Using ASAE ForesightWorks to Manage the COVID-19 Crisis and Conference Plans

27 April 2020
Topic(s)
Foresight

Tools for Association Leaders Managing COVID-19 Crisis and Annual Conference Plans

Seemingly overnight, the COVID-19 public health crisis has dramatically impacted our reality in unanticipated ways. This crisis has been transformative without much warning. It is no doubt that the quarantine orders have affected annual conference plans for at least the next few months; I suspect that the most intuitive, effective leaders are already thinking and planning for future impacts resulting from this crisis.

It may benefit your organization to have a discussion on how the crisis is impacting the future of some of your big strategic initiatives. This is a great way to get acquainted, or reacquainted, with the ASAE ForesightWorks drivers of change.

ForesightWorks identifies four purposes why associations should embrace foresight (see Figure 2 from ASAE). One, in particular, is very relevant in the current landscape -Number 2- Risk Analysis:

Risk analysis. You probably monitor political and legal changes that could affect your association or industry, but are you also identifying future risks to your association’s business model, your programs, and other operational factors? The greatest risk for leaders may be in refusing to acknowledge and plan for important and predictable changes. While advocacy and membership staff are likely accustomed to scanning for potential risks related to their work, key participants in foresight-informed risk analysis also include leaders in finance, business operations, information technology, and communications functions—where urgent threats are likely to emerge. Considering the ASAE ForesightWorks drivers of change will help staff leaders examine potential risks and identify potential action steps, enabling executives to take thoughtful and actionable recommendations to the board. Ultimately, association executives will need to draw their boards and key committees into developing and enacting the steps required to mitigate future risk. Not only is it part of their fiduciary responsibility to protect the association’s future, but volunteer leaders will need to make informed decisions when approving significant budget changes or taking the association’s business model in new directions.

While association leaders are now preoccupied in navigating force majeure contract clauses and cash flow issues like never before, it might be the most appropriate time to consider a discussion around ForesightWorks. A discussion around the impacts of this crisis can invoke strong opinions, especially if we all have diverse political opinions. Using the foresight filter can be an effective way of facilitating a discussion around shifting strategic priorities, changing program expenditures, etc. It can also help when doing scenario planning that might seem gloomy. By identifying a few relevant drivers of change, association leaders can more easily identify risks and start imagining opportunities despite the uncertain. As a starting point, consider the six clusters of “Drivers of Change” that ForesightWorks identifies:

  • Data & Technology
  • Content, Learning, and Knowledge
  • Demographics and Membership
  • Economic Conditions
  • Society and Politics
  • Workforce and Workplace

Think of the ways the current crisis might impact your organization in these six clusters. Consider these questions as sample starting points in considering threats and opportunities:

  • How will the economic impact of the crisis impact members’ professions and/or businesses?
  • How will the demand for members’ services change if people’s disposable income changes?
  • How can my organization position itself as a go-to resource for media content?

Practicing foresight is above all about being prepared for what could happen. Although no amount of foresight could have prepared us for the events that have transpired and continue to unfold, association leaders can still use the ForesightWorks research to inform their response to immediate and future impacts by seeing this unprecedented event as an opportunity to be of most value to members rather than a catastrophe that threatens their very existence.

Start the Discussion Here:

What might your organization look like one month from now? 6 months from now? Then confirm a group consensus on how the organization will approach moving forward.

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