Managing Through Unprecedented Change

Association Forum is here to help with your professional challenges — whether directly related to the pandemic or not.

By Paul Pomerantz

FRM 012 Perspective

This past year has been different to say the least. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every facet of our lives, from personal to professional. While we grapple with isolation, grief and anxiety, we are still expected to carry on and do our jobs. Association Forum is here to help you with your professional challenges — whether they’re directly related to the pandemic or not.

For all of us at the American Society of Anesthesiologists, this has been a particularly challenging time, especially as our members needed to support patient care on the front lines while staff had to manage the transition to a virtual work environment. We continue to work diligently with some reduction in revenue from the loss of our in-person meetings. What we have learned during this crisis has been tremendously invigorating for us.

We have learned that we can work effectively as a team to provide state-of-the-art virtual meetings and needed resources in real time as well as effectively manage our budgetary challenges. The pandemic has shown us that the professionals in the association community have tremendous skills and resilience and have proven to be indispensable during this time of crisis.    

Under former chair Geoffrey Brown’s leadership, Association Forum was able to offer resources and virtual education to members to keep this community strong. Along with Forum’s CEO and President Michelle Mason and the 2020-2021 Board of Directors, Brown oversaw the creation of a new business plan for the organization. Working with the consultancy firm THRUUE, the team determined what made Association Forum special and what could be changed in order to run more like a business.

This new model refocuses our value proposition to three key areas: convening, content and consulting. We already know that Forum is great at gathering members and partners for thoughtful events. We also have an award-winning magazine and a huge body of knowledge online. Consulting closes the loop and follows up on delivering the information to members while also learning about how they’ve applied it.

The pandemic has shown us that the professionals in the association community have tremendous skills and resilience and have proven to be indispensable during this time of crisis.

Other key elements to our business plan are our four verticals. These are areas where we’ll focus our efforts and hone our strategy.

Welcoming Environment®

This program has been a cornerstone for the organization — displaying thought leadership and social impact. We strive to create a sense of belonging and connectedness that engages individuals in an authentic manner. Welcoming Environment is already successful in convening (our national summit) and content (our first-of-its-kind research study). We plan to expand these efforts with the addition of advisory groups, a certificate program, a C-suite training and more. We are looking to hire a diversity consultant to help us strengthen this program and ensure we have the infrastructure needed for it to succeed.

Leadership Development

Association Forum is a resource at every stage of your career.

I remember my first Forum meeting when I first arrived in Chicago as a mid-career executive in 2002. Forum provided me with a network and the resources to develop new skills, particularly around leadership, change management and team building, as well as creating a welcoming and inclusive environment. I’m certainly in a different role today, but I still rely on my peers at Association Forum for support and resources. While this area of our business is well established, we plan to operationalize the leadership journey by developing a road map. We want to provide clear pathways to members who are interested in expanding their knowledge and advancing in their careers.

Collaboratives

One of our most successful programs is the Healthcare Collaborative. We convene leaders for intellectual discussion, debate and community building. Expanding on that success, we’re looking to offer this thought-provoking model in other areas, including digital-first, the future of meetings, operations and more. We look forward to exploring this new frontier and serving our members in a new way.

Foundation

The Association Forum Foundation was established in 1987 and has done plenty of good. From hosting our annual Honors Gala to providing meals to healthcare workers during the height of the pandemic, the foundation has been a vehicle to give back. But the foundation has never had a clear business case. We plan to change that and leverage our foundation as an incubator for new programs and products that engage members. Through pulse surveys and direct member input, we’ll be able to explore new opportunities based on our members’ voices. We look forward to this change and the opportunities for product development, research and education.

This shift toward new priorities has forced us to forego some of our existing programs and products. As members, I encourage you to be patient with us and know that these changes will bring even more value to your membership.

These plans are exciting, but the real work begins now. Thank you to the incredible board and staff at Association Forum — your efforts have kept us relevant through these incredible times. It’s been a tough year, but, armed with this new business plan and a 105-year history, we’re prepared for what’s to come. 

About the Author

Paul Pomerantz, CAE, FASAE is the CEO of the American Society of Anesthesiologists and Chair, Association Forum, 2021-2022.

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