UIA Associations Round Table 2023: Stronger, More Relevant Associations

4th December 2023

Attending an event organized by UIA is a promise for a day of learning all about the needs and challenges of international associations and how those connect to the current affairs worldwide. The 17th edition of the UIA Associations Round Table, which took place at the Marriott Grand Place in Brussels, was an occasion for participants to connect with peers, listen to experts and take home tangible tips and tricks on hot issues currently troubling associations.

Words Vicky Koffa

For over a century the Union of International Associations (UIA) has been working to promote and facilitate the work of international associations, with the annual Associations Round Tables attracting since 2007 a diverse crowd of executives involved in running such associations. With a goal to create networking opportunities and learn through practice, this year’s one-day event dealt with topics such as sustainability, membership strategies, VAT, the younger generation, and legal matters, among others. Thought-provoking speakers did their part to stimulate engaging conversations with the attendees and create a successful meeting.

Following last year’s productive model, the day started with UIA’s president and First Vice-President of CoNGO, Cyril Ritchie, presenting his keynote speech on how current global affairs of war, peace and politics affect the world of associations. “Associations get involved in campaigns advocating for human rights, initiatives that minimize suffering, and actions that ensure human security; this makes them important political actors in the world scene.”

Participants had the opportunity to attend four workshops in total, out of a range of eight, with topics spanning from sustainable events, utilizing UIA’s database and the UN to VAT, membership strategy and the younger generation. Virginie De Visscher’s (Executive Director, Business Events, Destination Canada) popular workshop gave us ten tangible tips on how to host a zero-carbon event. Trying to reverse the assumption that sustainability efforts cost more, her passionate presentation included ideas like measuring and offsetting transportation footprint, tapping into local speaker pool, and reducing plate sizes, among others.

Juan Simoes Iglesias, Secretary General, and Olga Lukina, Executive Secretary for Movement Strengthening and Strategy, YMCA Europe, discussed with the delegates the issue of inclusivity of the younger generation in association management. Trust (or lack thereof) seemed to be the prevailing factor of why association management consists of over 80% of middle-aged executives. The way forward is paved with education in leadership already from a secondary school level and an intergenerational approach where all generations receive governance training.

Chloé Menhinick, Association & Legacy Advisor, helped attendees conduct a health check on their existing membership strategy and enhance its value for both members and association. Her views on the fact that it is normal for member engagement to be unequal and that members should be seen as citizens and not customers drove the discussion to the conclusion that healthy associations are community-oriented and relationship-centered.

The 17th UIA Associations Round Table offered a rich learning experience for international association leaders. From insightful workshops to engaging discussions, the event underscored the vital role of associations in addressing global challenges. Participants left with practical tips and a strengthened sense of community.

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