Focusing on the future.
Public and private organizations are coming to realize that paying attention to their external environment could help them avoid some difficulties that have plagued them in the past. The result is an emerging interest in the study of the future as a way of better understanding what is going on externally and where significant changes might lead. Even more important, understanding trends and their implications can open the door to opportunities.
The identification of a trend immediately becomes more useful if that trend is interpreted for its implications, including the potential issues that it may raise. What does it mean for the future of associations? What actions and policy changes could be required?
Trends shaping the next 20-30 years range from demographic trends to trends in values, technology and science, government, education, the global economy, and the environment. The time horizon of two to three decades is long enough to see the maturing of some long-term trends but not so long that the discussion of their outcomes and implications becomes uncertain and vague.
Trend 1: Demographics
Demography is the study of populations. People-driven organizations like associations have a special need for this information. Many associations probably already use microdemographics to help them understand and market their services. This section looks at broad demographic trends affecting the United States and discusses their implications for associations.
* The U.S. population will increase by 25 percent, from 257 million in 1993 to 322 million in 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Population growth creates the opportunity for associations to greatly expand their membership and their services. Rather than a few associations absorbing all the growth and becoming enormous entities, it is more likely that hundreds of new associations will be formed to meet evolving needs. It will be more important for large associations to decide whether to push for their own growth, to become a holding association umbrella for would-be spinoff groups, or to encourage the spinoffs to break free and flourish.
* The United States is becoming a society of diverse racial and ethnic groups. Making diversity work organizationally implies acknowledging, valuing, and working with differences.
Associations will have the opportunity to do this in recruiting, hiring, performance evaluation, promotion, succession planning, and training and development for staff and membership. Each association has to decide how to integrate ethnic and racial diversity into its structure.
* Regional differences will influence the nation's growing diversity. California, Florida, and the states of the western tier, as well as the eastern and northeastern states will continue becoming more diverse, while some states in the West, Midwest, and Central Plains will remain less so.
In the long term, associations with broad memberships will probably need a regional strategy, adding regional centers to offer services based on regional needs. Regional associations, or those operating in areas where the population is becoming more diverse, should consider new services and membership options to match the changing environment. For some associations, publications may have to be translated as diversity spreads throughout the membership. What resources will be available to support these new demands?
* The United States is an aging nation. The trend toward a larger older population will be gradual until 2010, when the elderly population will grow by 73 percent as the first baby boomers turn 65 and the grandparent boom begins. The U.S. political agenda will shift gradually toward the concerns of the elderly: security, affordable health care, and quality of life.
With a larger mature generation, more retirees will be available to work. Large associations can be innovative in their response to aging: by investing in supervised-care housing, for example, or creating and updating an agenda of issues and concerns related to the elderly. The smaller association with only a few older members might consider allying with others to carry out an effective membership strategy, pooling resources to offer services to their mature members. Those associations that offer free lifetime memberships to their retiring members should review this policy.
* After 1995, more of the 18-to-24-year-olds (a group that will remain a relatively small part of the population) will be Asian Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics. This shift in the composition of the younger population has implications for education, for the entry-level work force, and for changes in lifestyles and behavior among the young. There are wide differences in educational attainment among minorities - particularly among recent immigrants, for example, who may lag behind the base population in education.
The changing size and composition of the 18-to-24-year-old group should spur innovations in recruiting and in membership. Associations that rely on recruiting young staff may find the pool smaller and the educational level lower than they would like. If so, they should explore other options, such as remedial education and the possibility of recruiting from a larger area. Yet another option would be to automate more functions. A task force could be charged with the job of finding suitable targets.
Associations will also have to make themselves more attractive as places to work and, for individual-member-based associations, as groups to join. For example, professional associations could make the task of planning a career within a chosen profession easier. Members and staff could offer seminars that include a trial membership to college-age or high school groups. Internships are another tool that could be used more.
Increasingly, associations will have to pay more attention to orientation of staff and volunteers. In the longer term, associations must move minorities up through the association and be more effective at recruiting minority members and volunteers.
* The 75 million people in the baby boom generation are going through a period of intense family formation that will occupy their time, attention, and interest for the rest of the decade. Because most baby boom parents work, their family concerns are deepened by guilt about spending enough time with, or paying attention to, their children. Associations, like other employers in the 1990s, will be driven to reorient their workplaces around the needs of these hardworking but stressed men and women.
Many of this generation's working parents may see association membership as essential but, because of time pressures, join fewer and are selective about offering volunteer time. An association that can rethink volunteer tasks and assignments and make them possible to accomplish while meeting family commitments will be preferred. For example, more tasks could be done through electronic mail and computer conferencing. Working spouses who come to meetings would appreciate a workroom with computers, faxes, and other equipment, as well as day care and family events.
* The baby boomers, whose entry-level numbers kept the work force young in the 1970s, now lead the middle-aging of that work force into the 21st century. Associations could face rising costs associated with a maturing work force: in pay, benefits, pensions, and health care and in the need for professional development and retraining to keep individuals' skills current.
The aging work force and the membership that is probably maturing at about the same rate raise important issues for executives to consider. Those in 501(c)(3) associations should anticipate more focus on fund-raising within the membership, shifting the emphasis to deferred giving and estate planning, for example. In the long term, where are new members to come from? Does the membership make special efforts to bring new people into the group? Do mature members have the opportunity to mentor young members? Are the staff and volunteers aware of the need to recruit people younger and different from themselves?
* Hispanics are the fastest growing population group. Hispanics are a huge pool of potential members. However, they represent a cultural challenge to an association community in the United States that is mostly cast in a North American mode of organization and operation.
What will Hispanics need to feel comfortable in associations, either as members or as staff? Will today's staff have to learn Spanish? Should meetings and social events be organized differently to meet wider expectations of such events? Associations also have to avoid treating Hispanics as a homogeneous group by learning and responding to their cultural differences and interests.
* Asian Americans are high achievers. Since they tend to belong to cohesive family and community groups, they will undoubtedly form at least some of their own associations. As a well-educated and professionally oriented group, for the most part, they are also a desirable membership and staff pool.
* African Americans in the metropolitan United States are dividing demographically into two populations: those becoming part of the urban and suburban middle class and those left in the poorer urban neighborhoods. African Americans who have attained middle-class status are looking for ways to increase their incomes, build assets, progress in their careers, perhaps own businesses, and give something back to their communities.
All of these offer opportunities for associations to help blacks meet these goals. Tailoring benefits and workplace amenities and services for staff would be one approach. African Americans in business generally have found workplace peer groups useful and supportive, especially when encouraged by management. Similar peer groups among the membership might be beneficial. Financial planning, investment programs, education and development activities, and support for community service could attract and keep black members. All these activities may be equally attractive to members of other population groups.
* The United States is staying on the move. Two long-term trends in mobility are important to the future of associations: 1) People continue to move to metropolitan areas, contributing to the growth of the polycentric city (the ring of newer cities around the older core city). 2) The U.S. population continues its shift to the South and the West.
These trends ought to be a factor in planning an association's future space and location needs. Given the pace of technology improvement in telecommunications and computers, an association may be able to locate in a less expensive region and still conduct its business and provide member services as effectively as if it were in a center of population growth. Alternatively, large associations could localize many of their operations in places where the cost of housing is less and salaries are lower.
Trend 2: Social change
Shifting values strongly influence lifestyles and personal decisions.
* Middle-class values will become dominant in the United States. What makes up these values is evolving and includes the following trends: increasing questioning and rejection of authority, increasing focus on quality over quantity, and increasing commitment to seeking solutions for social problems through organizational mechanism rather than through personal action.
Delivering good information impartially will be more important for an association than assuming a position of authority.
The association will have to align with emerging expectations of service quality. It could decide to take a leadership position that sets an example for others in the field. If it does so, then the opportunity to offer members training and services related to quality would be available.
As institutions, associations are among those groups that people look to for the fair resolution of problems. They therefore have at least two alternatives. One is to become a model problem-solving institution. Another is to seize leadership in exploring alternatives to involving lawyers and complicated procedures.
* Nontraditional families will proliferate. The proliferation of family arrangements will create new pressures on employers to be flexible and responsive in relation to working hours and benefits. It may be important for the association to explain to its membership what the issues are in relation to alternative family styles and to discuss what the implications are for the association, its programs, and services.
* One of the important worklife developments over the next decade - particularly for white-collar workers and professionals - will be distributed work. Distributed work is work that can be done anywhere a person can connect through telecommunications to the home office. The association, being primarily a service- and information-based organization, ideally can show members how to train for, establish, and manage distributed work. Present technology adequately supports distributed work, but associations will probably find it necessary to invest in the emerging technologies to make their staffs more productive and to support member services.
* The white-collar and service sectors of the work force will continue to lag in productivity, quality, service, and reliability. The key to greater productivity may be in more training. Most organizations are willing to spend dollars on new equipment but only pennies on training people to use the new equipment. As a service to members, the association may be able to evaluate and recommend approaches, training, research, and new practices that can improve productivity.
* The contingent work force is growing, and distinctions between permanent and temporary are blurring. Associations are benefiting from the trend toward temporary and contingent work by gaining more flexibility in hiring. Members' own lack of job security, however, can undermine their willingness to pay dues and their commitment to full participation in association activities. With the security of work disappearing as a source of advancement in a field or profession, members will come to look at their associations in a new way. The association will be the source of professional contacts, of knowing what is going on in a field, and so forth.
* Women will drive workplace change. As women move into all levels and positions in associations, they will undoubtedly influence how associations operate. There may in the future be a range of associations, from the hypermasculine to the superfeminine, with the majority falling in between those extremes.
Trend 3: Globalization
Almost all associations will be affected in some way by globalization. The effects could range from a growing international membership to coping with the implications of a buyout of several member companies by Japanese firms. Even among those associations that believe they have only domestic concerns, global issues will creep in: the effect of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) on the work force, for example, or overseas competition from an unanticipated source.
* Nations are dividing into three economic sectors: World 1 (wealthier nations that dominate the world marketplace - including the United States, Japan, Canada, and most of Western Europe); World 2 (countries whose economies will grow at a high rate compared to the rest of the world during the next few decades - including China, Thailand, Chile, and Korea); World 3 (destitute nations, including Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Haiti).
World 2 countries, whose economies are growing in size and diversity, have expanding business and professional classes. These will provide the most need and opportunity for associations' expansion into a new clientele.
* Changes in world populations will fuel the global economy. More than 90 percent of the growth in population will occur in Worlds 2 and 3. World 1's share of the population will shrink from roughly 23 percent in 1990 to about 16 percent by 2025. Worldwide, the percentage of people living in urban areas is now' close to 44 percent. By 2020, almost 60 percent of the world's population will reside in urban areas.
Continuing urbanization will create new metropolitan areas and enlarge others. A greater demand for services that associations provide will coincide with the growth in these areas. American associations are well-respected and should find themselves welcome around the world - unless they move in and try to take over, that is. They must be more willing to be partners in a world conference of associations.
* The economies of nations are becoming increasingly interconnected as new global information and transportation systems facilitate international trading. Many associations will be required to develop a detailed understanding of the global economy as it affects them and their members' activities.
* As competition in the global marketplace increases, work is being redistributed. World 2 and 3 nations are providing reliable, low-wage workers, which has attracted many of the low-skill, labor-intensive jobs previously based in World 1 nations. Associations can help members understand the full implications of job migration, including the risks as well as the opportunities. Through lobbying, associations can seek to ensure that if the relocation of members' jobs cannot be prevented, appropriate action is taken to cushion the effects.
* Regional and global trading blocs are forming around the world. The scope Of these blocs is likely to expand during the next 20 years. As agreements take form, associations will play a useful role in guiding their memberships through the changes that result and in assisting them in developing new opportunities.
* American business is facing increased global competition at home and abroad. Associations should lead in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of our new competitors and assist their members in being active in response to the challenges. Associations may serve some industry groups as a united front in their efforts to out-compete foreign competitors. This would include strategy sessions, lobbying, and greater cooperation among member organizations.
* Large new markets for goods and services are emerging rapidly. As exports to industrialized countries continue to decline, sales of American goods and services to developing and newly industrializing countries are increasing rapidly. Understanding the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America will be useful in serving the needs of members who are already active in the global marketplace.
* The massive scale and diversity of the emerging global economy is driving many organizations into strategic alliances or partnerships. Associations can assist their members in planning for effective alliances. They may also be required to define or negotiate some of the standards for products or delivery of services that will form the basis of cooperation among strategic partners.
Trend 4: Information technology
Being at the forefront of changes in technology will enable associations to get closer to their membership.
* Information networks are drastically modifying all association relationships. Members will expect their associations to be online and to provide various services and options for collecting, adding value to, and delivering information. New combinations and groupings of members and member interests will be possible through the use of online forums and databases. Association executives will have to be technologically literate to help plan their association's information network strategy.
* Information technology is removing the limitations of distance and time. Go-anywhere communication will become a reality. Today's cellular phones and pagers are the beginning of this trend. The personal communicator - a purse, pocket, or eventually a wrist phone - is foreseen as the ultimate outcome.
Portable seamless communication provides associations with greater opportunity to meet directly with members or regulators. It is likely that the association headquarters will be less occupied and may enable associations to cut back on the office space they require. On the other hand, the effects on chapter relations must be considered. A big part of association activities, especially for local organizations, is the opportunity to meet with each other - the constant use of electronic meetings could reduce the sense of affiliation with a group that many people value.
* Images are pervading daily communication . . . expanding the senses one uses at work and play. People's intimacy with information, including data and images, is growing as information technology evolves. This evolution is leading to virtual reality, in which people experience sensory stimulation through electronics as though they were in another place.
Every aspect of the association's information and communication functions wilt be affected by imaging technologies. Images will be a key part of the association's information technology tool kit.
Virtual reality will not affect most associations before the turn of the century, but its development warrants monitoring. Associations could consider pioneering the technology by becoming information clearinghouses, or experimental centers, for virtual reality or other cutting-edge technologies, because developmental costs will likely exceed the capacities of most individual members.
* Videoconferencing will reshape travel. Videoconferencing is becoming a desktop PC-to-PC technology. Videoconferencing and video telephony will converge, allowing one-on-one interaction or multiperson conferences with participants at their desks. Desktop videoconferencing will eventually involve multiwindow screens, with a person per screen and a shared blackboard and images of documents, diagrams, or text.
Videoconferencing is both a threat and a potential enhancement to an association's conference business. It may allow remote participation for members who otherwise would have to miss a meeting or conference. It may make it possible to invite speakers who otherwise would not be available. Conversely, videoconferencing may eliminate or reduce meeting attendance.
* Electronic publishing will substitute for and complement print. Associations preparing newsletters or journals should stay abreast of developments in this technology. Advanced versions, benefiting from multimedia computer technology during the next decade, will enable electronic journals to carry sound clips, video clips, three-dimensional animations, and simulations. The key challenge for the technology will be developing the prestige and reputation of online journals.
* Artificial intelligence will augment and replace workers. Artificial intelligence (AI) is hardware and software that mimic functions especially well-developed in people. Significant progress is being made in expert systems, "knowbots" (knowledge robots or intelligent database-searching software), translation, speech recognition, and voice synthesis.
AI may not have immediate effects on many associations, but its future applications will be important. Expert systems enhance the power of information workers within associations and member organizations. Associations could be at the ford rout of monitoring the effects of AI on members.
* New information technologies will continue to lead to new privacy and security issues. Associations will have to balance their inherent interest in gathering information about members against members' privacy concerns. Industrial espionage may be a key issue for some association members. Mobile communication is particularly vulnerable.
Associations may have an opportunity to help members protect their data and communication. An emerging tool that associations should evaluate is encryption technology. Encryption is a technique for scrambling communication so that only the intended audience can unscramble it. The Software Publishers Association, Washington, D.C., has estimated that within five years most mass-market software programs will include data, text, and file encryption capabilities.
Members need assurance that the information they provide to the association will not be disseminated without their permission. Associations should consider examining their operations to see what, if any, information requires additional security measures.
Trend 5: Science, technology, and the environment
During the next 25 years, science and technology will continue to revolutionize our lives and even reshape association agendas. In part, they will do this by hatching new businesses, professions, hobbies, and charitable efforts.
* Four enabling technologies are reshaping business, industry, and life: information technology, genetics, materials science, and energy technology. The four are enabling technologies because they are the basis for developments in nearly every field of science and technology.
Association leaders will need to be at least broadly familiar with these key technologies in relation to their own mission. Advances in genetics, materials science, and energy technology will be important, even to those associations without a specific science or technology focus, because, among other things, they will affect the cost of running the association and influence the political climate for regulation and science and technology funding.
* Science and technology education will grow critical as Americans lose ground. Beliefs are mounting that, overall, America's science and technology knowledge is slipping. Associations must consider whether there are gaps in their membership between the technology-rich and the technology-poor and whether it would be in the interests of all to bridge those gaps with training, continuing education, and technology laboratories for members.
* People are more concerned about the environment and taking action. Environmentalism is emerging as a full-blown national issue. Associations will be forced to bring ecological thinking into their operations. Associations can suggest initiatives and advise members on how to become more environmentally friendly through training, economic and technological analysis of environmental problems, and technology transfer among associations. Some associations may need to do economic analyses of the implications of environmentalism for their memberships.
Trend 6: Government and regulation
Increasingly, only early warning will give organizations an advantage in dealing with the impacts of government policy and regulation. Early awareness of change brings a wider array of choices for action. Later awareness pushes organizations into crisis mode and narrows options. This fact will create pressures on associations to take up anticipatory roles to look after members' interests.
* Proliferation of single-issue politics will continue. Often, organizations push a single agenda without compromise, even though compromise is the key to progress in the U.S. political system. Because new issues may drive out old issues, pushing a single issue may be an all-or-nothing effort, inherently risky. The public will eventually grow tired of the issue and lose interest. It thus makes sense to build multigroup coalitions to support critical association agendas and keep important issues in front of the public and legislators.
* The numbers and diversity of interest group organizations are increasing. Organized interest groups have always been a part of U.S. politics, but the growth of new ideological and multicultural groups reflects the diversification of the political culture.
This change will require association leaders to make decisions faster. Often, associations will have as little as 72 hours to respond. The greatest strength in response may come from volunteer leadership, which can have the most influence on the grass roots. The key to responding to the growing diversity of interest groups is to learn how to work within coalitions and to build alliances, thus bridging the gaps among interest groups.
* Regulation will continue as an inevitable growth enterprise. Regulation and deregulation are tools for dealing with the growing complexity of modern society. Not all regulation is bad. Associations will be key witnesses in identifying where regulation is needed or where it needs change. Associations should promote an enabling model of regulation (full disclosure of information). When they do so, they can expect members and the public to start relying on them for information, analysis, and judgment on risks and benefits.
* States and local governments will take on new responsibilities and roles. Associations should advocate centralized regulation where it affects their interests. Fifty or more jurisdictions issuing regulations and policies can threaten the interests of members.
Associations should also identify bellwether states - those that innovate in programs and policies - for the issues they are most interested in. Doing so could reduce the amount of legislative monitoring necessary. The shift in responsibility from the federal government to the states could put a premium on association lobbying efforts at the state level.
* Budget pressures and public discontent are driving efforts to reinvent government. Reinventing government creates both threats and opportunities for associations. It may offer the chance to shape new policies and regulations. It may also mean sweeping change that forces associations to scramble to keep up.
* The international community is moving toward global regulation and governance. During the next few decades, nations will take further steps toward international governance. This trend is toward a more distant outcome - a totally managed globe. Foreign and international laws and regulations may increasingly shape the environment for associations, even those with no international operations.
RELATED ARTICLE: HIGHLIGHTS
* Outside forces such as trends alter the environment in which the association must operate and shape its future.
* Developing an interest in the future compels organizations to be concerned about planning.
* Thinking through complex issues that may have a long lead time can open the door to new opportunities.
RELATED ARTICLE: Public Issues Follow Evolutionary Tracks
Issues arise as latent concerns. They really take off when someone or some group frames the issue, putting it in a form recognizable by the public, often giving it a catchy name like "Right to Life" or "Pro-Choice." Word then spreads as the issue is communicated. It finds a niche in the public mind-set and on the. airwaves. It becomes a full-blown public issue. Eventually, new issues will come along and crowd out this issue, which has not been resolved.
The five stages of issue development
1. Latent concerns 2. Potential issue 3. Framed issue 4. Communicated issue 5. Public issue
Source: Coates & Jarratt, Inc., Washington, D.C.
Jennifer Jarratt is vice president, Joseph F. Coates is president, and John B. Mahaffie and Andy Hines are associates of Coates & Jarratt, Inc., a think tank and policy research company in Washington, D.C. This article is an excerpt of their book Managing Your Future as an Association. The book is $50 for members of the American Society of Association Executives and $60 for nonmembers. It is available from Association Management Press, (202) 626-2748. Ask for catalog number AMR218055. Orders may also be faxed to (202) 408-9634.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Title Annotation:||trade association forecasts|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1995|
|Previous Article:||Providing international assistance to members.|
|Next Article:||Associations at risk: a perspective on public policy.|
|What trends tell.|
|Replacement passenger tire shipments top 185 million in 1998.|
|SFSA Annual Meeting Focuses on Steel Outlook. (Metalcasting Associations).|
|Greatest show on earth.|