Optimism & opportunities (with a few reality checks!)
When in a few years’ time we can enjoy the luxury of unpressurised contemplation, 2022 will almost certainly be remembered as one of the strangest, most complicated years we’ve ever experienced! But what about 2023? Will there be anything “normal” about the coming twelve months?
Travel is almost back at pre-Pandemic levels, whilst hotel and airfare prices have never been higher (as any association trying to negotiate rates a few years in advance knows only too well!). Friction-free international travel may now feel like a Utopian dream, but it’s dramatically simpler and smoother to hop between countries than at the peak of the Pandemic, and without the need for an accompanying portfolio of vaccination certificates and other paperwork. All great news for associations whose budgetary health is so dependent on international meeting surpluses and confident delegates!
China has just announced an end to its zero-COVID policy, the starting gun for the (eventual, probably by Q3 next year) at-scale return of global events to China and Chinese delegates to International meetings. Asia-Pacific association meetings were already starting to regain their swagger, and this news is going to turbo-charge them.
Most associations appear to have weathered the COVID storm in relatively good health, and we have heard dozens of heartwarming stories about greater member engagement during the tough times, enhanced community-building initiatives, Mission-centric refocusing, more flexible office strategies (the Remote Work mega-trend is brilliant news for globally-ambitious associations, opening up new opportunities in the hunt to employ smart, young talent). There’s a sense of optimism amongst association leaders that’s as strong as I can ever recall.
A major war is still raging in Europe, even though its existence has been reduced to a vague awareness in the back of our minds. We have become desensitised to just how dangerous, how far from “business-as-usual” this is. China isn’t going to return in the same way as pre-Pandemic: the “Great Decoupling” of the global supply chain is real and will have profound impacts, not only in Asia – another source of huge uncertainty and potential volatility. And COVID19 hasn’t disappeared, it’s just fallen down and down the list of our most visible concerns.
So….optimism….and uncertainty. A mix that will reward experimentation and (careful, calibrated) risk taking, and favour those associations that strive to invent their own futures rather than simply reacting to what the future throws at us!
All of us at Global Association Hubs – the teams in Brussels, Dubai, Singapore and Washington DC – wish our association friends a wonderful time with your loved ones over the Holiday season, and a hugely successful, inventive 2023!
Our latest article in media partner Boardroom magazine is a plea for associations to double-down on their unique advantage over companies (clue: the answer isn’t digital expertise!).
We are so used to viewing “digital” as a successor or improvement to “analogue”, that we can easily confuse “efficiency” with “fewer people involved”. But it is the strength of human relationships – friendship & trust – between members (and occasionally between members and association staff) that provides the emotional attachment to bind an association together. In a battle of transactional efficiency, associations will always be second best to companies, but when competing on community, associations should (in theory) win hands-down. See if you agree with our advice on how to unlock this advantage!
Washington DC’s intellectual capital strategy
This six minute video hosted by The Iceberg sets out how DC’s Connected Capital strategy drives positive societal change by combining local intellectual capital with the world-class knowledge of international associations.
Ultimately, this is what marks out those cities that believe in serious long-term relationships with international associations from the rest: the ability to curate and deploy local knowledge from universities, research and development institutes, government agencies, individual thought-leading scientists and engineers, and innovators in future growth sectors throughout the business landscape, with the aim of ensuring that associations and their meetings can generate the strongest possible impact, both locally and globally.
The programme will set comprehensive standards and targets throughout the MICE supply chain, ensure all major venues and suppliers achieve global sustainability certifications, and will officially track all waste and carbon emissions from business events. There will be a wide range of new training initiatives, grant funding for Singapore companies and event organisers to adopt key improvements, encouragement for experimentation and innovation through awards programmes and other incentives, and regular collaboration with other destinations around the world that are recognised as sustainability pioneers.
Robotics and Artificial Intelligence are going to play defining roles in almost every sector of the global economy, from pure research to applied logistics, from manufacturing to modelling, and Dubai is investing heavily in these sectors through Dubai Future Labs, which will become an invaluable resource for international associations as well as partnering with start-ups and established multinational companies. Catch up with the latest developments in this article, as Dubai pushes to become one of the top 10 cities in the world for these vital technologies.
Brussels not-to-miss online & F2F association events
The next Brussels Insights webinar will take place on 19 January, exploring mission-driven leadership and impact maximisation, part of a great series that brings together some of the smartest international association leaders to share their expertise and experience.
And please put a note in your diary to attend an annual highlight in the association education calendar, the European Association Summit, taking place on 27 and 28 April 2023, organised in partnership with ESAE, FAIB and UIA.