the future state of associations

The Future State of Associations

President & CEO


In his book “Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time” Howard Schultz, Starbucks President & CEO says “Vision is what they call it when others can’t see what you see.”  In a slow domestic growth and a global uncertain economy, how will the future state of associations be defined?


Demographics, global political and economic changes and challenges, massive industry consolidation, the gig economy, driverless cars, as well as jobs (and industries) being rendered redundant by advances in artificial intelligence and automation are only the beginning. Advances in software, manufacturing, communications, science, and medicine occur every day. The rapid rate of change looks to only accelerate. Innovation and disruption will shape the future state of associations.

the future state of associations

In some cases, Association CEO’s are embracing the future state association mantra in order to help advance the future of the industries they serve with better, more relevant, and sustainable opportunities. Richard Wahlquist, President and CEO of the American Staffing Association noted in a recent article, “Freaking Out About Disruptive Innovation” in the July/August 2015 edition of Staffing Success, “Leveraging disruptive technology will result in the creation of more and better jobs and will enable the staffing and recruiting industry to create and provide more effective total talent supply chain solutions.”

Future Paved With Knowledge

The future state of associations “envisions” their roles as communication hubs engaging members that share and capture knowledge. Members will be engaged on their business interests and outcomes, the one size fits all approach will disappear. The future state of associations will:

  • Provide opportunities for members to collaborate virtually (and in some cases in person), develop innovative solutions, address business challenges and create opportunities to drive financial success.
  • Help members establish their own self forming “share” groups in real time.
  • Let go of staff functional boundaries. Future talent will be leveraged across the enterprise, and facilitate knowledge sharing among the members and industries they serve.

The Future State of Associations

The future state of associations anticipate “shared futures” where members and staff achieve a “more compelling future for their industry.” The staff team sees its role helping members address “up at night” issues, and have a flexible operating structure to quickly shift and help the industries they serve achieve their business and professional outcomes.

the future state of associationsFree eBook “Accelerating Strategic Member Engagement” is available upon request for all Association Executives at