Chair's corner: Outgoing musings

01 December 2017

 As we enter the year-end's festive season, it also marks the end of my time on the IAF Board as Chair. I have been on the Board since 2014, having first been Regional Director of Asia, then Vice-Chair, and then Chair for the past two years. These are my thoughts about where the IAF is and where it might be heading, as we enter into 2018 and beyond.     

Where we have come

The IAF breached the 1,500-member mark in 2016 and that numerical increase is a reflection of the growing relevance and impact our members are bringing to dialogues and conversations around the world.   

The number of active partnerships and chapters has also grown. We are now in active and regular conversation with our Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) partners, International Institute of Business Analysts and the Institute of Cultural Affairs, amongst other dialogue partners. As much as we have pursued some of these partners, we have equally been ‘wooed’. This is a mark of the growing relevance and awareness we have in the eyes of other associations.  

Geographically, we have moved into new territories, including Iran, Indonesia, Jordan, the Philippines, and Portugal, to name a few. The move into the formation of Special Interest Groups (SIG) linking members across geographical boundaries might become a real game changer. The first SIG for the Portuguese-speaking parts of the world is already active.

In the last two years, I believe we have enhanced membership value through a variety of means, including:

  1. enhanced communications with members through the monthly updates and Global Flipcharts
  2. the development of our ProPath that extends professional credentialing that the IAF is known for
  3. the Methods Database, access to which is now primarily membership-based.

We're also redefining IAF conferences - we will return to a regular meeting at a global conference once every 3-4 years. The Board portfolios of Conferences and Marketing and Partnerships respectively have been reshaped to support this ambition. This was needed to ensure that conferences are run well and make, where possible, a decent profit to sustain the IAF and the value it has for members.

Certainly, we can do more and go further, but I am hopeful that these three elements will bear fruit in terms of membership retention.

Our IAF ‘Why?’ and the power of volunteers

My Board colleagues have regularly taken a stab at defining our raison d’être - our ‘Why?’. I suspect we, as the IAF, deeply believe in the power of dialogue to transform stuck situations, and that facilitators have the creativity to develop process tools and designs to let these beliefs emerge and become real.

If we can, in the years to come, articulate an eloquent statement to the ‘Why?’, it will be great. But if not, I am satisfied with the energy which those beliefs unleash in the form of our giving and volunteering spirit.  

Most of the work I described could not have been done without the passion, energy and drive of volunteers. I wish to acknowledge them at this point and, if I inadvertently miss anyone or group out, the fault is all my own! Huge thanks goes to:

  1. our country chapter teams and regional leadership teams around the world
  2. the Methods Database working group
  3. the ProPath working group
  4. the Facilitation Impact Awards working group
  5. our regional conference teams
  6. our various groups helming discussions with MOU and strategic partners
  7. the Global communications and Flipchart editorial teams
  8. the Nominations Committee who help with the elections process annually
  9. my Board colleagues for their boundless energy, ideas and leadership.

Where we need to go next

There are three areas we need to shine a spotlight on:

  1.  We can and need to do better on membership retention
    This point is made from the membership experience point-of-view. How do we create an unbeatable experience in the first year of a new member in the IAF, leveraging local, regional and global synergies? While we stand for egalitarian values as an association, we need to hold them in healthy tension with the fact that membership has its privileges, to borrow the old American Express line. 
     
  2. Membership value and opening the way for more to get involved
    What does US$200.00 membership fee get me? I’d say a lot of goodwill from fellow members and market recognition from my CPF credential. I know that I will receive a warm reception at an overseas conference not because of my Board role, but because I will be in the company of people who are passionate about the same professional matters as me. Our fees are amongst the lower end of fees being asked for by professional associations. The force of the IAF has, in my experience, been the volunteerism that in turn drives a lot of the action other members can enjoy.  And yet, a lot of the positive work is done by fee-paying, card-carrying members of the IAF, who do it because of very non-transactional reasons. We've made excellent progress, and hope to continue to grow our membership and create new opportunities for their involvement. For example, in the area of our thought leadership, our Journal needs reviving; when ProPath gets implemented, there will be opportunities for members to become mentors. 
     
  3. Renewing ourselves
    As I step off the Board, I will resume work on mapping and studying how we can be relevant to facilitators between the age of 18-35. The Open Space conversation at the recent IAF Paris conference had 12 enthusiastic members (all over 35) expressing a keenness to get involved. Come mid-December, I am working with the Singapore chapter to collect some data from student leaders from the Singapore Management University to understand how they will use facilitation in their roles.  This area of our development as an Association needs no overstating because we will need a new generation to hand our work too, and in a world that badly needs fruitful dialogues.  

What next for me and the IAF?

As I get off the Board, I will refocus my attention on the Youthful IAF initiative, whilst getting involved in the Singapore chapter again. I will cycle, read and write. I will take some time to distill insights from four years of learning and working with awesome Board colleagues from around the world.

Come 31 December 2017, I hand over the Chairship to Trevor Durnford. I have known Trevor for two years and I have seen how his humour and persuasiveness brokers win-win collaboration. He will be ably assisted with Mara Svenne as Vice-Chair. She is a veritable encyclopaedia of the IAF’s inner workings and has transformed our knowledge management, which is so critical to our governance. Together with Board members, both current and new, they will take the IAF places. Let’s get ready for exciting times ahead!

Finally, I take this opportunity to send all our members world-wide, Season’s Greetings!

Noel E K Tan, CPF
Outgoing Board Chair