policy Committees need to anticipate what kind of regulations or standards are growing in importance. You should be monitoring global platforms, and proposals that originate from other regions of the world.
- Technical Working Groups need to timely alert the leadership in their association or company to focus on long term investment needed to establish or change a global standard.
- Excellent communication is needed between staff, Boards and working groups to fund the priorities that will impact the associations
In this increasingly global world, associations cannot afford to turn a blind eye to changes taking place around the world. Proactive association leaders are keeping an eye on what is happening in their industry elsewhere, and when regulation or public opinion shifts, they are prepared to adapt.
Alfons Westgeest, Group Vice President of the Kellen Company is responsible for the Brussels and Beijing offices. He is a former Board member and since 2006 a Fellow of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE). He currently serves on its Government Relations Section Council.