Flashes of the future

It’s 2021. What’s changed? Maybe not so much. In the literal sense, the days are still close to their darkest, but they are getting a tiny bit longer every day. While a lot of the news is bleak and frustrating, the care facility where my daughters have attended Girl Guides meetings for years got almost all their residents vaccinated recently. So: we’ll keep trying to shine the light we can, to think ahead and look forward.

In that spirit, engagement expert Amanda Kaiser and I recently created a series of discussions titled Associations of the Future. The idea was that we know folks in the association sector might not have the bandwidth or the energy to look ahead right now, given all the demands on everyone’s time and resources. But we also know how important it is to think beyond the current circumstances, even – and especially – at times of tumult and change. So, we decided we would have these conversations and share them with you, and we invited people to join live on the last one in the series.

You can find the whole series – which you can listen to in any order – here.

And to launch us all into 2021, we thought we would share the speed round we did at our final session about where we think the associations of the future will be most successful. What would your own answers be?

What will the association of the future have to be good at?

Meredith: Separating signal from noise, ascertaining from all that you’re seeing and hearing what matters to you – and what doesn’t.

Amanda: Knowing their members. Member’s professions and industries are changing at the speed of light. They will love you for helping them solve their most current problems.

What will the association of the future have to be ready for?

Meredith: More change. Hard to imagine, but it’s true.

Amanda: Curious conversations – with your board, staff, members, collaborators, and everyone.

What will the association of the future have to let go of?

Meredith: The notion of a “new normal.” It’s not coming.

Amanda: Anything that’s not a “heck yes” – anything you can’t fully commit to.

What should the successful association of the future be thinking about now?

Meredith: The social implications of what we’ve all lived through. The impacts on your members, your volunteers, your staff, you – this might be mental health or PTSD, and it could be figuring out what the narrative and meaning is of what we’re all living through but in very different ways.

Amanda: Members! Members! Members!

What’s your encouraging thought as you look forward?

Meredith: How very far you’ve come, and all you’ve done. All the innovation, new things tried in the past year – it’s really impressive.

Amanda: Remember that wherever there is a member need, worry, or goal (and there are many those right now), there is an opportunity.

We both wish you the best for 2021, and we look forward to hearing what you develop and create as you work through what comes. If you’d like to talk about any of this, please get in touch.

Photo by Adrian Infernus on Unsplash

Contact us at meredith@meredithlow.com or call 416-737-3935 to discuss how we might be able to help.


We offer resources to help leaders of associations and other not-for-profits think about their approach to strategy and governance, from various perspectives.