Thursday, January 20, 2011

Association Executives: Provocative Proposals Research Project

Second stage is cut.
We're now in orbit.
Stabilizers up,
runnning perfect.
Starting to collect
requested data.
"What will it affect
when all is done?"
thinks Major Tom .....Major Tom, Coming Home - Peter Schilling

The Short of It
  • I believe in innovation
  • I also believe in appreciative inquiry
  • So I'm launching a project
  • Intended to bridge the gap
  • Between the practitioners and the theoreticians
The Long of It

I would like to announce the Association Executives: Provocative Proposals for Change project (that link will take you to my website for a complete description).

I have been watching the conversation over "future" and "innovation" evolve over the past few years led by thought leaders such as Jeff De Cagna, Jeffrey Cufaude, now Eric Lanke and WSAE to mention just a few of the many great thinkers out there. I've heard rumors about an Innovation Task Force within ASAE but I am not sure where they are going with their work. I've read publications from ASAE focused on future trends.

The recent conversations over membership a la the Joe Flowers post are the first instances I've seen of a really clear division between factions that are ready to discuss a new future, and factions that, quite frankly, are not. I saw the throw down by Joe Rominiecki on red-teaming a new model and I've got a response to that on the runway for a future blog post. (You're gonna be sorry you

Most importantly, I have come to believe that moving the needle on adaptation and survival in this new environment is going to come with a number of different approaches coming from a multitude of directions in order to hit some tipping point that we haven't found yet.

I have been trying to figure out what I could contribute to the discussion that hasn't already been said. What I ended up with was a feeling that there has to be a way to bridge the gap between the practitioners who need to change and the theoreticians who are pointing the way. Adding that to my belief in appreciative inquiry led me to create and launch this project. (Some of you noticed I launched "something" in January on Twitter. At last it finally has a name!)

I have seen the power of appreciative inquiry work within individual associations as they have developed visions and grappled with governance issues. Now, I'm testing the theory in a wider venue to see if it can work within our profession as a whole. I have developed a set of ten questions.  My goal is to conduct 300 interviews over the course of this year with current executives to see if we can draw some collective trends out of those interviews that seem possible and achievable. These interviews cannot be done with Survey Monkey, they have to be conducted person to person.  The ones I have already conducted have been terrific exchanges of fascinating ideas.

This is daunting because there are only so many hours in the day. I tend to believe you have to just do something to start even if you aren't completely sure where you will end up. If any of you are interested in helping I am accepting requests from folks I trust who would like to take the interview questions, interview executives and contribute to the discussion. I can offer you some training in the AI methodology of interviewing and will, of course, share the results with you once they are complete.

I usually don't ask for help on promotion of any particular project I am dabbling in, but I am asking for assistance with this one. If you could retweet, promote, nominate nonprofit executives you think I should attempt to interview, identify nonprofit executives you would like to interview yourselves, or whatever else you can think of to help, I would really appreciate it.  Can we create a better future?  We can't if we don't try.

Earth below us, drifting falling
Floating, weightless,
Calling, calling home

If you can't see the embedded video - you can click here.


  1. The rumors are true. There is an ASAE Innovation Task Force (and I'm a member of it) and soon everyone will get to see what's behind Door #3 (hint, it's not a new car).

    We probably have missed an opportunity to not share real-time updates of the TF's efforts, but soon we'll be sharing news for several initiatives to (1) engage our entire community in discussing innovation and infusing it into their efforts, (2) recognizing association innovations/innovators and stimulating more of it through some grants, and (3) provide an online home/portal for association innovation.

    Raise your hands and say Hallelujah.

  2. Hallelujah brother Jeffrey -


    Looking forward to the news and thanks for dropping by and letting my readers know about it!


  3. Bridging the gap between theory and practice is a large focus of WSAE's efforts on innovation, Shelly. We're working towards an evidence-based model of innovation for the association community--a set of practical strategies that can be implemented in real-world situations that move organizations towards more innovate operation. Learn more at

  4. Hey Eric - thanks for stopping by! I have signed up on the conferencespot site and am looking forward to seeing what happens with it! Keep me in the loop....



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