Saturday, April 9, 2011

Did You Know Online Community is a Priority for ASAE? Neither Did I

I've spent the past day and a half at ASAE's Future Leaders conference. On one hand, it's been great--I've learned some leadership stuff (I'm an "i"--who knew?), met some cool people, and gotten to hang out with my friend Lauren Wolfe. On the other, it's made me wonder how, when almost 10% of kids today are being diagnosed with ADHD--and, presumably either being medicated or getting special learning plans in school--every post-graduate learning experience I've ever had seems to assume that all adults learn the same way and can sit for 8 hours at a clip, minus a few breaks. My brain doesn't work that way and I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.

But I digress. One of the most interesting things I've learned at this conference was from John Graham, CEO of ASAE. He spoke at lunch today about his career and also about ASAE and what they consider to be the four "pillars" of the association. He didn't use those exact words, but that was the gist--the four most important areas of focus for ASAE. He said those areas are knowledge, learning, advocacy and community. With the community part being online community and social media. He actually said social media.

Really? I was honestly shocked to hear him say that because nothing I've seen at ASAE seems to reflect that online community and social media are important. Their listserv technology is terrible. Their online community is terrible and something they've barely--if ever--mentioned or promoted to members. You'd think if online community and social media were core areas the association were interested in promoting/supporting, they'd staff that area accordingly. I mean, knowledge, learning and advocacy--they're certainly staffed up for those things. But social media and online community? ONE lower level management position? That is benchmarked lower than average, salary-wise?

I was actually impressed by John Graham's address today. He was likable, humble, and came across as intelligent and committed to the association industry. I wanted to ask him about the discrepancy between declaring online community to be important to ASAE yet there being no discernible signs of that to members like me, but didn't want to come across as confrontational. But think about it--if online community is to be one of the core components of future associations, doesn't it also mean that one of the core competencies for association excecs should be the ability to interact online? Knowledge of stuff like social media monitoring, blogging or commenting on blogs, tweeting from a conference, etc? And that ASAE, as they are, ostensibly, the association all associations look to to see how an association is supposed to be run, should be leading the charge and staffing in a way that shows their alleged commitment to online community?

I just don't get it. Knowledge, learning, advocacy--ASAE doesn't pay lip service to those areas--why are they doing it for online community? And when are they going to put their money where their mouth is and devote the resources to fleshing out that aspect of the member experience? This conference was great in some respects, but for those of us who learn and interact online, there was ZERO in that regard--not a hashtag, not an online list of attendees and their affiliations so we might be able to keep in touch after the event--even the DISC assessment was sent as an email attachment. Nothing. So if associations are changing and "future leaders" need to be agile online, you'd think this conference would at least have some elements of that dynamic...but alas, no.

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