The Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) is a worldwide professional organisation representing 5,000 individuals and institutions in more than 90 countries, dedicated to the study, analysis, and solution of environmental problems, the management and regulation of natural resources, research and development, and environmental education.
Bart Bosveld, Global Executive Director, shares with us how the F.A.S.T. by MCI programme has helped SETAC identify its priorities and develop a future-proof strategy to unlock its potential. Jeroen van Liempd, Director of Engagement for Associations & Communities with MCI Brussels, led the project.
SETAC was in the midst of a process of reviewing its membership and governance model and was looking for alternatives that better fit the needs of the organisation, which had expanded over the years.
Then came the pandemic, which made us even more aware of the need to make adjustments to build a solid and relevant organisation for the future. The combination of these three elements convinced us to go through the F.A.S.T. programme to accelerate the process and prepare for decisions with far-reaching effects for the organisation.
We knew the organisation was operating on a model that was lacking flexibility and that members’ needs and expectations had shifted. F.A.S.T. helped prioritise the pain points that needed immediate attention and push them forward to make them happen. The main outcomes were focused on member engagement, member benefits, and our governance structure.
The traditional SETAC member has become a different person over the last 20 to 30 years. Members are looking for much more flexible options. SETAC has a solid membership base on all continents that experiences diverse environments and has different needs.
These members are looking for more customised and flexible benefits. The programme has helped us put all the pieces of the puzzle together, with a strong process that brings leadership and staff together. We gained a vision from within the organisation and prepared a set of recommendations to shape our future. It made us aware of the direction we needed to go.
The way the programme is set up with membership surveys, stakeholder interviews, and F.A.S.T. reading materials was really helpful to bring everyone into the same mindset to discuss the future of the organisation.
It is an intense, 12-week, virtual programme which requires serious commitment from the leadership and staff. We had a group of 12 people that had to come together every week at odd hours because participating volunteer leaders came from across the globe. It was really demanding for some of our volunteer leaders, but this was the only way for our group to stay focused. In the end, everyone enjoyed the time they have put into it.
It really helped us to come up with conclusions, and I think this is the main benefit of the programme — that it pushes you to the end, really focused on an outcome.
One of the recommendations made was to improve our online appearance and our membership management system. We needed a more flexible system that would help us offer customised benefits to each member segment. This is all related to the association management software we are using. In fact, we are now working on a migration of our system to a more agile solution to better serve our members.
Another recommendation that came out was the implementation of a more flexible membership model. We also reviewed our governance, strategy, and operations, and identified that clearer and better-defined roles and responsibilities needed to be set, whereas the Council and the Board should focus on the strategy and the staff should focus on the execution of the strategy.
Our roadmap, which includes a set of recommendations, needs to be translated into an operational plan for the next three years. We have already started implementing part of it, and we plan to work with MCI to make it more concrete.
That is a very immediate effect of the F.A.S.T. programme. It has been an accelerator to help us identify priorities and push their implementation.
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F.A.S.T. stands for Future-proofed Association Strategic Transformation. It helps association leaders rethink and refine their organisation to remain relevant in the digital age.
SETAC’s transformation task force consisted of 12 individuals in different parts of the world; before our seven weekly online sessions, they all received pre-reading materials of curated content as well as online assignments. This preparation work helped us co-create and gain consensus around decisions during the sessions.
F.A.S.T. is a tried and tested methodology that is organised in three phases.
The first month, we evaluate and understand the association through a series of interviews and surveys to identify stakeholders’ changing needs, perceptions, and values. In the second month, we review and assess competencies, technologies, opportunities, ways of working, and the business model to reset measures of success. In the third and last month, we co-create the association’s transformation roadmap to guide their future growth.
SETAC was acting as a team and was very constructive. The virtual component of the programme enabled intense collaboration and a lot of trust to make these things happen. With digital you need to be efficient and structured in the discussions, or you risk to fatigue people. The leadership received the materials in advance, and during the virtual sessions we reviewed and made quick decisions. Change is always difficult, and the programme enabled them to accelerate their transformation.
F.A.S.T. by MCI® is a 12-week virtual consulting programme that helps organisations remain relevant in the post-COVID digital age. The goal is to emerge from the pandemic in the best possible position to serve your members as the leading voice of your industry. More information at: www.fastbymci.com
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