Hello from Martin Sirk, GAHP’s new International Advisor

I’m really delighted to have taken over responsibility from my friend Herve Bosquet for advising Brussels, Dubai, Singapore and Washington DC on how to build stronger and more sustainable strategic relationships with international associations that are aiming to extend their membership, services, and influence to new regions around the world.

You can contact me at  We’ll also be able to catch up face-to-face with all around the world at events such as ASAE, IMEX America, IBTM World, Dubai Association Conference, European Association Summit, IBTM Asia, and IMEX in Frankfurt!  Please reach out and say “Hi”!

Finally, I’d like to express enormous thanks to Herve for building GAHP’s foundations so solidly, and wish him best wishes for a wonderful retirement!


Food for thought for thoughtful association leaders


This is the first of a regular series of columns, designed to spark debate within the international association community about globally relevant issues and challenges.  Please feel free to respond to these personal viewpoints (even, or especially, if you disagree!), or suggest hot topics that you would like me to cover in future GAHP Newsletters.


ROI or RTC – Return on Investment or Return to Community?

Over the last decade I’ve probably sat through 20 education sessions dedicated to ROI, with speakers striving to persuade association leaders that they need to adopt a hard-nosed business attitude to every investment and project go/no-go decision.  And typically, the returns measured in such models focus narrowly on financial profit directly generated from that activity, short- or long-term.

The problem is, associations are not profit maximising private enterprises.  Their most important metrics should be mission-driven, and a key factor in the successful delivery of missions is the maintenance of a committed, passionate community.

Members are not economically-rational shareholders.  As long as their association is financially stable, “profit” is not what they are looking for.

Association-to-member is not usually the most important relationship; member to member relations matter much more, and are the root of emotional engagement, the sense of “belonging” that is a common feature of all successful associations.  But how often is this concept considered when analysing whether to go ahead with a project?  Traditional transactional analysis usually ignores important indirect impacts!

I suggest that associations need to come up with new metrics to determine their strategic investment decisions, especially when it comes to expanding their presence and influence globally.  Metrics that measure the “return to community”.  For example, will investing in a local presence “increase member stickiness”; has offering certifications in other languages “increased community value”; might business networking opportunities through new event programmes “increase aggregate member utility”; does a training programme “improve member capacity” in that country or region?

Don’t throw out sensible financial analysis and prudence, of course, but remember what makes associations unique, and that success isn’t simply determined by the bottom-line!

GAHP’s partner cities – Brussels, Dubai, Singapore and Washington DC – understand what makes associations tick.  We know associations are not driven by the same motives and objectives as companies, we think seriously about how associations enrich the intellectual competitiveness of our cities, and we’re committed to helping you navigate these challenging issues

Going Global at ASAE

ASAE logo

Calling US associations and GAHP friends from Europe and Asia-Pac who are heading to ASAE’s Annual Meeting in August.  Make a date to connect with GAHP, Kellen and Association Laboratory in Columbus OH, and join our Open Space education session, described below!

“Going Global: Partners, Challenges, Opportunities & Solutions”
ASAE GAHP Open Space education session: 12 August 2019

Join Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP), Kellen and Association Laboratory, Inc. at the ASAE Annual Meeting in Columbus, OH to learn whether your challenges are similar to those facing other associations attempting to grow internationally, and more importantly to identify solutions for your most pressing global growth objectives.

The discussions will take place at the ASAE Annual Meeting on Monday, August 12 from 3.30 pm – 4.30 pm in the ASAE OpenSpace Pods discussion area in the North Atrium of the Greater Columbus Convention Center (look for signs or view on the ASAE Annual Meeting App).

Developing Successful Global Partnerships in a Dynamic World

In Association Laboratory’s ground-breaking environmental scan Looking Forward 2019™, 72% of international and global association CEOs indicated they were concerned about creating successful global partnerships or coalitions, up from 27% only four years earlier!  This is one of the top concerns keeping CEO’s up at night, alongside working out how to set up multinational local delivery mechanisms, how to create global products and services that are profitable (or sometimes, simply affordable!), assimilating non-US stakeholders into governance and decision-making, and working out how the best opportunities for global expansion can be efficiently identified and embraced.

Added value: Every attendee will receive a copy of the Executive Summary of Looking Forward 2019™.

Session format

Interactive discussions will be led by three globally-experienced experts: Martin Sirk, International Advisor to GAHP, who has 16 years of global association leadership experience; Dean West FASAE, President and Founder of Association Laboratory Inc., and Alfons Westgeest FASAE, Managing Partner of Kellen, for decades one of the world’s most global AMC’s.

After setting the scene with some of the latest trend data on global issues, Martin, Dean and Alfons will introduce three association leaders who are currently working through some of the key challenges in going global, focusing on partnerships, service/product design and delivery, content and communication strategies, and the pitfalls that need to be guarded against – cultural, financial, and operational.  Their brief stories will be used to stimulate discussion about the most important component of this session – the concerns and challenges faced by the session participants!

So be prepared to share your own stories – constraints, solutions, failures, surprises, successes!

And don’t be afraid to raise ANY question related to going global – almost certainly either the experts or your fellow participants will be able to provide intelligent answers and practical recommendations!

Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP) is a unique city initiative by the official promotion organisations of four cities –  Brussels (, Dubai (Dubai Association Centre), Singapore  (Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau ™), and Washington, DC  (Destination DC). This innovative collaboration cements the position of the four partner cities as the leading global hubs for international associations and creates synergistic relationships which provides decisive advantages for international associations.

Introducing Edward Koh, Singapore’s new key contact for GAHP

Edward Koh has taken over from Jeannie Lim as Singapore’s Executive Director, Conventions, Meetings and Incentive Travel, bringing extensive and wide-ranging economic development and strategic business development experience to this role, which includes being Singapore’s key contact for any international associations wanting to talk about their strategic development objectives in Asia-Pacific.

Dr Edward Koh is the new executive director of the Conventions, Meetings & Incentive Travel division of the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau (SECB), a group under the Singapore Tourism Board (STB). He provides strategic counsel to attract quality association congresses and corporate-driven events to Singapore, and oversees local industry growth. In his previous roles at STB, he worked with in-market industry partners to drive tourism growth, as well as provided economic analysis, consumer insights and market trends to the tourism sector.

With a vibrant and innovative business and MICE environment, Singapore continues to be regarded as a top MICE destination. As a modern metropolis and business gateway, Singapore offer access to the fast-evolving Asia-Pacific region and beyond. For the 17th year running, Singapore have retained the crown as the top international association meetings city in Asia-Pacific by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA). Singapore was also recently ranked Top International Meeting Country and Top International Meeting City for 11 years by the Union of International Associations (UIA) Rankings 2019.

It is no coincidence that the number of association secretariats based in Singapore has almost doubled in the past decade. Singapore actively supports associations who are looking to grow their presence globally, and the Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau (SECB) works closely with associations to set up their regional offices and organise international events in Singapore. For example, International Standardisation Organisation (ISO) set up a 5-year pilot regional office in Singapore. STB partnered with EDB to help ISO establish the office, providing market research, office site inspections and connecting ISO with relevant authorities and stakeholders.

The International Union of Materials Research Societies (IUMRS) also announced that they will be anchoring their regional office in Singapore in 2019 and locating their global office in 2021. This joins the many other associations with regional headquarters in Singapore, such as the International Air Transport Association (IATA), International Council of Shopping Centres (ICSC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and professional bodies like Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the International Organization for Standardisation (ISO) and the International Trademark Association (INTA).

Collective efforts in maintaining Singapore as one of the world’s safest cities, with a steadfast commitment to digital security, health security, infrastructure and personal safety, have helped provide assurance to associations planning events in Singapore.

To find out more about the support Singapore provide to associations and how the destination turns ideas for growth into reality, visit

Will we see you in December in Dubai?

There is still time to register your interest for this year’s Dubai Association Conference,  but please don’t leave things too late, or hosting opportunities may be fully taken up!

When: 9-10 December 2019

This year’s big educational theme: The Societal Impact of Associations
With governments across the region investing massively in lifelong learning, healthcare, scientific R&D, and trade development, there’s never been a better time for associations to take a look at what’s happening in Dubai and the wider region!

GAHP’s partner cities will be represented at this important annual event, and Martin Sirk is included in the line-up of expert speakers.

What can you expect? Innovative meeting design formats; great speakers and case studies; wonderful networking opportunities; new perspectives on global growth opportunities.
For more details, please visit the Dubai Association Conference website.

Over the rest of this year we’re previewing DAC content and themes thanks to GAHP’s partnership with Boardroom magazine.

Here is the first article!

2020 European Association Summit – reserve space in your diaries & get thinking about the hot topics YOU want to discuss!

The seventh edition of EAS will take place in Brussels during the week of 9-13 March 2020.  A first call for proposals has already gone out, and the team will be launching a second call from 22 July until 22 September.

This is a unique opportunity for international associations to shape the content and format to meet their own biggest needs and interests, and to turn EAS into “their own event”!

For more information, check out the EAS website:

Another 2020 date for your diary – this time in Singapore!

Reed Travel Exhibitions, organisers of the long-standing meetings industry trade show IBTM World in Barcelona, have just announced that they are launching a new IBTM show in Singapore, on 6-8 April 2020!

GAHP are in early discussions with IBTM about creating valuable educational content aimed at the international association sector, and we’re excited about the potential of this new networking, business and educational platform, especially for any associations looking to establish a presence in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific region.

For more information about the show, see the newly launched website:

WWF in conversation with Boardroom

Boardroom magazine regularly talks with international associations and not-for-profit entities that have chosen Brussels, Dubai, Singapore or Washington DC to operate their HQs or regional offices, or from which to launch new initiatives.

Sid Das, Director Digital Engagement for the World Wide Fund for Nature, talks about his organisation’s global development challenges and aspirations, and highlights the value of tapping into Singapore’s business community and networks throughout Asia, via his regional office.

Read an advance copy of this article here!

AT Kearney’s 2019 “Most Influential Cities” Report – GAHP cities shine

Washington DC, Brussels and Singapore all retain their positions in the elite top 12 cities in the world, in this globally respected annual ranking analysis, whilst Dubai is recognized as a world-leader in Infrastructure.

Biggest issue highlighted in this year’s report: the struggle to attract talent, a key competitive issue for cities, companies and of course international associations as well!

Download the full report from AT Kearney’s website, or just browse the highlights:

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