Food for Thought: Will associations stand up in the post-pandemic era as a force for progress?
As this utterly strange and terrible year draws towards its conclusion, with many uncertainties and dangers still hovering out of sight, we are heartened by the tantalising prospect of effective vaccines being rolled out worldwide during the first half of 2021. But despite the hopeful signs that point to Covid-19’s control and eventual defeat, we face an unprecedented range of societal and economic challenges , from climate change to the rise of authoritarian nationalism, from dramatically accelerating inequality and unsustainable debt to the twin spectres of misinformation and weaponised disinformation.
These challenges make it an ideal time to reflect on the potential impact and responsibilities of international associations in the post-pandemic landscape.
Associations naturally thrive during times of growing international freedom to travel, trade, meet and exchange ideas, something we have grown used to over past few decades. But it is during times when these are under threat, as looks increasingly likely in the decade to come, that associations take on a more critical role as a brightly-lit beacon for civilised values and progress.
In the depths of the Cold War, it was COSPAR, set up by the International Council for Science, that not only enabled the scientists of the USSR and the Western powers to collaborate on scientific matters, but also provided the most important political back-channel to mitigate dangerous geo-political tensions. Other associations have fought for intellectual and moral principles over many decades, improving and saving countless lives in the process, changing government policies, and shaping global protocols and treaties. Most importantly – because this day-to-day work underpins all their other impacts – associations provide unique high-profile platforms for their members to share their work, ideas and culture with both their peers and much wider circles of influence.
It’s vital that associations use their influence to prevent Western and Chinese technology from becoming two disconnected, non-sharing ecosystems. Also, that Israeli scientists are able to freely share their world-class research and expertise (something made more likely thanks to UAE’s announcement of official relations – see article below), and that African healthcare workers and educators can readily obtain visas to attend events in the EU and USA. And we all gain when associations stand up for the rigorous, hard-questioning, open-to-change scientific method as a bedrock in the never-ending search for objective truths.
The challenges we face offer international associations an unprecedented opportunity to affirm the universal value and positive societal impact of bringing together global communities of shared interest and expertise. The four cities that make up Global Association Hubs stand ready to support you in this extraordinarily important enterprise.
Global Association Hubs’ Martin Sirk was joined by four international association leaders for an online education session during #PlanetIMEX in October 2020. The panel members discussed the immediate impact of COVID-19 on their global development plans and priorities, changes to their association’s strategic thinking, and their personal views on the future of international association meetings. Senior representatives from over 80 international associations and AMCs joined in the breakout discussions.
Embedded in this article published by our media partner Boardroom are the four 25-minute pre-session interviews Martin held with each of the panel members, for readers who would like to explore these issues in more depth.
Panel members: Mohamed Mezghani, Secretary General, UITP – International Association of Public Transport Colleen Eubanks, CEO, International Association for the Study of Pain Tommy Goodwin, Legislative & Regulatory Affairs Lead, Project Management Institute Tracy Bury, Deputy CEO, World Physiotherapy and President, AC Forum
In this wide-ranging interview with Seth Hayes, INTA’s Chief Representative for Asia Pacific (based in Singapore), he outlines the vital importance of intellectual property and trademarks to a healthy international trading and business relations environment, discusses how INTA has dealt with the challenges raised by Covid-19, and also explains how Singapore’s excellence in business law and intellectual property protection issues helped to sway INTA’s decision to set up a strategic regional office here in 2016.
The Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus will be the first entity in the U.S.A. dedicated to pediatric research and to fostering unprecedented collaboration in this field. The pediatric hub will combine the strengths of public and private partners, including industry, universities, federal agencies, start-up companies and academic medical centers, creating enormous opportunities for national and international associations involved in the future of children’s healthcare.
Following on from the normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE with the signing of the Abraham Accords, a number of high-profile Israeli delegations have already visited the city, while the city’s business events sector is also primed for increased interest from both organisers and attendees from the country. With Israeli doctors and scientists playing such a prominent role in many international associations, this move is certain to attract new meetings to Dubai, increase Israeli delegate and speaker participation in existing events, and facilitate engagement with Israel-based members by regional associations in Dubai Association Centre.
Knowing that it possess the world’s longest-established and widest-ranging community of companies providing specialist association services doesn’t mean a city can rest easy on its reputation! Brussels’ Association Bureau is now in the process of systematically gathering detailed data on the city’s unique business ecosystem, and plans to make it significantly easier for new and established associations alike to locate exactly the right services that they require.
Singapore-based Asia Pacific Medical Technology Association (APACMed) represents manufacturers and suppliers of medical equipment, devices and in-vitro diagnostics, industry associations and other key stakeholders associated with the medical technology industry in Asia Pacific. APACMed was one of the first MICE events to resume in Singapore in September 2020, once the pandemic was under local control and safe travel protocols had been set up, with a hybrid combination of small face-to-face interaction between top industry leaders and experts, and the largest number of participants ever, primarily joining online.
These short videos showcase the highlights of a webinar jointly organised by Singapore Tourism Board and Web in Travel which aimed to illustrate how some traditional face-to-face event organisers have successfully pivoted during the pandemic to produce effective virtual or hybrid events. Great lessons for any associations wrestling with this challenge!