Hello international association friends!

Welcome to the September 2019 edition of the Global Association Hubs Partnership newsletter, featuring news about Brussels, Dubai, Singapore and Washington DC for the international association community, along with sometimes-provocative viewpoints, articles about international association strategy and business challenges, links to valuable resources including sign-ups for educational events and courses, and where to meet up with GAHP representatives over the coming months.

Please share with your colleagues and with friends in other international associations!

Martin Sirk, GAHP International Advisor


Food for thought for thoughtful association leaders

A regular column 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.


“Culture eats Strategy for Breakfast”

This famous quote by management guru Peter Drucker should be carved in stone above every association leader’s desk. Sadly, in practice an association’s culture is usually conspicuous by its absence from Board retreat discussions and regular meeting agendas, strategic planning documents, Standard Operating Procedures, annual marketing plans, and staff training programmes.

I suspect that one of the main reasons for this is the amorphous complexity of culture – which embraces concepts such as tacit knowledge, circles of trust, unspoken conventions, emotional intelligence, invisible vs official power relations, unseen social dynamics, and annual conferences filled with tribal rituals, obscure historical references, insider-newcomer divides, deeply embedded ways of doing things, and unchallenged assumptions. It’s no surprise that trying to fit an association’s culture neatly into its strategic plan is like wrestling with Jello (or jelly, for British-English readers)!

Consider also the international dimension that many associations are dealing with, with national cultural traits obviously adding another layer of complication to an already challenging mix. But I would argue that the association’s own distinctive culture will almost always override the differences between members from different countries, and it is this institutional cultural dimension that is most important for associations to understand (even though every association leader should of course have a working knowledge of national cultural differences). The things that unite nuclear physicists or cardiologists or coffee traders are far stronger than their differences; their association-embedded beliefs, stores of expert knowledge, and association-originating friendships trump their culinary preferences, whether they shake hands or bow, and even their position on an individual/collective-personality continuum.

Just because culture is a difficult to manage concept doesn’t mean that an association should refrain from attempting to do so. The association’s unique culture, sometimes shaped over many decades of unconscious evolution, can become the most powerful tool in an association leader’s armoury, and is vital when considering critical objectives such as:

  • Measuring member loyalty
  • Retaining great staff
  • Boosting emotional engagement
  • Driving member-to-member communication
  • Obtaining buy-in to disruptive policy changes
  • Finding an authentic “tone of voice” for the association
  • Communicating the association’s real USPs or points of difference

The attitude, “if it can’t be measured it doesn’t count” needs to be replaced by “not everything that counts can be measured”. Association leaders and their Boards need to spend time describing, discussing, mapping and comparing their culture, and thinking about ways of (very carefully, respectfully and mindfully) manipulating and exploiting that culture to serve their strategic objectives and the association’s mission. This isn’t easy, it frequently defies quantification, but it is still hugely worthwhile.

Associations also need to think about which companies and destinations they want to work with. How do their values and culture match up with those of their prospective partners? The GAHP cities – Brussels, Dubai, Singapore and Washington DC – are all committed to understanding the distinctive needs and cultures of the associations that operate in their hubs, and aim to help each association thrive in its own unique way.

GAHP at IMEX America – will you be in Vegas this month?

It’s just around the corner – one of the meeting world’s must-attend trade shows rolls into Las Vegas again with Smart Monday on 9 and the main IMEX trade show 10-12 September. For association leaders planning to attend, there’s a great Association Leadership Forum on the afternoon of Smart Monday run by ASAE, followed by the usual Association Reception.

Sign up here

Meet GAHP partners at IMEX: Brussels; Dubai; Singapore; Washington DC

GAHP International Advisor Martin Sirk will be at the show every day including Smart Monday. To arrange a meeting, please email

Designing a Compelling Educational Event for Association Professionals

White Paper by Association Laboratory Inc. (

We’re grateful to Dean West, Founder and President of Association Laboratory Inc. for offering GAHP friends a 25% discount to purchase this thoughtful, strategically-focused White Paper, produced by his research team with input from 150 expert association leaders.  Packed with data-driven insights and practical advice, it’s a must for any association that is planning to re-engineer and revitalise its educational activities.  Click on the link to read a detailed description of the report.

To obtain the GAHP discount, please quote the code “GAHP25” when downloading.

Readers can download the complete White Paper here

GAHP at ASAE 2019 – photo story

This year’s edition of ASAE’s Annual Meeting and Expo in Columbus, Ohio, 10-13 August, featured one of the strongest international programmes ever, and great networking between international associations aiming to improve or launch their global development programmes, key destinations from all regions of the world, and expert content providers. GAHP partners were of course prominent in all the international activities and educational sessions.

GAHP representatives at ASAE: Jan Lichota ( Association Bureau), Elke Wong (Singapore Tourism Bureau), Paul Weintraub (BICSI – association guest and speaker on “going global”), Virginie Lurkin ( Convention Bureau), Steen Jakobsen (Dubai Association Centre), and Martin Sirk, GAHP International Advisor.

Chair Sal Martino gave one of the all-time great ASAE leadership speeches, combining the moving personal story of his journey as an openly gay association leader, and a call-to-arms for associations to fight for societal progress and social justice, and to champion the power for good that associations represent. His call for civilised discourse, respect for science and facts, and why associations remain bastions of these values, resonated powerfully with the 5,000 attendees.

Great session by AMC-Institute (the international association for association management companies – on how associations can maximise the impact and reach of their research projects.

There was a full house for the International Meet & Greet, even though it started at 7.15 am (luckily, for many of the international attendees our body clocks said it was already lunchtime!). Incoming ASAE International Advisory Council Chair Magda Mook from International Coach Federation welcomed everyone, supported by Steven Basart, AMC Kellen’s VP Beijing office. A very successful innovation this year was that each Round Table was given a pre-set discussion topic on a strategic issue facing associations that are planning to go global, leading to great interaction and concrete solutions to some big challenges.

Bonnie Koenig from Going International led an excellent session on “why going global takes time”. Too often associations look for quick wins and fast ROI in their global development plans and projects – Bonnie and her panel made a powerful case for the importance of taking the long-term view, encouraging Boards to be patient, and building in capacity to deal with unanticipated but inevitable hurdles and delays.

MCI designed an innovative format session, with just a short introduction followed by in-depth, interactive Poster discussions around the room, focusing on the unique characteristics of “going global” in different parts of the world. Their Singapore office’s presentation made the point that because of the city’s unique concentration of skills and services, they run all pan-Asia financial, registration and communication from that hub, and outsource only event logistics to individual country offices.

Great turnout for Dubai Association Centre’s “preview” session for the forthcoming DAC Conference in December, led by that conference’s lead moderator/designer, Genevieve Leclerc of Caravelle Strategies and #Meet4Impact. Delegates were hungry to hear about new concepts for setting, measuring, and managing the broader societal impact of association meetings. For more info about this topic:

GAHP’s Open Space session on “going global” this year featured powerful case studies from Cathy Breedon and David DuBois from International Association for Exhibitions and Event, Matthew D’Uva from International Association for the Study of Pain, and Dean Parisi from the American Medical Association. With moderation, interviewing roles, and “helicopter views” from GAHP’s Martin Sirk, Kellen’s Alfons Westgeest, and Dean West from the renowned research company Association Laboratory, this led to some fascinating discussions and new connections.

Boardroom Interview: Paul Weintraub – BICSI

Our media partner Boardroom ( talks with Paul Weintraub, Vice President of Global Development & Support for BICSI, the preeminent global source of knowledge for the Information and Communication Technology community, about why a strategic vision is so vital for effective global expansion of service delivery and influence, and the practical assistance Dubai Association Centre provided to help his association effectively penetrate the Middle East and Africa regions.

Discover the full article here

Boost the performance and impact of your association – sign up for this Brussels Masterclass!

As part of its commitment to building long-term intellectual capacity within the local association community, Association Bureau is once again supporting the unique Executive Master in International Association Management programme, organised by the renowned Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management. Sign-up is live; programme starts January 2020!

Solvay Executive Master in International Association Management resumes in January 2020, a unique platform for mastering the fundamental skills in key management areas with a special focus on the association executives’ needs.

The objective of the 17-day executive master course is to enhance the leadership, strategic planning and management skills of Europe’s top association professionals and to highlight the best practices across the association sector.

It is taught by Solvay academics and features regular interventions from prominent association executives sharing their insights and expertise. It includes modules in leadership, finance, strategy, governance, and marketing along with project and event management

The Executive Master in International Association Management is operated by the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management in cooperation with European Society of Association Executives (ESAE), the Union of International Associations (UIA), the Federation of European and International Associations (FAIB) and the Association Bureau.

  • Next edition: January 2020
  • Duration: January to June 2020
  • Format: 17 days, 7 modules of 2 or 3 full days

For more informationclick here

Focus on Washington, DC: An unmatched destination for technology-focused associations and their meetings

Ranked as the third best tech city in the nation in Cushman & Wakefield’s Tech Cities 1.0 report, Washington, DC offers a unique opportunity to elevate your meetings and conventions to the next level, or to locate your tech-focused association’s offices. Take advantage of access to expert speakers, federal policymakers and industry sponsors for any event. Learn how to grow your delegate base, sponsorship dollars and exhibitor footprint to gain a competitive advantage for your organization. Take advantage of one of the nation’s strongest pools of tech-related talent for staff recruitment.

Connect with Destination DC staff, submit a meetings RFP or learn more about technology-focused meetings and conventions in our technology white paper.

  • No other city has as much access to the federal government and tech policy leaders as Washington, DC.
  • Learn how to bring tech-related projects and content to scale through partnerships between businesses and local and federal government.
  • DC offers unique access to various industries, including social enterprises, green tech, hospitality, cybersecurity and data.

  • DC is home to a thriving startup scene of more than 1,000 tech startups. (Business Insider)
  • DC ranks first in the nation for growth entrepreneurship. (Kauffman Foundation)
  • DC has the third most future-ready economy among American cities. (Dell)
  • DC is the top city for social entrepreneurs, which create solutions for social challenges. (S&R Foundation)
  • The DC area is a top city for cybersecurity tech startups, and included 27,246 cybersecurity job postings in 2015, far more than other tech cities. (Burning Glass Technologies)
  • The region is “becoming the Silicon Valley of cybersecurity.”

  • The DC government has strategic pillars committed to technology and entrepreneurship through incentives and programs, like Pathways to Inclusion, an initiative meant to form a roadmap and inclusive ecosystem where the tech and innovation economy can grow.
  • DC government goals include creating 5,000 new tech jobs for underrepresented workers, 500 new tech businesses by underrepresented entrepreneurs and fostering the most inclusive culture among tech cities on the East Coast.
  • The DC metro area includes six Fortune 500 companies in the tech sector.

  • Washington, DC is in the top 10 global cities for venture-capital investment. (The Atlantic)
  • Five of the top 100 investors in early startup tech and biotech companies are located in the area. This fosters continued growth in the tech sector.(

  • DC has a skilled workforce. Fifty percent of residents have a college degree compared to 33% nationally.
  • DC ranks #1 in the U.S. for high-tech employment concentration (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
  • 10+ colleges in the area, many of which offer access to university labs, and support for entrepreneurs
  • Maryland and Virginia lead the nation in concentration of bachelor’s degrees in STEM disciplines
  • Three Top 100 STEM high schools (U.S. News & World Report)
  • Most educated city in the U.S. (U.S. Census Bureau)

  • Entrepreneur-focused events in DC have built a strong community for founders, investors, mentors and incubators
  • #innoMAYtion – DC Government-led initiative throughout May encouraging local entrepreneurs to help solve challenges and create opportunities for DC residents
  • 1776’s Challenge Cup – A worldwide competition organized by 1776, a local startup incubator, that brings attention to the globe’s most innovative, promising startups
  • SXSW – A local participation platform at Austin’s annual conference to engage the national tech community in the latest DC startups, government initiatives and innovations

Interested in learning more about Washington, DC as a tech hub for meetings and conventions or to locate your association office? Read our technology white paper and connect with Destination DC staff for more information.

Dubai Association Conference: “The Societal Impact of Associations”

DAC content curator Genevieve Leclerc explains to GAHP media partner Boardroom what attendees can expect at this innovative event for senior association executives taking place in Dubai on 9-10 December 2019, focusing on one of the key content pillars: “Designing an Impact Management and Measurement Programme”.

Discover the full article here !

Singapore in a Single Click – Key Sector Summary

Here is a super-easy link to an excellent, comprehensive information and resource library for associations involved in any these sectors, which are at the top of Singapore’s economic and intellectual development agenda:

  • Aerospace & Logistics
  • Applied Health Sciences
  • Design
  • Financial Services
  • Innovation
  • Media & Digital Content
  • Travel
  • Urban Solutions


Meet GAHP representatives at:






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