Share This Trends Report—It's Smart Re-Use of Everyone’s Assets

In a sharing economy, when one association puts effort and money into creating a good trends report and then makes it publicly available, other associations can and should glean what they can to inform their members. The Center for the Future of Museums TrendsWatch 2014 analyzes six trends that just might be applicable to your organization.

The Center, an initiative of the American Alliance of Museums, is a great example of consistently and effectively providing futures research to association members. Center Director Elizabeth Merritt continuously scans and researches trends to inform museum professionals through an annual trends report, frequent blogging and various learning experiences.  

Merritt’s advice to museums on the trend of the sharing economy or collaborative consumption is to consider how they can be a hub of sharing activities. She offers two ideas that easily translate into possibilities for associations:

  1. Give your members the “pleasure of vicarious ownership” by giving them access to all the things they don’t want to buy.  If you study her examples, Airbnb, Zipcar and many others, sharing does not mean free. It means giving people access to assets that otherwise would be idle.
  2. Help your members offer their services for short-term gigs. There’s a wealth of expertise in any association that could easily be shared and coordinated with an eLance or TaskRabbit type approach.

This TrendsWatch report is intended to be shared, but it is watching how you use the report if you download the free PDF. Taking advantage of the potential of big data, this report has an embedded tracking code to monitor its use.  As Merritt explains, “in fact, the report isn’t really free-- we are asking you to pay with data (about how often you access and share your copy) rather than with cash. This does raises privacy issues, which we are dealing with a) by disclosing what data we are collecting, and how, and b) offering other formats (print, enhanced digital) that you can pay for with cash instead.”  

Big data is also one of the six trends analyzed. Merritt raises some intriguing questions for museums that also apply to associations.  “Will the competitive advantage conferred by data analytics widen the gap between museums that can afford such services and those that cannot?.... to minimize the potential for such inequity, the field needs to compile and share resources that can make analytics affordable even for small museums.”  She posits that one solution might be “data commons where even commercial companies would contribute data stripped of personal information. Museums would do well to identify who holds the data they would most like to access for their own analytics, and play nice about sharing their own data, too.”

The report examines privacy as the corollary trend to big data and posits that the real issue is about control of personal data.  In addition to advising museums to have data collection policies explaining how personal data is protected and shared, Merritt suggests museums might give people back their personal data in a form that is useful to them. One form that idea might take in associations is to give association members back detailed profiles of what they have learned through participation in association education.

The 2014 trends report analyzes the continuing rise of social enterprises and the blurring of the for-profit and nonprofit lines around doing good.  Merritt describes the various forms of social entrepreneurship and observes that “having a competitor in the marketplace of doing good may challenge nonprofits, including museums, to up their game.”  Associations will also feel this pressure.

For most associations, the analysis of robotics may appear less applicable, although we agree with Merritt’s assessment that this technology is finally taking off.  However, read this analysis as a review of the options for pushing the edge of automation and it becomes highly relevant. And every association educator and meeting planner will want to read Merritt’s overview of what she calls the synesthesia—multisensory experiences for a multisensory world. This could be your meeting of the future.

Let’s all say thank you to the American Alliance of Museums for embracing the sharing economy and re-use TrendsWatch 2014 to everyone’s benefit.