Member Pain Points to Association Opportunities in a Shifting World

When members face challenges in a shifting world, those challenges become association priorities. Their pain is an association’s problem or opportunity.  

I’ve been scanning changes affecting scientific and engineering societies for an early 2015 conference keynote.  While some challenges are unique to these societies; others are becoming more universal pain points for all types of association members. 


Here are five workplace shifts that could be affecting your association’s members regardless of your field or industry:

  1. From physical work and employment in-place to working virtually as contingent workers and freelancers in distributed workplaces or from home
  2. From highly-skilled and in-demand professions to automation and the app-ification of technical expertise
  3. From career pathways and job tenure to multiple careers and career pathways
  4. From sufficient employment opportunities for entering professionals to searching for scarce and more creative ways to apply education and expertise
  5. From career advancement through specialized technical expertise to leading teams as bridgers, synthesists or so-called T-shaped individuals who are conversant in multiple disciplines

These four shift changes seem to be common across disciplines for many scientists and engineers:

  1. From a steady source of research grants from government and industry to a steady decline in research funding
  2. From pure and translational research in dedicated research institutions to applied and translational research engaging practitioners, clinicians and supply chain partners
  3. From research enterprises structured to serve institutions and grant-funding to  platforms for collaborative research discovery, content sharing and funding 
  4. From being a respected, defined and well-resourced discipline to competing with hot new interdisciplinary fields in academia and research

These shifts have important implications for association programs and services and point to potential innovations to help members adapt and continue to thrive.  Their pain, if you pay attention to change, is your gain.