Last week I was one of a number of multinational presenters at the first inaugural Middle East Association Congress.  The event brought together a thoughtful and inquisitive group that explored various components of organizational development, and creating impact through them, in two days of formal and informal discussions.

Some of the themes of these discussions that I found most interesting included:

  • The learning journey – Although the conference attendees were all at different stages of their time within the association world, there was commonality as life-long learners and finding a community (or communities) with which you can share experiences. Within these learning communities individuals can then take the lessons that best fit their situation and the kind of information they may be looking for based on their current situation.
  • Local context – The importance of understanding what members or constituents value was emphasized. Although the concept of understanding the local context is universal, the local environment is always unique.
  • Communication – What messages are you sending? Emirati keynote speaker Dr. Maryam Matar  told a story about wearing a special type of legging when she approached a rural community to talk about genetic testing.   She wanted to send the message that she respected their traditions in order to open up space for communication and relationship building.
  • Staying relevant – It was noted that the external environment, and thus how organizations need to operate to stay effective, is changing. Some of the areas identified for attention included: role of online communication and having a social media strategy; and doing future forecasting on a regular basis to anticipate changes that may impact your organization.
  • Content before format – It was noted that it is important to first ask the broader questions – what are we trying to accomplish? before gravitating to a particular structure or tool.
  • Millennial generation – Although the impact of the millennial generation may as yet be unclear, the sheer size of this demographic, and their role as ‘digital natives’ makes it worth focusing some specific attention on how their entry into the workplace may impact your organization.
  • Partnerships – Partnerships across boundaries and sectors are becoming ever more important. These should be approached with due diligence and with a mindset of two-way knowledge exchange.