STEM is an acronym that covers the distinct but related technical disciplines of “science, technology, engineering and mathematics.” It is typically used in connection to education policy or curriculum choices in schools.
The Department of Education of Western Australia said that, through STEM, students develop key skills such as problem solving, creativity, critical analysis, teamwork, independent thinking, initiative, communication and digital literacy—areas which associations can work on as well.
Given a changing global economy, current jobs are disappearing due to automation. New jobs are fast emerging as a result of technological advances. Skills students developed through STEM can provide them with the foundation to succeed in school and in their chosen career path in the future. In the milieu of association management, STEM can have the following context:
1. Science. Association management is a distinct field of management because of the unique environment of associations. Managers within the association environment are responsible for tasks similar to that of a business entity such as human resource management, financial management, IT management and project management. However, other aspects of management unique to association managers include membership recruitment, engagement and retention, volunteer management, tax-exempt accounting and financial management, development of non-dues revenue, fundraising and specific laws and regulations that pertain only to associations. In short, association management is a science in itself.
2. Technology. The pandemic has altered the landscape of the technological market, accelerating business demand for digital innovation and challenging even those that are already technologically advanced. Technologies such as cloud computing, machine learning, metaverse and Internet of Things are all advancing at an incredible speed. Most associations, however, are known to be slow in adopting new technologies due to skillset needs and financial concerns. Needless to say, technology adoption results to better efficiency, competitive edge, ability to address remote and hybrid work challenges and reduced costs. Embracing and adopting new technologies is an essential consideration for associations.
3. Engineering. Financial engineering, in its broadest definition, refers to the application of engineering techniques to resolve financial issues. For example, organizations employ this method for risk management, business models and new brand strategy, among others. Currently, associations struggle in keeping their finances afloat and this may require financial engineering in their membership as well as revenue models. Associations can tap the expertise of a financial engineer who can manage their financial risks, identify market opportunities and optimize investment strategies.
4. Mathematics. Organizations, including associations, use mathematics, among others, to track income and expenses, prepare financial statements and make informed decisions on resource allocation. Association managers need to have a grasp of financial ratios, for instance, to be able to understand the financial health of the organization and to make decisions that warrant the best course of action. If an association has to survive and succeed, it needs to look after its finances and make necessary arrangements for it to prosper as well.
Octavio Peralta is currently the executive director of the Global Compact Network Philippines and founder and volunteer CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives, the “association of associations.” E-mail: email@example.com.