Over the past ten years, I’ve worked at three different trade associations and have made friends at many others. After all that time, I feel like I can say this with a certain level of comfort: it’s pretty weird to work in the association industry.
It’s weird because you’re all working to assist a spectrum of different sectors – there’s a trade association for restaurants, banks, broadcasters, realtors, morticians, even deer breeders – but, really, you’re all mostly looking to do the same thing: to share information for the betterment of your industry and society at large.
This is harder to do than it sounds. Human beings are pretty bad at communication. We are often just as bad at wanting to communicate, or knowing what to communicate. In order to amend this, nearly every association I’ve ever known has investigated the possibility of building an online forum or networking group where people can share information, policies, and trends.
However, there is only one that I’m aware of that’s successfully pulled it off. And that’s TCEA.
Building a Community
TCEA’s Community is the most successful forum I’ve seen yet in my decade in this industry. I receive emails every time someone makes a post or comment in the Community, and I have to admit, I’m always cheered when I get one email when someone posts a problem and then a second email just ten minutes later when someone else posts a solution. It really is an extraordinarily rare, wonderful thing. No one else has this.
And I wonder why. Some of it may be the nature of education as an industry – I know some other commercial associations would probably claim anti-trust or liability issues as a reason not to bother trying this – but I sincerely think a lot of this is probably just the nature of our members.
Educators are helpers. Educators who specialize in or utilize technology will naturally want to use technology to help. While plenty of other organizations will see a need and its technological solution as a problem — much like when I, a homeowner, notice the caulk on a sink is breaking away and think, “I’ll fix this, but, ugh, not today” — TCEA and its educator membership see no reason to sit still and not apply that solution.
This is a remarkable thing. This is an unusual thing. I can’t stress this enough: TCEA and its members are the exception, not the rule.
So even though New Year’s Eve is a couple of weeks away, I’d like to suggest you consider this resolution: if you haven’t already, come check out our Community and see what sort of discussions are taking place there. (Recently, resources and ideas were shared for copyright-free images sites, oral administration support, STEM lessons with duct tape, best math websites, and free iOS apps, just to name a few.)
To have so many people in one place willingly sharing ideas, policies, problems, and fixes is truly is an anomaly. Not just in associations, but maybe in human nature itself. Don’t take it for granted! Come join the discussion.Chris Liverani