This has become a real quandary for many associations. My observation has been that there are two very different directions that an association can take when faced with the decision of offering knowledge or education to their members. At first glance it should be easy, just look at the mission statement of the association. But dig a bit deeper and the issue becomes more complex.
Model one for an association is to offer the most up-to-date information to their members so that the members can be more knowledgeable and competitive in their profession or industry. This could be open source information that encourages the membership to stay current and use the association as a first source - reliable source. The emphasis here is on the benefit to the member. Simultaneously, the association should be providing free information to the public and related industry. Through free and/or inexpensive (to members) use of a webcast, podcast, course, workshop, conference, convention, online open forum, etc., the association should promote the values of the association and the professional services that the associationâs membership base represent. This model works best when the membership does not have any form of mandatory requirement to maintain their knowledge standards.
Model two for an association is offer education to their members so that their members can be the knowledge leaders in their industry or profession. This approach generally provides additional benefits for the members, usually when the courses, webcasts, workshops, conferences, conventions, online forums, etc, meet the associationâs credential requirements, or another professional organizationâs credential maintenance requirements, or more likely a state licensing boardâs mandatory continuing education (MCE) requirement. The downside to the associationâs members, as much as the member may expect and want it, education is not free. Someone has to pay for the development and the delivery of the education. In one form or another, these expenses are passed on to the member and even more so to the non-member and stakeholders. Strict standards are set for knowledge to be âqualifiedâ as education.
For an association the difference between knowledge and education comes down to two key questions: 1.What is the mission of the association? 2. If the association wants to provide education, how will the association cover their development and delivery expenses?