Current Affairs

Internationalization in the Midst of a Pandemic

24th May 2021

Last week, Boardroom Chief Editor Remi Deve moderated the“Seizing Opportunity: The International Future for Associations” webinar, organized by Factum Global, a consulting firm specializing in internationalization, and collaborative partner Strategic Straits. The webinar was the natural followup to the “2021 and Beyond” survey, which was undertaken earlier this year and whose results are unveiled today.

Key insights revealed by the survey included divided confidence in association leadership, technology demand to maintain and increase global member engagement, and a modest growth outlook despite an interest in international workforce expansion.

It also showed that confidence in association leadership is mixed, with over half (52%) of respondents reporting confidence in association leadership (senior executives and boards of directors), while the remaining (48%) reported unsure to negative feelings towards the current direction of leadership.

These findings served as a good starting point to an insightful conversation between Remi Deve and two globally engaged CEOs. “In fact, they force us to ‘take pause’ and examine the root cause of such sentiments to design the best response,” said Magdalena Nowicka Mook, CEO of the International Coaching Federation and webinar panelist. “They also point to a need of support to organizations’ most senior leaders so they can elicit greater confidence of its membership”

While associations experienced a disruption in engagement and financial growth during the pandemic, due to canceled in-person events, 55% of respondents reported an increase in international participation due to their agility to adapt to technology and host virtual events. Today, associations acknowledge the importance of technology to strengthen engagement. As a result, membership success is now measured by engagement versus solely on growth.

“Rather than focus on a return on membership, associations should shift their focus to a return on engagement,” said Peter O’Neil, CEO of ASIS International and webinar panelist. “The pandemic made the world an even smaller place and global engagement has increased. Now it’s up to us to continue to foster this new reality through our programming and international engagement strategies, and focus on what truly makes us more successful.” Peter, in fact, urged the audience to think in terms of member engagement and not just solely in terms of membership growth or retention.

Despite current growth challenges, 44% of respondents said they are considering expanding their international workforce, while 56% are unsure or will not expand. Additionally, 44% of respondents report two or more limiting growth factors, including the lack of financial resources, international know- how, governance support, and past experience. O’Neil added, “While some see ‘going international’ as an expense, I consider it as an investment in the future and would encourage my colleagues to do the same.”

When asked to give some advice to those associations wanting to grow their international presence, Magda Mook responded: “First make sure that it makes sense for your organization to be global. Then make sure you establish the right measurement for your success. You and your leadership also have to be patient, Growing internationally doesn’t happen overnight.”

Francisco Gomez, CEO of Factum Global, concluded: “The survey results demonstrate promising opportunities for associations going abroad. With a thorough strategic plan and commitment from leadership, we believe associations have a real opportunity for bottom line growth.”

A recording of the webinar, as well as the“2021 and Beyond” survey report can be accessed here.

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