We sit down with the President and CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives, Octavio B. Peralta, to discuss the future viability of associations in Asia.
How has the association landscape in the Philippines evolved?
Under the corporation law of the Philippines, associations are registered under the non-profit sector which, as of latest inquiry, numbers about 250,000. Based on anecdotal accounts, at least half of these are associations and other membership-based organisations.
Due to new industry sectors and professions that have come up in recent times – like fintech and gaming – new associations have emerged. Associations have also become highly specialised, even in one industry. However diverse the associations are, there is now a unifying association that encompasses all these membership organisations, the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE).
Formed in 2013, the PCAAE is the national “association of associations” and our main purpose is to advance the association management profession and to make associations well-governed and sustainable. The other aim is to promote the country as a destination for meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions.
In March 2015, PCAAE initiated the founding, with support from the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), of the Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations (APFAO) comprising national “associations of associations” in Australia, Korea and the Philippines. This convergence of associations seems to be the emerging trend also in Malaysia, China, Japan, to name a few.
What are the key challenges faced by association leaders in the Philippines today?
Most associations in the country are volunteer-governed and managed (the ‘traditional’ model) unlike in the West where associations are mostly volunteer-governed but professionally-managed (with a separate paid management staff led by a CEO) – the ‘progressive model’. The ‘traditional’ model has disadvantages in that volunteers must weigh up their time serving an association with other pre-occupations – work, family, etc. Because of this, they only can focus on short-term membership services, with little time for strategic business planning. Moving from the traditional to the progressive model entails challenges in human talent, technology adaptation, and financial resources.
In terms of the relationship between associations and meeting planners, a common issue is whether associations themselves build their own capacity in organising their events from within or, engage professional meeting planners and conference organisers. Another topic of conversation nowadays between associations and meeting planners is the legacy they leave behind in the meeting destination, such as knowledge transfer and long-term community engagement.
How can greater regional and global collaboration help to overcome these challenges?
The setting up of the Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations (APFAO) is one step towards building a community of associations in the regional context. By sharing best practices (and failures) as well as human and financial resources, there is scope to improve association governance and management in the region. There is now collaboration, albeit in a small scale, between APFAO and its regional counterparts in the U.S., E.U. and Africa which is slowly leading to a global alliance of association networks around the world.
Convergence, governance and professionalisation are key trends affecting associations across Asia. How can association leadership harness these trends to ensure their survival amid increased competition?
Coopetition rather than competition is becoming the operative approach within the association and the non-association worlds (like online education service providers and conference organisers).
Progressive associations are now transforming their structures and strategies to align with the demands of the New World economic order. New technologies, including AI, are now in place in many forward-looking associations. Association leaders are coming together more and more to learn from each other, grow with each other, and be stronger together through knowledge and information exchanges, homogenised human capital development, and co-investment in new technologies.