Purposeful Provocation Provides Platform for Prosperity | #auxsix

“Associations are in a fight for the future, a fight that is taking place both outside and inside our organisations” – Jeff De Cagna, Associations Unorthodox: Six Really Radical Shifts Toward the Future.


When you have been following Jeff De Cagna’s work as long as I have there is nothing affronting about the statement above which starts off his latest work. You will either agree from this point, or not. Either way the eBook is worth the read as you will be hard pressed to find the challenges facing associations more deliberately or vibrantly expressed as you will here. Kudos to ensuring that the audience knows that what is inside will be deemed by many as radical – it is in the title after all. “Purposeful provocation” is how it is described in the introduction.

I would expect nothing less. What I didn’t expect was how much more there is.When “Race for Relevance” came out it seemed to polarise the association executive community and some will view this as ‘the other side’. “The End of Relevance” is even a section at the start of the book. Semantics aside – what I appreciate in Associations Unorthodox is the pressure on me to create a new environment for thinking about how associations do their work; and, the use of the term ‘unorthodox’ as a way to describe it.

Regardless of whether we are comforting pursuing relevance or we are searching for new ways of creating value for stakeholders, one thing is for sure – the 21st Century is going to happen whether associations executives are paying attention or not. It is going to happen at such a pace that saying “there is an App for that” is going to be passé any minute now. And, if we don’t think about designing work instead of planning for an unknown future then all the ‘environmental scanning’ in the world will be meaningless for associations if we continue to plan and act based largely on what our current constituents & leaders think is relevant.

There is a few more posts about the Six Radical Shifts in me so for the purposes of getting a post up in a timely fashion now that I have read the eBook I will focus on some comments on the actual eBook itself; and, in my next post start to make some remarks about Shift #1 – De-emphasize Membership. Between Humanize and Associations Unorthodox my blog calendar is done for at least another year!

An eBook Worth its Weight in Gold

When it comes to designing, creating and producing work I love doing so in groups of threes. I have used a 3 x 3 x 3 planning tool for years when working on articles etc so when I saw that each section of Associations Unorthodox was structured in threes my brain kicked into gear. We resonate and recall easily ideas grouped in threes – Three Blind Mice, Three Wise Men etc.

Each “Shift” has an introduction with a Key Points Summary listing three. The section is then written in the form of ‘The Problem’;  ‘The Opportunity’; and, ‘Getting Unorthodox: Questions to Spark New Thinking & Action’. This makes it very simple to choose a section that interests you most at the time and take something away from just that section without necessarily having to absorb any other shift right now.

But wait there’s more.

Go to page 40 and this is a very clever component of the eBook. The Overview of the Six Shifts & Conclusion not only gives you the one line overview of each Shift but Jeff also offers the Twitter version of each for the reader to share and tag complete with link to his deeper Blog post on that Shift. Ok, I might be a massive nerd but that is cool. I took screen shots of pages 41 and 42 and posted them to my organisation’s Yammer intranet for all to see with links to go and download the eBook themselves.

Just when you think Jeff is the only one writing about new thinking (or causing trouble – however you look at it) and breaking free of the orthodoxies of association management he provides links to Blogs, Articles and Books which will further your own learning on the concept. More than than this is part of how we are supposed to create action and start the important work straight away. It is hard to launch generative change in association management, particularly if you work in an association steeped in tradition with leaders seeking relevance rather than seeking to thrive in the 21st Century.

Jeff’s blog receives comments from people seeking example, case studies and evidence of associations who have started this work and succeeded. This is hard to find owing to the fact few are genuinely shifting to unorthodox approaches to association management. Having attended ASAE12 there is some great work being done in small pockets that is really shifting towards the future and I would like to think my own work with Fitness Australia would be deemed valid in this discussion. My next post will investigate a little deeper into Shift #1: De-emphasize Membership and offer my learnings about how Fitness Australia has grown its fee paying stakeholder year on year by not selling membership.

Jeff, congratulations on sparking a genuinely engaging conversation in our community – again. Let me re-emphasise that regardless of whether you follow this line of thought or you are a book-carrying member of the ‘Relevance’ camp, Associations Unorthodox is worth every minute of the read and every minute of the debate, learning and conversation that inevitably ensues afterwards.


1 Comment

Filed under A Dangerous Mind

One response to “Purposeful Provocation Provides Platform for Prosperity | #auxsix

  1. Rob, thanks for such a glowing review! I’m so glad you liked the e-book, and I’m really looking forward to your forthcoming posts.