“Grand Challenges” Program Is Designed to Help Associations Reconnect with their Purpose to Drive Large-Scale Societal Change
Washington, D.C. – Association leaders from across the region participated in a day-long workshop on March 20 designed to spark big changes within individual organizations and across the association landscape.
Co-hosted by Tom Raffa and Seth Kahan, “Grand Challenges: Harnessing Your Association’s Unique Business & Social Value to Drive Membership and Benefit Society” brought together the CEO, a “rising star” staffer and a member from each of the day’s 17 participating associations to plan a Grand Challenge.
“A Grand Challenge is a skeleton key that opens three doors: growth; mission impact; and sustainable, profitable revenue,” says Seth Kahan, author of 2013’s Getting Innovation Right. “A Grand Challenge is especially valuable to scalable associations because it grows their stakeholder base exponentially. A Grand Challenge is a bold, audacious, socially beneficial goal aligned with the organization’s mission that captures the public’s imagination.”
“We were working on a Grand Challenge project ourselves, but to hear from a whole community of people about how they are coming at it and what their Grand Challenges are was helpful,” said participant David Gammel, executive director, Entomological Society of America. “I picked up so many ideas. The dynamic was invigorating. I got two or three ideas today that will materially help us have an impact and be successful.”
“I think it’s critical to take your headspace away from your daily work in order to think bigger and grander than you regularly can,” said participant Kate Ferrar, vice president, American Association of University Women Campus Leadership Program.
The goal of the event was not just to give individual associations the opportunity to think about their work in a different way, but also to build both a system to support change and a community of change agents who can work with and learn from each other to enhance what they would each be able to accomplish in their own space.
“We want to help associations transcend the ‘membership mindset’ and catalyze a movement aimed at leveraging the power of associations to solve the world’s greatest challenges,” said Tom Raffa, CEO of Raffa, a B-Corp certified, national top 100 accounting, consulting and technology firm. “My experience shows that early adopters will lead the transformation that is happening in this sphere and redefine what the association community can accomplish together.”
“There is a lot that the association world can give to the greater community. In some ways, the conversations today challenged people, but in other ways, they came to epiphanies that they would not have come to in their own work life,” said participant Tobin Conley of DelCor Technology Solutions. “They were both relaxed and outside of their comfort zone. That combination takes people places that they would never go to on their own.”
“Associations can scale in a way most people can’t. Most organizations are limited to their employees and their customers. Associations are not. They can scale in a grand way with almost no limit,” said keynote speaker Lisa Earle McLeod.
The March 20 event was the first step in creating a community of support and change within the association world. There will be additional meetings and smaller “meetups” to continue working with the day’s attendees. “Too often meetings like this are one-offs and people leave energized, but with no follow up. That is not what we have planned,” said Raffa.
Organizers also plan to coordinate a similar event for trade associations in the coming months.
About Tom Raffa
Tom Raffa helps nonprofit organizations and businesses build capacity and sustain excellence in all areas of their operation. He is the President and CEO of Raffa, PC, a B-Corp certified, national top 100 accounting, consulting and technology firm and founder of Companies for Causes, a collective of socially conscious CEOs whose mission is to solve the problems of their community using targeted philanthropy and hands-on engagement from member CEOs. Raffa is the recipient of the 2014 Pearl Foundation Award for Innovation in Philanthropy.
About Seth Kahan
Seth Kahan has worked with over 100 CEOs and agency heads in both the private and public sectors. He has led change initiatives working with the Peace Corps, World Bank, Shell, and Prudential, and is identified as a Thought Leader and an Exemplar in Change Leadership. Kahan is the bestselling author of Getting Change Right: How Leaders Transform Organizations from the Inside Out.
About Lisa Earle McLeod
Lisa Earle McLeod is a Sales Leadership expert for Forbes.com, and author of four bestselling books, including Selling with Nobel Purpose. McLeod is a sought-after expert, having appeared on NBC Nightly News, The Today Show, and Good Morning America. Her next book is entitled Leading with Nobel Purpose.