Authors: Katherine Grimshaw and Kim Ansell, K2 Consulting

The fast changing demand for skills and jobs is driving worldwide competition for talent.  At the same time, globalisation and digitalisation of professional education is enabling membership associations to support a wider range of members with a wider range of services and international member growth has become a real possibility.

The opportunities seem obvious and huge –

  • The UK is currently investing US$ 20.8 billion in India
  • China’s Generation Y is 250-million strong and a quarter of Chinese A level students could not find a place in a domestic University last year.
  • There are now almost 8,000 courses being taught in English by leading universities in non-English speaking countries
  • The education and skills development sector in the GCC is expected to see investment to the tune of $150 billion over the next couple of years due to growing population,
  • Worldwide, 35% of over 38,000 employers surveyed report they are experiencing difficulty filling jobs due to lack of available talent.
  • The British Council is offering grants of £10-£100,000, for capacity building and community engagement programmes such as exchange between academics, round tables, online platforms, community dialogue, courses, study tours in Brazil

Given these sorts of statistics the rationale for international development in membership associations is clearly understood.  But, as many have found, the risks are many and real.

In future we will consider some of the opportunities but for now let’s look at some of the not so obvious but very real pitfalls that many of you may well recognise….

  • The visiting trade delegation inviting you to work together
  • Your existing member or President spotting a development opportunity whilst travelling
  • The small but enthusiastic and very vocal branch active in a country
  • The report that says a country needs X thousand members just like yours and has £X million to spend on developing them
  • The university lecturer who delivered a presentation in country x and can now see the potential for huge growth
  • The success story presented at the last conference you attended on how one organisation conquered a market
  • The ‘quick win’ that took 5 years to break even

These are just some of the ways that membership organisations with limited resource and global ambitions have found themselves engaged in unproductive, uneconomic and diversionary international ‘growth’ initiatives.

We can all learn from each other and there is much to be gained from sharing experience.

But the safest way to build success into going global, is to make sure you and your whole association understand what you are trying to do and why.

A clear understanding of what you want to achieve and how it benefits your existing members is essential.

So, before starting out on the global journey, ask yourself these 10 questions:

  1. Is international growth essential to your association’s long term sustainability?
  2. Does your member offering have value outside the UK?
  3. Would international growth have value to your existing members?
  4. Do the employers of your members operate internationally?
  5. Can your qualifications or professional development be delivered in other markets?
  6. Can you fund international investment whilst maintaining existing levels of service and value?
  7. How long can you wait for a return on investment?
  8. Does your staff team have capacity and capability?
  9. Are your governance and staff ambitions aligned?
  10. Does anyone else in the world do what you do?

There are no right answers- but once you can articulate your own response to each of the questions, you can start to think about your strategy, i.e. why, where, when, how and, most importantly of all, what next?

International business can be highly rewarding, but for small organisations like membership associations the risks are high too. Balancing well thought through plans with sudden opportunities requires experience and often that experience is gained through making mistakes.  So, at the beginning focus on Strategy and Plan is key and must be understood and owned across the organisation.

Plans will and must change as your organisation gains international knowledge and experience, but the commitment and alignment of all the staff and governance behind the international strategy must always be clear and consistent.

Authors: Katherine Grimshaw and Kim Ansell, K2 Consulting

K2 Consulting are experienced strategy and development consultants with a track record of delivering value for membership, professional qualification and higher education organisations.



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2017-10-17T13:53:14+00:00 Wednesday, 30 March, 2016|Categories: MemberWise Recognised Supplier|Tags: |0 Comments

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