During Jeffrey Cufaude's ASAE11 Ignite presentation on living a sustainable life, he quoted Mary Catherine Bateson: "we're living longer but thinking shorter." And I got thinking about the concept of thinking small.
Associations are under tremendous pressure right now. The economy is not getting any better. Social media, to quote Jamie Notter and paraphrase Clay Shirky, is kicking our asses. Generational shifts are battering our traditional membership and leadership models. Peak oil and global climate change are beginning to affect our society in countless ways, one of which may very likely be to cripple our traditional educational and networking models. What volunteers are looking for, and the hoops they're willing to jump through in order to get it, has changed in ways that render traditional board and committee service models obsolete. Information is no longer scarce, and even the most backwards and self-delusional associations can't pretend to hold a monopoly on it any more.
Everything in our environment is whispering: "Protect your ass. Guard your turf. Trust no one. Rock no boats. Prepare for the worst."
In other words: "Think small."
Sure - think small, and watch your organization die.
Now, as Jamie has pointed out, your association - my association - has no inherent right to exist. And if the best thing for your profession/industry/community/audiences is for your organization to die, then get on with it and decrease the surplus population.
But if you do believe that your organization brings something useful and good to some group of people, now is exactly the time to think big, take chances, rock the boat, make change, and see where it can take you.
It's easy to be afraid now - a lot of shit is going down. But if we can get past the fear and be courageous and willing to take risks, we have HUGE opportunities to do better by our members, our professions/industries, our audiences, and maybe even the world. As my good friend Catherine says: "What are they going to do - take away your birthday?"
At the end of his Ignite session, Joe Gerstandt asked us: "Do you approach life from fear or from love?"
It's time to choose.