Dubai Association Conference 2019: A Dialogue for Change

During the Dubai Association Conference 2017, participating associations and speakers discussed an important topic for further consideration: how to gain new insights and knowledge on the impact generated by their association’s main activities. Now, two years later, the second edition of the conference, which will be held 9-10 December at the Dubai World Trade Centre,is looking to address these questions head-on, with a focus on the larger role that associations play in global society—offering the tools attendees need to drive forward real change that will significantly bolster “the societal impact of associations.”

In our July issue, we briefly introduced the two-day conference and the first of its four pillars, which were designed to help participants develop a cohesive, systematic approach to creating long-lasting impact in their industry.

According to conference program curator Geneviève Leclerc, CMP, president of Caravelle Strategies and co-founder and CEO of #Meet4impact, the Dubai Association Centre is offering education and inspiration through the conference, to give participants –  association executives from around the world, government representatives, industry leaders, as well as university faculties and students- a better understanding of the true value generated by associations (beyond direct and indirect economic gains). They will learn how to better communicate the positive outcomes of their activities for their communities; deliver a better return on public investments; and become more ingrained in the knowledge clusters and communities where they could directly serve as drivers of positive change.

Last December, the Dubai Association Centre hosted its first Association Leaders Getaway, a four-day event that brought together 25 participants from local, regional and international associations, in addition to Dubai Government representatives, university students and academics. The goal: curate themes and topics for the upcoming Dubai Association Conference.

“Following the inaugural Dubai Association Conference, the city has witnessed a marked increase in interest from association representatives, both regionally and globally,” explains Issam Kazim, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, in reference to the Centre’s growth of 38 percent last yearThe Association Leaders Getaway was an effort to harness this interest and create a platform for association executives to network, share knowledge and best practice, in an engaging setting, beyond the confines of meeting rooms. The Getaway was an invaluable experience for all attendees, while being a crucial step forward in our city’s evolution.”

Pillars of success

Over the course of two days, Dubai Association Conference 2019 will be built around four pillars: Impact and Legacy — Key Concepts; Designing an Impact Management and Measurement Programme; Organizational Resilience and Foresighting; and The Art of Collaboration. Each session will explore at least one of four areas of impact: Community Well-being, Business and Opportunities, Knowledge and Research, or Creativity and Innovation.

In the post-conference proceedings following the Dubai Association Conference in 2017, the importance of collaboration in building communities was one of the key takeaways. These collaborations should involve as many stakeholders as possible, even going beyond local geographies,” explained Hassan Al Hashemi, Vice President of International Relations, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Associations are among the biggest contributors of economic growth and business activity globally, and they are crucial for generating the flow of innovative and creative ideas that can add value to our society.”

Through Pillar 2, Designing an Impact Management and Measurement Programme, sessions will focus specifically on impact evaluation and indicators, answering the question, “How can impact be created by associations through their programs and activities for individuals; for the organization; and for the broader community?”

The pillar will combat the challenge the association sector has faced in terms of creating an impactful methodology for impact assessment. The current issue is that there aren’t any benchmarks to serve as reference points of clear framework that demonstrate the cause-to-effect relationships that generate change.Case studies will shed light on how some associations are currently creating their own successful framework. By looking at these impact projects, representatives of each organization will be given a voice to share how they’re actively engaged in strategies that aim to create more social value for their members and the community they serve. The city of Dubai will even act as living proof of how a smart platform can lead by example in demonstrating the role of technology as pivotal in a changing world.

“From discussing how to define indicators and metrics to measuring social impact, to exploring how we can use design thinking methodology for greater impact, the sessions in this track serve to convert theory into action and provide actionable tools to participants,” Leclerc explains. “A number of business cases will be presented over the different sessions, which can be approached from various angles, but will lead to the understanding of how the association sector can develop a cohesive and systematic approach to creating large-scale impact.”

Future foresight

Associations are facing stronger disruptions than ever, and, in order to succeed in a rapidly changing environment, they need to have clarity on their long-term strategies, building on their strengths and tackling their weaknesses. This is where Pillar 3—Organizational Resilience and Foresighting—comes into play. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Resilience is a broad concept, centred on the ability not only to resist and recover from adverse shocks, but also to ‘bounce back’ stronger than before and to learn from the experience. For organizations, this entails understanding the sources of risks and opportunities, and learning to cope with uncertainty. It also involves equipping people with the competences and support necessary to take best advantage of the changing circumstances in which they find themselves.”

In this regard, “boards need to allot dedicated time to scanning the horizon and contemplating how existing or emerging trends could impact the profession or industry and the organization,” says plenary speaker Gregg Talley. “This ‘foresight’ is critical to understanding and planning and is integral to their role as volunteer leaders. We will explore what this looks like and the value it brings to associations.”

Throughout interactive sessions, participants will be broken up into smaller teams to identify what the phrase “indicators of impact” means at various levels, and design a program that aligns with their association’s purpose and changing needs of their members. By working in cross-functional teams, attendees will have the chance to solve real-life problems through collaboration and innovation.

Hazel Jackson, CEO of Dubai-based Biz Group, will serve as moderator for a plenary session called “Survival of the Fittest,” helping associations prepare for change by learning how to recognizing threats and the signals of change and plan for both the expected and unexpected. By analysing the concept of “Foresighting,” participants will learn adaptability while understanding how to implement local strategies that are scalable globally and initiate sector-wide responses to external disruptors. This pillar will also hone in on how—and why—organizations should use technology like blockchain and big data to create greater impact in their work and service delivery. As Leclerc puts it:“Our aim is to demonstrate that organizational resilience and planning for change is a core strategy for achieving impact and a powerful response to the pressure that associations are facing on their quest for relevancy.”

For further information regarding registration, please contact Mr. Junjie Si via or visit

This article, whose extended version will be available in the September issue of Boardroom,  was written by Boardroom editor Lane NiesetThe right to use, part or all of it in subsequent works has to be granted by the Publisher.

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