The Ultimate Benefit: Giving Members the Power to Problem-Solve In Real-Time

The pros at the Association of Public Health Laboratories reveal how tech is serving both its members and the association.

Helping members achieve career success through content, education, and networking is the goal of all association professionals. But for communication and membership experts David Fouse and Drew Gaskins at the Association of Public Health Laboratories (APHL), enabling their members to collaborate and problem-solve in real-time during the pandemic has given their roles a new sense of urgency, and an incredible amount of fulfillment.

Over the last year and a half, APHL’s online community ColLABorate has provided invaluable connections between​​ institutions and individuals dedicated to public health surveillance and testing. “Watching the conversations unfold in our lab director community in the early days of the pandemic was incredibly inspiring,” says Fouse, director of marketing and communications. “They were sharing best practices, offering support to one another — it was really rewarding to be able to provide such a vital service during this public health emergency.”

In 2017, APHL had upgraded from its listserv to online communities supported by the Higher Logic platform. “It brought much better functionality for networking and information sharing, which was and continues to be essential for public health laboratory professionals,” says Gaskins, APHL’s senior membership specialist. “This is a tight-knit community, and they readily share resources and guidance based on what they see in their lab and in their community.”

As one would imagine, engagement on ColLABorate exploded during the pandemic. “To give you some perspective, in 2019, we had 329 discussion posts. In 2020, we had 1,504,” notes Gaskins. The fever pitch has calmed a bit, but in member surveys, users continue to rate this platform as one of the top benefits of APHL membership. “Our online community is right up there with our magazine and our weekly e-blast — it has become an essential reason to be a part of the association,” adds Fouse.

The conversation threads are a great benefit to members, but they also are incredibly useful to the team at APHL as well. “The community discussions have really helped us keep our finger on the pulse of the community,” says Gaskins. “It helps us to know their concerns and formulate helpful plans of action. So, for example, a conversation may help us realize that we need to publish a new fact sheet or a one-pager on a procedure. Or it may prompt us to connect with our federal partners to say, ‘Hey, this is what our laboratory members are saying, what can you do to help?’”

Fouse and Gaskins agree that the true sign of success for their online member community is seeing members take ownership of it. “When it comes to the number of posts and conversation threads, the baton has passed from staff-generated to member-generated content,” says Fouse. “It is so gratifying to see members taking this tool and owning it—sharing thoughts, questions and content that they feel this community needs in order to continue their incredible work in the name of public health.”


Higher Logic, the industry-leading, human-focused engagement platform, delivers powerful online communities and communication tools to engage members at every stage of their journey. Higher Logic provides a robust engagement platform and strategic services with over a decade of experience in building personalized and scalable community engagement programs. We serve more than 3,000 customers, representing over 350,000 online communities with greater than 200 million users in more than 42 countries worldwide.