Dear Association Executive:
Education is in your mission statement, right? If not, it’s probably in your strategic plan. Isn’t it?
(If not, it should be!)
So let me ask you an important question:
If education is in your mission or strategic plan, how much of your budget is dedicated to educating your members?
Come on, now. How much of your budget is dedicated to education?
Stop. Right. There. Don’t spout off budget numbers to me that say your education budget dollars are for events. Conferences and events are NOT education.
And don’t give me your budget numbers for research or government affairs. They are NOT education.
No! Knowledge management and information officers are not part of your education budget either.
I want to know what percentage of your budget is dedicated to educating your members. 10%? 20%? 30%? 40%? More?
If it’s in the top 5 goals, is at least 20% of your budget dedicated to education?
If education is in your mission or goals, is your education budget in line with your mission? Are your education staff and programs aligned with your mission or strategic plan?
Do you have any professional educators on staff?
If education is one of your primary goals of your association, how much of your staff time is dedicated to providing education initiatives?
Whoa! Stop. Right. There. Again!
I don’t mean sharing information. That’s not education! That’s just passing along reports and stats. Information is not education. If so, we’d all be very educated because of today’s information streams on the Internet.
Information Is Not Education
Information does not equal education.
What about conferences that provide presenter monologues and panel dialogues? Guess what! That’s not education either. That’s still just information transfer. (Yes, all of you CEOs that think that a session with a presenter is education are WRONG!)
As Gomer Pyle used to say, “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”
Still confused. Here are the definitions of information, education and learning to help you understand the differences.
Most of what you call education is actually information transfer. Passing on concepts, data, facts and statistics.
You want your members to do something with that information. Right? Or do you care if they just line their bird cages with it?
I suspect that what you really want is learning. You want your members to learn and apply information. Or do you just want them to memorize the current data that you spout the same way they memorized their multiplication tables?
If education and learning are the primary focus of your organization, you need to do things differently!
Start by adopting this association learning manifesto.
The Association Learning Manifesto*
Learning is a life-long adventure. We value learning where our members construct enduring understanding by developing and applying knowledge, skills and attitudes.
Increased understanding is evidenced by our members who
- Explain its relevance.
- Describe how it connects to or conflicts with prior learning.
- Communicate it effectively to others.
- Generalize and apply it effectively to new situations.
- Reflect critically on their own and other’s learning.
- Ask questions to extend learning.
- Create meaningful solutions.
What if your association programs and conferences were not about content? Instead they were about skills and attitudes.
What if your association was evaluated on providing education that met these seven definitions of learning? What if your conference was ranked on how much your attendees learned?
I think it’s time to stop wasting time on association/meetings benchmarks and standards and start spending time on real education and learning!
*Thanks to educator Jeff Utecht for sharing his school’s definition of learning that I used as the Learning Manifesto.
How can we help association staff and leaders transition from information transfer to educating members? What has to happen for board members to understand the true value of education and learning?