Community as a strategy

Happy New Year! Since January is usually the time for “organizational reflection,” I’d like to share with you the principle upon which we have built our organization, the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE). It’s about using “community” as a strategy.

In the publication by the American Society of Association Executives, entitled “Take the Pulse of Your Membership: Community as a Driver for Organizational Success,” Sara C. Wedeman, PhD, president of the US-based Behavioral Economics Consulting Group, argues that members’ sense of community is the essential driver in an association’s success. It is no longer enough to say that you know community when you see it. Instead, you need to know not only what it is, but also how to measure it, and how to foster it among your members.

Based on their research findings, and particularly on the work of community psychologists, the following constitute the working definition of community:

Community is a social and emotional “glue” that provides the stickiness and connection that motivate people to help one another.

Community is a web of social relationships,some formal and some invisible.

Community is much more than a physical or virtual grouping based on a set of knowable attributes. It provides a foundation, a social infrastructure that brings together and supports such groups.

In this regard, the experience of community has four central elements:

Membership—a feeling of belonging or sharing one’s presence or potential relatedness. Associations provide a space for people to connect around shared identity and relatedness.

Influence—a sense that one matters and that one does makes a difference. Associations enact this as voice in the form of lobbying, advertising and advocacy. Members want to know they have influence in the association, too, and that their leaders will listen to, and value what they have to say.

Integration and fulfillment of needs—a confidence that membership in the group will fulfill needs and expectations. Associations accomplish this by providing members with venues for learning, advocacy and interpersonal exchange.

Shared emotional connection—a trust on the part of members that they have shared and will share history or experiences. Although people do not typically join associations with friendship as a primary goal, the association membership saves them the trouble, and the risk of screening colleagues, assuring the member that another member is “one of us.”

For PCAAE, we positioned it as an inclusive community of like-minded and same-purposed institutions and individuals, helping each other solve problems, sharing knowledge and information and building cooperation and partnerships for growth and sustainability of their associations.

For associations, community is truly a strategy. Community is present throughout your association whether you recognize it. It is there in the form of special interest groups, sections, online and offline networks, friendships and collegial relationships between members. It is consistently true that, whether virtual or in person, ad hoc or structured, connection with an association offers a loose-but-powerful structure within which one can meet one’s fundamental need for communication with, learning from and helping others. Associations that focus on one’s interests and facilitate such experiences will attract members. If they do not, their members will go elsewhere.


The column contributor, Octavio “Bobby” Peralta, is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (Adfiap) and CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives. PCAAE enjoys the support of Adfiap, the Tourism Promotions Board, and the Philippine International Convention Center.

E-mail: [email protected].


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