Collaboration Drives Association Value
On the topic of collaboration, Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” However, in today’s business world, information and knowledge are often highly guarded in an effort to protect market position, profits, intellectual property and customers.
This isn’t the case with associations like the Digital Solutions Cooperative (Dscoop) and the National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses (NAON), which have embraced Ford’s way of thinking and created environments where their members can freely share information.
While the respective charters of these associations are significantly different, Dscoop and NAON have similar priorities, including:
With a focus on collaboration and sharing, each organization has delivered increased value to its members. Here’s how they did it:
- Enabling members to collaborate in-person and online;
- Fostering a sense of community among members;
- Enhancing existing knowledge with networking, education and sharing of best practices; and
- Asking members what they need and then delivering those needs.
Dscoop: Collaboration is Critical to Member Success
Dscoop is an independent community of Hewlett-Packard (HP) Graphic Arts business owners. With the cooperation of HP, Dscoop launched in 2005 when digital printing was in its infancy. At that time, digital print providers represented less than 2 percent of the overall printing market.
The small handful of business owners who initially formed Dscoop hoped to compete directly with traditional commercial printers and knew that collaboration was key to their success. “Our first board realized early that failure to change would be futile. To learn, we had to get out from underneath the shadow of the big oak tree. If we didn’t go against the norm and start collaborating, we would end up being siloed,” said Howard Owen, North American Board treasurer and a Dscoop member since 2008.
Therefore, collaboration became a strategic focus for the Dscoop board as it began to build an association where its members shared expertise, experiences and best practices via annual conferences, educational sessions and peer networking with colleagues and experts in digital printing. The mission: Provide a collaborative community that increases profit and revenue for owners, improves productivity for operators and maximizes the value of HP products and services.
Within such a massive and competitive industry, skeptics opined that the collaboration model wouldn’t work. But by the end of its first year, more than 700 members were already on board. Today, Dscoop is 8,000 members strong, including an international community supporting the growth and advancement of digital print providers. In North America, its members report they are 15 percent more profitable as a result of being members of Dscoop and having access to the organization’s education, innovation and knowledge-sharing opportunities.
“View it as an opportunity,” said Owen. “If you collaborate, you grow. Period. It took our board at the very beginning to set the tone, but we haven’t looked back since. In today’s marketplace, you can’t stand still. For us, the only way we’re going to grow and add value is by doing it together. The more successful our members are, the stronger our industry becomes. It has really opened our eyes.”
NAON: Collaboration Advances Patient Care
NAON’s charter is to promote education and research related to nursing care of persons with orthopaedic (musculoskeletal) conditions. Despite the fact that its 6,000 members are nurses who work for competing hospitals, healthcare practices and healthcare systems, NAON prioritizes collaboration as a strategic imperative.
“The whole idea of our organization is that we exist to care for our patients. Collaboration helps us all in the long run. The more we share, the better our patients and affiliates become,” said Julie Twiss, president of NAON’s executive board and a board member since 2008.
In addition to its highly regarded annual conference, NAON offers members a growing portfolio of online training webinars, local chapter workshops, educational sessions, town hall meetings and online forums to keep members connected to each other and to the latest in orthopaedic care initiatives.
NAON’s collaboration-focused initiatives support the association’s strategic plan, which the board re-evaluates every three years. NAON adjusts its strategy based on findings from member and educational needs assessments the board routinely commissions. This ongoing effort has helped increase the value of membership and has contributed to the association’s ability to reach its highest member level since 2008.
“Nurses are relationship-oriented people. So, when we ask our members what they want, it is very apparent that they want a connection. They want to share ideas. They want community,” Twiss said. “We’ve progressively built our strategy around that. We pride ourselves on the education, networking and community we provide.”
The association provides nurses online access to a community of like-minded professionals who are ready to help. For example, if a nurse in Asia has a question about the latest treatments for joint replacement, the person has multiple options at his or her fingertips, including a secure, online forum where fellow members worldwide respond with ideas, the latest training techniques and best practices. To further extend its collaborative roots, NAON supplements its formal educational and networking offerings with an active presence on social media.
“We’re not only focused on the organization,” Twiss said. “We’re clearly driven by how we impact patients. And, as a board, what we provide is a sense of community and collaboration among our members so that we always keep the patients our top priority.”
Dscoop and NAON embody Ford’s wisdom by creating a strategic emphasis on collaboration. It’s clear that a collaboration-focused community within an association can enhance knowledge of its members, drive perceived member value and strengthen overall industry leadership in an age of intense competition.
NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2014 EDITION
| Board Forward is published 10 times a year by SmithBucklin, the association management and services company more organizations turn to than any other. SmithBucklin has served volunteer board members for 70 years.