Walking Your Talk on D+I

Concentric circles of diversity and inclusion work

For those of us who are “on the bus” on the value of genuine diversity and inclusion, this is the crux of the matter: how do we effectively walk our talk on D+I? 

We have to work from the inside out, starting with our own selves, taking steps to uncover and combat our implicit biases, understanding where we do – and do not – have privilege, and answering the question “Now that I know, what will I do?”

To quote Include Is a Verb:

That is, how will you move from unconscious reaction to conscious responsibility? How will you use your privileges to help others and, at the same time, let them use theirs to help you in areas where you lack privilege?

Only then can we begin to move outward, to working on our associations as workplaces, then to our boards of directors and other volunteer leaders, then to our members, then to the professions and industries we serve.

I’d like to conclude this week’s focus on Include Is a Verb: Moving from Talk to Action on Diversity and Inclusion with another quote from the whitepaper:

There’s a poem that begins, “When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.” As the man relating the parable lives his life, he realizes that was too grand a goal. He scales back to changing his nation, only to recognize that, too, as too grand a project. So he decides to focus on his town, and then his family. By the time he’s an old man, he realizes that the only thing he can change, the only thing he can control, is himself, but that when you change yourself, that impacts the people around you, and the people around them, and through that, you can change your nation and the world.

Start there. Pick one thing to change in yourself. Then think about one thing you can work on in your workplace with your colleagues. Then identify one program your association o ers that you can enlist your volunteers and members to help you transform. Small steps will add up to big shifts over time.

My co-author Sherry Marts and whitepaper contributors Joe Gerstandt and Jess Pettitt will be joining KiKi L’Italien for an Association Chat focused on Include Is a Verb on Tuesday, July 11 at 2 pm. You can register here.

And, of course, don’t forget to download the whitepaper itself at http://bit.ly/2peWwP0. It includes interviews with a DELP mentor/scholar team (Shawn Boynes and Desirée Knight) and with Cie Armtead, the current chair of ASAE’s D+I committee; sidebars from noted D+I experts Jessica Pettitt, Joan Eisenstodt, and Joe Gerstandt; and case studies of three associations that are doing outstanding D+I work for the audiences they serve (the Association for Women in Science, the Entomological Society of America, and the Geological Society of America).

Recapping the Outside-In Engagement #Assnchat

Anna Caraveli (The Demand Networks) and I had the opportunity to guest moderate #assnchat on Tuesday, July 14, with discussion focused around the issues we raise in our new whitepaper, Leading Engagement from the Outside-In (download your free copy at http://bit.ly/1GPNUM6).

In case you missed it, here’s a recap of the high points of the conversation.

Q1 How do you currently learn about your audiences? How do you share that knowledge internally?

People up brought up a lot of the usual suspects: demographic data collection, emails, calls, surveys, focus groups, online profiles/subscriptions, and event evaluations.

Partners in Association Management had a great response:

Q2 How are you capturing and sharing learning from less formal interactions?

Brandon Robinson asked:

We all agreed that it did, and Lowell Apelbaum added:

Partners in Association Management also keeps something they call “back pocket lists”: good ideas that couldn’t be implemented at the time someone came up with them that they reserve for a more suitable time.

Q3 What do you know about the outcomes your audiences seek? How are you helping them achieve those outcomes?

This question launched some observations about different generations in the workforce and the association having different goals, with Karen Hansen also pointing out:

We also talked about the whole “what keeps you up at night?” question (which is one of Anna’s favorites), and Lowell Apelbaum observed:

Q4 How do you discover what your audiences really value? How do you use that information?

People had lots of good suggestions here, ranging from pilot programs to trial and error, asking them, tracking behavior, observing what they spread/share/talk about/promote, and Ewald Consulting went kind of Zen Master on us:

That’s deep, man.


Q5 How do you facilitate building authentic relationships w your audiences? Between members?


Lots of great chatter here, too, but Karen Hansen had a simple, powerful response:

Treat members like human beings?!?! Radical concept!

Q6 How do you develop new products/programs/services? How do you collaborate with members on this?

Lowell (who was really on a roll today) had another great response for this one:

When we got to question 7, we kind of heard crickets:


Q7 How do you encourage collaboration between audiences and association? Among members?


Opinion was pretty much universal that this is a big struggle for associations. Kait Solomon pointed out:

Q8 How do you currently define engagement? Is your definition adequate/satisfactory?

Where Kait also observed that “engagement” has become a buzzword, and I quoted Ed Bennett, who recently pointed out that if there’s no ring involved, we probably need to stop talking about engagement and focus on what we really mean: conversation, talking, listening, relationship.

Q9 What do you do with members once you engage them? What’s the next step/goal?

I’m going back to Lowell again:

Our final question, which is the challenge I’m going to leave you with, too was:

Q10 What is one action you could take today to start your association on the path to outside-in engagement?

Not sure how to answer that? Check out the whitepaper at http://bit.ly/1GPNUM6 to get some ideas!

What Makes Community?

Back in the mid-1990s (so, in Internet time, 500 years ago), I was a member of a thriving online community on the Runner’s World website. We shared training regimens, asked each other questions, told race stories, got injury and gear advice, told stupid jokes, gave each other a lot of shit, got into arguments and then made up, and generally had a ball.

“Wait!” you say. “That was, like, 10 years before Facebook or LinkedIn or MySpace or Friendster or any of that stuff. Were you using carrier pigeons to communicate? How did that work?”

The technology was neither intuitive nor sophisticated. I remember how excited we all got when the discussions started being threaded instead of appearing in a Hunter Thompson-esque stream-of-consciousness. There were no community managers, no training videos. No one created a community strategy or marketing and communications plan. It shouldn’t have worked.

But it did.

Why? What makes community?

This question came up a few weeks ago during #assnchat. Many associations have launched private communities of one sort of another at this point, or are at least considering it.

Unsurprisingly, “results vary.”

The question is why.

It’s not like there’s some BIG secret around how to make online communities work.

  • You need organizational buy-in at all levels, but particularly among executives and volunteer leaders.
  • You need dedicated community manager(s) to shepherd process and nurture the community.
  • You need community champions from among your audiences to keep the conversation going.
  • You need a platform that works (from a tech perspective) and is relatively intuitive to use.
  • You need to educate your audiences (ALL your audiences) in how to use that platform, and do it in bite-sized chunks and in a variety of formats.
  • You need to give people a reason to show up and participate, and to keep coming back.
  • You need to remember the 90-9-1 rule and learn to love your lurkers.
  • You need to communicate what’s going on in the community with your audiences on an ongoing basis.

But even with all that, your community can still fall flat.


Passion, or to be more precise, lack thereof.

People have to care, about each other, about the topics being discussed, about sharing knowledge, about learning from each other, about projects they’re working on together.

Or, as Jamie Notter would say: “It’s all about love.”

If you have it, there’s a good chance your online community will make it, even in the absence of a manager or a strategy or a communications plan or even adequate technology. Without it, you could have the best strategy and marketing and staffing and platform and support in the world, and it will probably flop anyway.

What is your association doing to discover and support your audiences’ passion?

Unsuck Your Meetings

WAY back on Tuesday, August 1, the weekly #assnchat topic was productivity and time management, a personal favorite.

I didn’t exactly do a rigorously scientific poll, but the #1 answer to “biggest productivity killer” was: meetings. Planned meetings, unplanned meetings, drop in meetings, “do you have a few minutes?” meetings – just about everyone hated meetings.

“Of course!”, right?

Confession: I have an (earned) reputation as someone who is high-energy, highly productive, never misses a deadline (99% of the time, I deliver early), cranks out the work, usually at above-average quality.

I am about 1000% *more* productive now that I’m working for myself and not spending 25%-50% of each day in meetings.

(Look out, world.)

Given that everyone was sharing the hate for meetings, I pretty quickly posed the question: “how do we unsuck meetings?”

Answers included:

  1. People receive a formal agenda in advance. No agenda = no meeting. After all, if there’s nothing you need to cover, why force everyone to sit around a conference table for an hour?
  2. There are defined outcomes. Again, if you’re not trying to accomplish anything – or you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish – why are you wasting everyone’s time?
  3. Collaboration takes place. I’m not so sure about this one (more below).
  4. Clearly defined and communicated action items. This is more of a post-meeting item, but I agree that any decisions that are made need to be documented, any tasks that need to be done need the same, and you must assign responsibility and due dates.
  5. NO standing meetings. Ooooo. This is a tough one. If you have a busy, high-profile group, there’s pressure to have standing meetings, or you fear not being able to get them together when you need them. On the other hand, if we dramatically cut down on the number of meetings we have (by, say, killing standing meetings), the problem might fix itself.

On the whole “collaboration” issue, I agree that TRUE collaboration can bring about better results. But it seems like “working collaboratively” has been dumbed down to “let’s have a zillion meetings and include anyone and everyone who’s even peripherally related to what’s going on.” And that demonstrably make us less creative and ultimately, less productive. Turns out, the best way to work in teams is to assign out pieces of the project to individuals, let them go away and do the work on their own, and come back together periodically but briefly to attack problems people need help with, and have ONE person (the project manager?) assigned to do the coordinating.

Finally, a thought exercise: the next time you’re in some interminable, agenda-less, all hands on deck type meeting, look around the room. Who’s there? Guesstimate her/his hourly rate (annual salary/2 and drop the thousands is close enough, plus about 30% for benefits – so $100K a year = $65 a hour), then add it up around the room and multiple times the number of hour/s you’re all stuck there.

Does it still seem worth it?

Twitter Story: Chat

Is your association using chat at all to reach out to members?

NACHRI used chat, as embedded in Adobe Connect, rather successfully this past summer to host a discussion with a panel of experts on a critical, time-sensitive policy issue (for the curious, the idea of community benefit in hospitals and how it might affect their tax status). We were able to go from idea to hosting the chat in about 2 1/2 weeks, we had about 60 participants on the day, and the transcript was later posted to our web site (on the linked wiki that does require membership to access). All in all, a very successful event.

But there were a few downsides – you had to register in advance (and be a member even to do that) and have the client side of Adobe Connect set up properly. If you found out too late or had technical difficulties with the platform, you were out of luck.

What if that same task could have been accomplished without all the hoops?

It can – chatting through Twitter, a good example of which is #assnchat.

What is #assnchat? A large group of association pros regularly gather on Twitter (weekly, Tuesday, 2 pm ET) to chat about association related topics.

What do they talk about? Anything and everything. You know how great it is when you end up at the Right Table at lunch at a conference, or standing in the Right Group at the cocktail party, or you meet someone who’s really smart and engaging and knowledgeable? That’s what #assnchat is like every week.

Want to participate? Follow#assnchat on Tuesdays.

Feel like it would be too hard to follow from Twitter, TweetDeck or Hootsuite? Check out TweetChat next Tuesday.

Does your association use chat? If you aren’t using chat, why not? If you are, have you tried it on Twitter?