Food for Thought – why association ecosystems matter

I recently wrote an article for the September 2020 issue of Boardroom magazine, entitled “Failure to Continue Thinking Globally is a Recipe for Failure”, in which I urged associations to resist the pandemic-driven temptation to pull back from their global development aspirations, and flagged up the role played by association ecosystems in achieving these strategic imperatives.

With many commentators predicting a mega-trend of working from home and virtually-distributed organisations, and almost daily stories about prominent individuals and cool companies relocating from major cities to rural idylls, one could be forgiven for thinking that physically defined (ie city-specific) business ecosystems are an irrelevance for where an association chooses to locate its offices or representatives, or from which it operates projects and where it chooses to run events. Here are a few reasons why that isn’t the case:

Association ecosystems are not check-lists of independent factors, they are entwined, interactive, dynamic environments, exactly as is the case with ecosystems in the natural world.

In this kind of dynamic system, powerful synergies emerge when disparate services are co-located, where key players can really get to know one another and communication lines can be short-circuited, and when unexpected beneficial relationships naturally evolve.

Associations benefit from a mix of institutional support and access to specialised private sector services. In a distributed, virtual world, these don’t naturally interact. In a well-run city, such interactions, involving both formal and informal networks, are as natural as breathing.

Associations need the proximity of other associations to thrive! To build trust and partnerships, to benefit from a larger talent pool and research capacity, to learn from each other, and to lobby more effectively for shared advocacy goals.

Martin Sirk, Global Association Hubs International Advisor

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