So far we’ve had three insightful blogs on the state of certain associations in the information world from Laurence Hart, Donda Young and Chris Walker, plus a couple of very good comments from Julie Colgan and Sanooj Kutty in reply, but I feel we are missing something here. Looking into my crystal ball I wonder if what we should be doing is re-shaping the association model to reflect the future of work.
My main gripe with our information associations is that they aren’t really moving on. I’m not going to call out names, but in general we still get the same service, products, membership deals that we’ve always had. This may be a good thing for some members, but not for everyone and in general those that are dis-satisfied are those who have outgrown the association that “fed” them and like petulant teenagers complain that we are not understood. Of course members are also to blame on another front, as the majority don’t want change, don’t want to volunteer, and for a relatively small fee, expect more than a magazine, “certification” and a website with a few tools and blog posts. With certification being of much more importance in North America than it is in Europe or Middle East. I can’t speak for the rest of the world.
My frustration revolves around paying for my membership but then having to look elsewhere to find out about new ideas and new technology and their impact on information management. Which association is keeping an eye on advances in machine learning and block-chain technology and their implications for RIM and IG; crowdsourcing and crowdfunding in relation to new ideas for delivering and owning information related services; big data, yes, big data, it’s not going away any time soon, and analytics and data science are here to stay. Then there are the new ways of working – out with the pyramids and in with holacracy – I could go on and on, but I won’t.
I belong to a number of associations, many unrelated to information, and those that I get the most from don’t all cost more, but they provide a much clearer look at the future of work than the information associations, and yes they talk information too. For those of you who are now considered “seniors” in information work perhaps these eclectic associations would be better for you than the information associations. I haven’t listed them here as they are local to London UK and mainland Europe, but they support business owners; c-suite execs; technology geeks, and I’m sure there will be equivalents across the globe. They are just different, and you may have to try a few before deciding to buy. Some are expensive some are cheap.
I also find pleasure in networking with people who don’t know we exist and are surprised by my insights into their businesses via my knowledge of records management, information governance et al. To do this I’ve attended a number of conferences and joined a number of groups – one such is the Tuttle Club that meets in London on Fridays – you just turn up and join in – no need to book or pay anything – you chat and listen and learn.
But to return to associations, I applaud the changes that are slowly being introduced in the familiar information associations like AIIM and ARMA (USA) ICA (international) and IRMS (UK) and the fledgling communities such as IGI and Information Coalition, but it is too slow. I doubt they will survive another five years unless they start looking outside of their windowless world and check what’s happening out here. Members always say they want leadership (whatever they mean by that), education, conferences, magazines, because it’s difficult to be specific about new ideas, but association HQs, governing boards and members must be bold – start afresh and really look at what the world of information needs. Changing members’ expectations for today’s associations is vital – don’t back off from new initiatives just because a few members shout at you. If you truly believe the initiative is needed, stick with it. Re-shaping the association model is necessary now and those that don’t, won’t survive. I have a few ideas if anyone is listening – and I’m a perpetual volunteer.