The Power of Collaboration

The dictionary defines associations and collaboration as one and the same.

If an association is a group organised for a joint purpose, or a co-operative link between organisations … and collaboration is working with someone to produce something. How can they be different? How can associations not collaborate?

Collaboration is more than engaging members and markets …

  • How collaborative is your approach between board, executive and staff?
  • Is your government strategy a mutual collaboration or an advocacy pitch?
  • Do you collaborate with non-members? Disaffected members?
  • Would you collaborate with a rival to deliver more value to members?
  • What about your suppliers, vendors and other stakeholders – do they have a collaborative voice in your association?
  • Can you identify your sector’s next big trend without collaborating?


Historically associations were established to create a nucleus around which sectors could cooperate and collaborate. This hub and spoke model with associations in the centre made them indispensable. But the traditional hub and spoke model has been replaced by a decentralised network economy. Like the internet itself, it has no centre and it is no longer reliant on any one organisation. It is an interconnected web of associations, governments and commercial organisations competing for relevance.

This makes any single association completely dispensable unless it continually delivers new value. And collaboration is an effective way to create value faster, together.

Think of the most powerful association today. What would happen if it closed? Its void would be filled by any number of competitors. The sector would continue regardless. Think about your own association. If you disappeared, what would happen to the members you serve? They would continue on, and get their needs met by other providers.

This is not doom and gloom. It is a mindset shift. Once associations accept they are dispensable, they must innovate to maintain relevance by creating value. And it is the creation of new value that is a catalyst for collaboration.

Collaboration moves associations beyond a zero sum approach, to embrace the needs of all stakeholders. Collaboration is the only way to deliver everyone’s needs – together, in association. We have been (falsely) conditioned that there must be a loser for every winner. This is a fallacy – except in sport where it is the end game. Why can’t both sides win? Together, collaboration creates value for the future that is not possible alone. An African proverb unfolds a beautiful truth: “If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.” For associations in it for the long-term, collaboration is the way forward.

In the spirit of collaboration, here are some links to other useful resources:

Association Events & Workshops

Association Blogs

Thank You 

  • Thank you to Beaumont Consulting for purchasing copies of The Future of Associations for distribution to some their clients, and for their collaboration in providing their amazing Sydney CBD conference facility for the Association Masterclass on 30 June 2017.

The Future of Associations

  • Buy the Book – $23.99 or $18.99 for AuSAE members.
  • Attend the WorkshopAssociation Masterclass 1 Day. 2 Cities. 6 Strategies. 2-for-1 Offer Expires 7 April. Save $325 per delegate by registering today. Sydney and Melbourne.