Friday, February 1, 2013
Membership IS the Value of Membership!
So, I was one of the lucky ones who got to see Dave Grohl's new documentary "Sound City" last night at the Crest in Sacramento (and yay +Sandra Giarde was with me, Mark and Molly). And I CANNOT stop thinking about it.
Dave expertly tells the story of the Sound City studio in Los Angeles that saw the birth of iconic album after iconic album. But at the end of the day this is a deeply human story about connection, friendship, creativity and the human struggle in the digital age. It offers questions about how we find our communities, express ourselves and honor the past while moving forward into the future. The story builds around a platform - the NEVE board, the thing that sat in the center of the creative musical swirl and created a focal point for these musicians to connect, sweat and scream. To create songs and moments that will endure.
As we walked out into the hall, my brain convulsed and I ended up saying (louder than was probably necessary), "I'm SICK AND TIRED of the questions about "what is the value of membership." MEMBERSHIP is the value of membership."
Yes, associations are changing. Yes, technology is changing. Yes, communications are changing. Yes, we can talk all day long about dues models, governance models, etc., etc., etc. To me, what is not up for debate is the fundamental concept of belonging - the group, the community, the tribe. Maybe it's free. Maybe it isn't. Maybe it's narrowly defined, maybe it's broadly defined. Maybe we call them associations and maybe we don't. There is a lot of room in the middle about HOW it manifests, and what role we can or can't play in facilitating those connections - but the question about WHETHER it manifests or not is just not debatable.
From the symposiums in Greece, to the guilds in Europe, to the salons of the Renaissance to the associations of today - HUMANS NEED CONNECTION. Associations absolutely can be the thing, the NEVE board, the platform to facilitate those connections. Maybe not in the way they have always done it, and with the advent of social media they can't exclusively claim that space anymore. But surely we can stop this grousing, negativity, whining and complaining over the question, "What is the value of membership?"
I'll tell you what the value is. It's getting into a room (virtual or not) with people who understand what I spend 15 hours a day doing. It's the friendships I've made. It's the people I will cry over when they are gone. It's MaryAnne Bobrow waving at me from across the room to invite me to sit with her. It's getting the chance to work with consummate professionals like +Gina Sutherland . It's +KiKi L'Italien taking time out to chat with me on a Hangout, +Vickie Lester who gets my Doctor Who obsession, getting to drink wine and cook some killer chili with +Jeffrey Cufaude and +Steve Swafford, Rick Rutherford listening to my next crazy idea at 9:00 PM on a Thursday night. It's knowing Stephanie Reeves digs Foo Fighters as much as I do. It's hanging in a hallway with +Joan Eisenstodt , +Patricia Hudson and +Leslie White. It's having people like +Mark Athitakis send me an email saying, "Here's a killer book you need to read." It's spirited discussions with +Jeff De Cagna. It's meeting one of my past employees in line at the movie last night and seeing how connections still resonate even after all this time.
It's surprising +Sandra Giarde at Pizza Rock, seeing her smile and sharing a meal, some laughs and a really wonderful movie.
Some connections are deep, some cursory, some tenuous. But all of these connections have created meaning and made my life better. (There are many more of you that I could mention, but this post would be a thousand pages long - you know how I feel about you.) In a world of uncertainty, I am holding onto one thing that I believe is true - that what we do for a living means something. That our community is worth something. Maybe it's naive, maybe I'm in denial - but I cannot see a world where people will not want to organize, to create and to achieve great things with each other as helpers, collaborators and friends. I choose to stand on the side of associations and want to see them do better and thrive.
So yeah, we can argue all day long about what is changing, what should be changed and how we are going to do things differently in the next decade. But what you can't take away from me is the fact that humans need to associate. We need to trust each other and learn from each other. We need to care about each other. We need to be grateful for each other. We need to laugh together, and maybe even give each other a panic attack now and again when we get our emotions in a bunch. We need to argue and create. We need to push ourselves to new levels of performance. We need to miss each other when we are gone.
Maybe when members ask us what the value of membership is, we should tell a real, personal story about how membership has changed us for the better. We bury the story of membership benefits in a stream of nonsense about networking opportunities, legislative advocacy and discounts, etc. We try to "sell" membership in the context of "personal and professional development."
What we never simply say outright is, "Membership IS the value of membership."
Maybe it's time we did.