So I’m just back from ASAE09 and I have a bunch of things I want to write about but first I need to fully indulge my geek-girl Clay Shirky groupie-ness and just say “OMGOMGOMG!” He actually gave somewhat the same talk as I heard at the Technology conference – but I got even more out of it. This dude is smart like you would not believe. And he’s coming back for Tech10!! Whoo hoo! Anyway. Watch this snippet and you’ll see what I’m sayin’.
The “AHA” moment of the whole conference for me came out of talking to Clay in his post-session pow-wow unsession with us. (Thank you SO MUCH to ASAE for making that happen, and thank you to Clay and Charlene Li as well for being open to hanging out with us for a while after their talks – more on Charlene in a minute.)
So we were talking about what the value of membership is, in this world where people can freely associate (including for a specific cause or mission) without a formal association to pay dues to, and can also freely get information they need elsewhere than behind the association’s member wall. But Clay said, member value is in the platform associations provide to enable people to convene. Not just the online platform but in all the ways associations do that. That is what you are paying for – the platform. Jamie’s recap (and his video) have some good further analysis of this concept.
After Clay left we talked through this some more. As you probably know, there’s been a lot of discussion about “free” as a membership model – which I think is definitely a radical idea worth considering in some cases. But for many associations, the business model is membership – NOT products and services. Essentially, many associations may not have enough capacity to do enough non-dues stuff to compensate for NOT charging dues. And in that scenario, the value in the platform is something that perhaps needs to be communicated much more clearly. In other words, that what your dues are paying for are not your publications and events and education and certification and “stuff”, but the platform for those things to happen and to contribute to each other, not just exist as pay-per-use items.
I have to percolate on all of that some more, but wanted to jot it down in all its messiness before I forget. I’ll post more Shirky nuggets from my Twitter stream in my next post. I hope my recap makes a little sense.
Another thing Shirky talked about that I really loved was about the concept of “Google Logic” – where you make it so easy for people to find what they need that they will come to you (the association) for that. It’s not about OWNING the information – it’s about harnessing it in a meaningful way and being the portal for it. For example, it doesn’t matter that people will “click” right back out of your association site, as long as they keep coming back through that door because they know what it’s for and that the information they will find by going through you is the signal filtered from the noise.
So, if we start to think of associations as platforms and portals, we clearly have to overcome the “myth of control” issues that are still desperately clinging to our association walls. Shirky mentioned it in his video above, and this great little video from Charlene Li speaks to that too.
Charlene talks about how you can explore openness and giving up control by looking at it strategically (yes, you would think that would be “doh!”). For example, look at it through the lens of building capacity for innovation; or how about asking what your stakeholders might actually need from you (the organization), or how about whether you being more open might actually be better for the good of the order than being closed. Awesome, awesome, awesome!!
And I also have to mention how mindblowingly cool it was to hear her refer in her Q&A unsession to our Association Social Media Wiki as THE source for great information about what associations are doing. Whoo hoo!!