Much of the literature in Association circles revolves around the development, and positioning, of business-oriented associations, and for good reason. There is a long history of businesses, professionals, and even industries as a whole, organizing to represent their interests to government, but also to set standards as a way to augment expertise and enhance skill sets, pertinent to their occupational context.
And yet, increasingly, one can sense that people, apart from their work to make ends meet, as individuals and as groups, have needs that go unmet, needs that Associations could meet, serving an important purpose in a world where ‘the search for meaning’ has become increasingly important. With the appropriate approach, these People-Centric Organizations, or ‘PCOs’, could offer the Association sector tremendous opportunities for growth, by meeting people in their place of need.
Still Searching for Something
While some people in society find all they need in the quest for economic and financial accomplishment, many people are increasingly aware of the hollow victories associated with simple acquisition. This awareness of need is manifested in increasing levels of anxiety, depression and other mental-health related disorders. Ironically, in the most affluent era of human history, many are discovering emptiness, rather than happiness, as the by-product of their efforts to acquire and secure financial wealth.
People are looking to fill this void, by considering and pursuing interests, other than the acquisition and retention of material wealth. They are attracted to a variety of issues, such as the environment and nature or the pursuit of well-being, in its many forms, including intellectual, nutritional and physical. For others, the focus may be simply how to spend one’s time productively, learning, experiencing, sharing in a particular interest, for example, exploring their fascination for history, human rights, literature, technology, art, language, science, food, wine, woodworking, politics, communications, cinema or travel, to name just a few. Then, there are those people who wish to confront the issues of meaning more directly, through a focus on moral, spiritual, religious or psychological development.
Associations offer Shared Experience
In the vast majority of cases, people welcome the opportunity to explore their interests in the company of others. There is tremendous psychological benefit associated with the realization that others share your point of view, or fascination with a particular interest, and the wish to deepen understanding. Associations offer the opportunity to facilitate this sense of belonging, this discovery of like-minded people and this sharing and acquisition of knowledge, insight, and expertise. Increasingly, people seek out these opportunities on-line, exploring the ever-evolving variety of social media and communication platforms which serve to network and engage.
PCOs may prefer to refer to themselves as groups, or communities, in order to present themselves as focused on issues and interests, with a primary concern for function, rather than form. Just the same, the opportunity still exists for these PCOs to develop and offer value-added programming though a funded membership or subscription option, designed to sponsor and sustain the development of content and insight.
Taking an incremental approach, allows a core group of interested participants to signal their area of interest or inquiry, create a forum for discussion, and equip others to ‘join’, either formally or informally, in a continued dialogue. Accessing association software and platforms, participants can opt-in, or opt-out, through self-administered options which offer choice for the individual and facilitate, if not minimize, any management processes required to create and deliver communications and content.
The primary goal is not to create a revenue-generating business model. It is, first and foremost, to gather like-minded individuals in a discussion and exploration of important, if not fascinating, issues and ideas. That said, and keeping this mission and mandate in mind, these organizations should have every opportunity to develop value-added programming and experiences that would lead, naturally, to platforms powered by sustainable revenue, and to acquire the staffing and resources required to maintain their ‘meaningful’ mandate, as the organization grows.
Exploring the Potential of People
We live in a new age. An age of awareness. As people increasingly realize their needs are far deeper, and more important, than the simple process of consumption, or continuous acquisition of status-defining assets, they will embrace a new set of standards and goals. That their lives should be ‘meaningful’ and that they should fully explore those ideas which fulfill their greater sense of self.
The Association model stands ready, albeit in modified form, and approach, rediscovering its altruistic roots in the creation of a universally-accessible social capital, to serve people in their emerging needs for meaning, that transcends, but does not ignore, the need for material well-being and economic security. People-Centric Organizations would offer us a chance to grow and experience, Life, more fully and meaningfully. We are fortunate to live at a time when the creation of such organizations is incredibly simple and relatively inexpensive, needing only imagination and initiative to bring them to life.
Paul McKay CAE, is Senior Consultant with McKay Associates,
specializing in advocacy, marketing and development.
Get in touch via LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mckay-associates