Global Means Everyone, Not Just Everyone Else
At the Entrepreneurs' Organization, the United States is just one country among many. Members near and far work on equal footing and reap the benefits of the association's global mindset.
Sometimes I wonder if the best way for an association to avoid favoring members in its local city, region, or country would be to move its headquarters to the moon. What better way to adopt a global mindset than to gain a literal perspective of the globe itself?
Of course, the lack of an atmosphere or a good internet connection might be troublesome, so for now associations will have to keep striving for a global mindset while treading a plot in one host country or another. This can be tricky, of course. Even when an association has the best of intentions, a better understanding of how to serve local members is a natural side effect of physical proximity and shared culture.
In the February issue of Associations Now, we profiled one association that is doing its best (and probably better than most) to embrace a global existence. Brian Costanzo, CAE, senior vice president of global membership at the Entrepreneurs’ Organization, landed on the cover of our “Innovators 2013” issue for his leadership of a global governance model at EO.
EO has had chapters in multiple countries since its foundation 25 years ago, and today more than half its membership lies outside the United States, but Costanzo and colleagues admit that being headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, means staff face an uphill battle in understanding members and cultures from all corners of the planet. The network of regional councils it built into its governance structure was essentially a direct response to that.
Selling that system to all EO members and volunteers meant wrestling with the inherent U.S.-first bias of some American members, but EO’s response reveals how deeply it has committed to the global perspective:
“Sometimes our U.S. members can be afraid that we’re being too global in a sense, of ignoring the U.S.,” says Miranda Barrett, vice president of membership development at EO. “But this really benefits a member in Iowa as much as it benefits a member in Malaysia. They have the same kind of regional representation and voice at the table. This is as much to help them as it is to help the folks on the other side of the world.”
That’s a sentiment you won’t hear at many associations, that the United States is just one country among many. For most associations headquartered in the United States, the U.S. comes first and anywhere else is second. There may be fine reasons for that; not every association seeks to be global in scope, anyway. But here’s a thought for those that do: If tomorrow you moved your headquarters from the United States to Europe or to Shanghai or to Sydney, how would you fare? Could you continue serving your members in all locations just the same?
I suspect EO is one of only a few associations for which a relocation abroad is plausible, because they’ve built an organizational structure and culture that doesn’t identify with any single locale. If we ever get around to colonizing the moon, perhaps they could move there, too.