Are Wikis the Wave of the Future? This Association Thinks So.

With its publications struggling, the American Concrete Pavement Association began looking for a new way to provide information to its members and the industry. The group’s solution: WikiPave.

The American Concrete Pavement Association is convinced that providing open access to industry tools and resources is the model of the future for associations. To prove it, last week  ACPA unveiled a new online, wiki-style platform called WikiPave and effectively shut down its existing publications.

We are cutting a new path, embracing a technology that most member-based associations consider competition to the value proposition of their members.

Like other wikis (the one most people know best is Wikipedia), the tool is a collaborative platform that will rely heavily on ACPA staff, members, and industry partners to cull through troves of data and resources to ensure everything posted there is relevant and current. The group built the tool using 51 years of publications, research, and other association resources.

“Wikipave is a significant change for the association and industry in terms of how we deliver information,” ACPA President and CEO Gerald Voigt said in a statement. “We are cutting a new path, embracing a technology that most member-based associations consider competition to the value proposition of their members.”

The move to a wiki format was prompted by years of declining publication sales but also by a desire to become a more efficient, go-to resource for people in the industry, said Bill Davenport, vice president of communications at ACPA.

“We started talking to our members, partners, and other people out there in the construction industry, and like a lot of other people and other industries, they told us that they want information in real time, when they need it, and how they need it,” he said. “People just don’t want to wait for a publication to arrive in the mail, they don’t want to download a 200-page publication if they need just a 50-word response.”

By making the information open access, ACPA hopes to fortify its status as a leader in the industry, Davenport said.

“The worldwide transportation and construction communities look to ACPA for industry leadership, so we’d be doing a disservice to the global transportation construction community if we did not have some sort of interface with them on a daily basis,” he said. “We have our website and we develop microsites, but the challenge with maintaining a website is that the technical information becomes almost an afterthought. It very clearly needed to be on a platform as expansive and dynamic as the wiki.”

Though it’s live, Davenport acknowledged that some pages are still in rough form and that the site will continue to be a work in progress. “That’s the nature of these kinds of things, though,” he said.

When other industry leaders learned of WikiPave, the organization was bombarded with questions about making the jump from a publications model to this open-access model.

“It’s a big and risky move, but one that we’re confident in,” he said. “There’s the initial shock of how do you deal with that kind of revenue loss, but once you get the broad commitment of staff, leadership, and the members, the long-term benefits are just immeasurable. For an association, if your mission is to educate, inform, transfer knowledge, transfer technology, or any combination of the above, this is really a very useful type of tool.”

(ACPA screenshot)

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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