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by Sandra Trice Gray

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Think and act both locally and globally.

According to John Naisbitt in his book Global Paradox, "The bigger the world economy, the more powerful its smallest players." In the 21st century, it will be necessary to think and act both locally and globally if we as leaders want to ensure that our organizations maintain a strong presence among increasingly diverse constituencies. The 21st-century leader must be able to see and seek both local and global connections and to consider how these relate to the viability of his or her organization.

Many associations already transcend a national scope. After all, association activities (e.g., communication, education, research, standards setting) are borderless. And since populations ? regardless of makeup or location ? are increasingly addressing interdependent issues, such as disease, environmental concerns, and technology, 21st-century leaders will need to function with a consciousness that looks not only at how these issues impact their own memberships but also at the impact of these issues on a worldwide scale.

Communication technology has increased our capacity to interact in a timely manner with people anywhere in the world, making our efforts equally and immediately local and global. However, one crucial question becomes, "How do we globalize our thinking as leaders and work to internationalize our organizations?"

Here are a few starter ideas for institutionalizing an international perspective into your association?s functions:

  • Incorporate specific global dimensions into the organization?s mission and strategic plan.
  • Formalize your association?s information exchanges and share ideas and resources with associations in other countries whose missions and priorities coincide with those of your association, and encourage your members to do the same within their organizations.
  • Strengthen association staff and member technological capability to communicate strategically with individuals and organizations that are beyond the borders of the United States.
  • Organize cross-border Internet dialog around key association issues.
  • List e-mail and home page addresses of relevant or affiliated international organizations on your Web site, and establish hot links to those sites.
  • Include international perspectives in all association activities. For example, add international dimensions to your annual meeting by hosting an international reception or inviting international speakers and panelists to be part of your program.
  • Encourage and provide resources for your members and staff to attend international meetings.
  • Recognize member organizations for best practices implemented to internationalize their associations.

As our organizations become more and more placeless within a global society, our interrelationships will become an important reflection of who we are and what we do as associations. As today?s association leaders pay more attention to the borderless world in which we live, they will naturally see existing linkages ? and they will facilitate new ones ? with other organizations, communities, and populations around the nation and the world.


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