The value of IAF membership for independent practitioners
An opinion piece by IAF Chair Noel EK Tan
I am often asked about the value of joining a professional membership association such as the International Association of Facilitators (IAF). I admit I am biased. While I’m not a hardcore membership junkie, I have found the IAF to be an important ‘tribe’ since I joined in 2009. In a very real way, it’s a non-question for me to renew my membership each time it comes up. (I do belong to several other practitioner networks too) Since that time, IAF membership has provided important pillars that have developed into powerful reasons for my continuing renewal - strong international friendships, good trusted collaborators, and enhanced professional stature through the association’s professional development pathway.
International friendships. My first regional conference in 2009 and then being on the Board from 2014, has given me an opportunity to build strong friendships first in the Asia region and then across the many regions that the IAF is found.
Trusted collaborators. Secondly, through the IAF, at the local and regional levels, I have found a few trusted collaborators who I do good work with and learn from. Some of these have rolled up their sleeves and started the Singapore chapter together with me. I enjoy their passion and the IAF has provided an opportunity for us to interact as collaborators where in the absence of the chapter, we might just have viewed each other warily as competitors.
For some members who are running their own businesses, the third reason is even more significan than the first two.
Enhanced professional stature. Through the Certified Professional Facilitator credential, the Association’s Ethics and Competencies documents, I enjoy an enhanced professional stature in the marketplace. I recognise that many buyers of facilitation services out there still do not know about the IAF (and me). Yet, do I need these organisations to know me or do I just need a few who ‘get it’? In this context, then it is good then that like my clients, I also get to choose who I wish to work with, based on my sensing if they understand the implications of the facilitator ethics and competencies on the prospective relationship.
My clients tell me that my speaking about the IAF and my membership therein as part of my client engagement process is a confidence-building step for the new prospect. They find that the IAF ethics and competencies offer a context for them to understand how I will go about my work with them and that they can therefore trust me to provide them with the help they might need. They also find that the CPF credential valuable in marking me as someone who has demonstrated the Core Competencies and would be a trusted partner. (Of course, no CPF credential or ethics and competencies document is not going to make up for poor service or facilitating out of one’s depth and mucking it up)
These three facets are for me really strong reasons why I remain as a member. The IAF is now working on developing a professional development roadmap that continues to see the CPF as a critical professional credential and milestone. The keyword there is “a”; there will be other elements in this roadmap that will go a long way to support the lifelong development of facilitators to do good work that matters.
I wrote from the vantage point of an owner of a consulting practice. I’d like to hear from you if your context is not that, for example, if you are an internal facilitator or a younger member working in the NGO space etc. As Chair, I’d like to hear your thoughts on how your board members and I can work towards building more pillars to make IAF membership meaningful for you.
Let me know!
Noel EK Tan
IAF Chair 2016-2017