Leadership

For Associations, Opportunity in Immigration Reform

By / Jan 30, 2013 (iStockphoto/Thinkstock)

Immigration reform has taken center stage on the legislative agenda. Associations can use this opportunity to help shape the national conversation—and find new ways to build member engagement.

After a bipartisan group of senators announced an agreement earlier this week on the framework for a major overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws and President Obama laid out his own plan, associations are weighing how they can influence the conversation and leverage a historic moment.

I think associations can take this time in history and say, ‘How can we better serve a talent pool that desperately wants to be activated and engaged?’

“Associations have to create the right narrative,” said Glenn Llopis, founder of the Center for Hispanic Leadership (CHL). “In other words, we have to become more culturally intelligent and more educated so that we’re more mindful of how to speak to these issues with confidence, rather than handle them with kid-gloves thinking that we’re going to insult somebody.”

The plan announced Monday would create a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants and address border security and “guest” worker programs for noncitizens. Llopis said the proposal provides a historic engagement opportunity for associations.

“I think associations can take this time in history and say, ‘How can we better serve a talent pool that desperately wants to be activated and engaged?’” he said. “There’s a lot of fantastic talent that hasn’t been tapped because people just seem to be too uncomfortable with it.”

The key—both for employers looking to enlist new talent and organizations seeking new members and engaged volunteers—will be to create “culturally relevant” communities for more diverse groups.

“If I’m looking for a job, and I’m Hispanic, and I know you can provide me with tools that speak to my cultural values, I’m much more inclined to work for you,” he said. “It’s the same thing with an association. If a group said, ‘Look, we’re going to support culturally relevant tools to help you grow and prosper faster, through the mission of our association,’ they’re going to get more buy-in.”

CHL’s new Hispanic Leadership Academy launched in October with that goal in mind. It provides a virtual training platform for the “ongoing advancement of Hispanic professionals, small-business owners, and anyone who needs to learn about the Hispanic community.”

“I’ve always said that the best way an association can refresh itself overnight is by becoming more culturally intelligent,” said Llopis. “That’s what we are trying to do for our members and those who enroll in the institute.”

Associations need to embrace diversity as a driver of business success, he said.

“There is a demographic shift in this country that continues to be met with unusual resistance because people don’t understand what diversity means to business or opportunity or growth. Associations that do get it will find that they’ll not only start engaging new members, but the membership will become more active.”

Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. More »

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