Associations and Climate Change: The Podcast

Many of the options for responding to climate change we’re offered are at the super-macro (UN COP meetings) or super-micro (get an electric car!) levels.

What about all the stuff in the middle? You know, like ASSOCIATIONS?

Shelly Alcorn and I recently had the opportunity to join Cecilia Sepp for the Radio Free 501c podcast to discuss our new whitepaper, The Time Is Now: Association Resilience and Adaptation and the Anthropocene Climate Disruption.

The conversation focused on associations’ role as vehicles for social change, the business imperative to act, and specific steps we can take within our sphere of influence to address this global “wicked problem.”

Are you interested in partnering with your fellow association executives to share good practices and take on projects related to how you can address climate change in your internal operations, member-facing work, and/or as a leader and representative of the profession or industry you serve?

  1. Download the whitepaper.
  2. While you’re there, take our three-question pulse-check survey.
  3. Also while you’re there, share your contact information so we can keep you in the loop about next steps (it’s entirely voluntary).



Associations Creating Community to Address Climate Change

Shelly Alcorn and I recently sat down (virtually) to talk with Whiteford, Taylor & Preston’s Jefferson Glassie about The Time Is Now: Association Resilience and Adaptation and the Anthropocene Climate Disruption, our recently-released whitepaper that lays out the case that associations both can and should take the lead on addressing climate change for our own industry, for our members, and for the professions and industries our associations exist to serve, not only for moral reasons but as a critical business imperative.

The whitepaper details the scope and extent of the impact of climate disruption on associations large and small and emphasizes the wide range of options available to associations to support their respective and concentric communities.

Shelly and I are working on creating an association community of practice to assist in these efforts. We believe that providing a space for association executives to share their insights into conduct, actions, and practices they are undertaking is critical to our success as a community in addressing this “wicked problem.” If you’d like more information, please visit and give us your name and email address (scroll to the bottom for the comment form).

As Jefferson pointed out in the podcast, this discussion relates to perhaps the most important community to which we all belong, the human community, and illustrates how we must take concerted action to protect our human and non-human relations.


Navigating These Wicked Waters

Shelly Alcorn and I recently had the opportunity to be interviewed by KiKi L’Italien for Association Chat on association leadership strategies for climate chaos.

We talked about our new whitepaper, The Time Is Now: Association Resilience and Adaptation and the Anthropocene Climate Disruption; shared some stories of associations that are doing good work in this area; discussed how we ourselves stay motivated to work for change even in the face of bad news and seemingly daunting odds; highlighted the fact that (to quote Global Optimism) “stubborn optimism is a deliberate mindset;” and revealed the bigger project Shelly and I are in the process of launching related to this work, the Association Climate Action Coalition.


Caveat Emptor: The Podcast

Decisions, decisions: we make them all day long. But what fuels our decision-making? Research!

Every association executive uses research to make decisions, and often we’re responsible for conducting – or at least sponsoring – original research.

How can we ensure that the research we’re using or creating is good quality, able to support evidence-based decisions that produce good outcomes?

That’s the question that drove my and Polly Karpowicz’s recent conversation with Cecilia Sepp for the Radio Free 501c podcast, where we discussed our whitepaper Caveat Emptor: Becoming a Responsible Consumer of Research.

The conversation touched on what everyone should know about research, how we can educate ourselves to make the best choices, and how most of us learn it on the job. (We also talked about our gardens!) Listen to this fun and wide ranging episode.

Association Meetings in a Post-Roe World

On Tuesday, October 11, Shelly Alcorn hosted Joan Eisenstodt and me on The Phoenix Cast for an important conversation about association meetings in a post-Roe world.

Just as meetings are starting to recover from pandemic shutdowns, new (and old) laws are putting pregnant attendees at significant risk.

The key thing I think associations need to take from our conversation is that choices about where we host our meetings could be putting pregnant attendees at SIGNIFICANT risk if they have a medical emergency related to pregnancy during the event.

In the immediate term, association execs and boards need to talk that through and make a plan for your next event.

In the longer term, we need to talk, as a community, about what this means in terms of equity of access (or lack thereof) for attendees.

We also need a plan as an industry to respond to this. As we saw back in 2016-17 when we came together to respond to the rash of transphobic “bathroom bills,” there is strength in numbers!

Most of all, DO NOT ignore this situation.

Edited to add: ASAE has recently released a decision guide to help association executives think through implications of our choices in conference location decisions. Learn more about it and download the guide here

What Is Your Real Mission?

Last fall, I had the opportunity to participate in The Boondoggle. Organized by Joe Gerstandt and Jason Lauritsen, it provided an opportunity for 10 people who didn’t know each other to sit in a cabin outside Omaha for 2 1/2 days and think and talk deeply about the future of work.

By the afternoon of day two, we’d pretty much all gotten past the posturing, and we were finally getting real. We had grouped all the previous day and half’s work into key themes, then we did an exercise where teams were assigned to facilitate a discussion around each of the key themes.

My partner and I were assigned to facilitate a discussion around finding meaning in your work, which led us into talking about organizational mission, and how that aligns – or doesn’t align – with personal values.

Now I’m not saying that everyone has to find deep meaning in her work. I think it’s completely acceptable to “just” a job that pays your bills, and find your meaning in your family and friends or your religious community or your volunteer work or your avocation.

But I do think that if you want to find meaning in your work, that option should be available to you. And everyone doesn’t have to find the same meaning. If your meaning is saving puppies or teaching kids to read, that’s great. But your meaning could be a fat title and a fatter paycheck. It could be amassing personal power. You should’ve have to “greenwash” what’s really important to you.

The problem is, every organization – for profit or otherwise – has a mission statement. But most of them are so much sunny bullshit.

If you want to know what an organization really values, look at what they reward.

Do they say they value customer service, but their default answer to everything is “that’s against policy”?

Do they claim to value teamwork, but reward kingdom building and territoriality?

Do they say they provide quality products and services at competitive prices…and don’t?

Do they say they want innovation, then automatically shoot down every new idea anyone proposes?

And even when what the organization actually values isn’t in direct conflict with what the organization claims to value, mission statements are often nothing more than empty platitudes that sound nice and mean nothing.

Why not be honest?

If your organization will do ANYTHING – exploit low-skilled workers, pollute the environment, skirt taxes and regulations – to make your widget 5 cents cheaper than the other guy’s, admit it.

If you really do value excellent customer service above all, live it, and tell people.

If what your organization really wants is to never, under any circumstances, rock the boat in your industry or profession, say so.

If you aim to change the world in some tangible way no matter what the cost to the people involved, let people know.

Brand authenticity drives brand loyalty. If you’re open and authentic about what life is really like inside your organization, you’ll find yourself doing business with staff and customers who are truly of a like mind and can align themselves with what your organization is truly values, not some nice, sappy-sounding thing that’s on your website that is patently false.

There really are people who would love to work at a place where the profit motive is the most important thing. There really are people who want to change things so badly, they will not count the personal cost. It’s not everyone, but if, as an organization, you can be honest about what you really value, the people who do choose to do business with you will be choosing that from an authentic place and will, ultimately, be happier.

Be authentic, warts and all. Someone will still love you and want exactly what you’re offering.