The Challenge of Turning UPA into a Global Association
Silvia C. Zimmermann
Silvia C. Zimmermann is the current UPA Vice President and UPA Europe 2008 Co-Chair. She is the elected UPA President 2009 and lives in Switzerland.
Challenges for a Global Organization
Outside the United States of America the UPA is often perceived as an US-centric association. Do we as an association want this? And if not, what counteractive measures do we need to undertake to avoid this perception?
Of course, one counteractive measure could be to hold the UPA Annual Conference outside the United States to reach out to local UPA members around the globe. But would that be enough? And would we be able to reach out to all regions equally? And how would people who live in a different cultural setting where a different language is spoken perceive a typical UPA annual meeting which is being held in their area without attaching any local regional flavor to it? Do they want to pay the meeting fees in USD although they live in an environment where the Euro, for example, is the primary currency? And also, is the UPA itself ready to bridge the cultural and logistical gaps?
As soon as you get into the details you'll find many questions which have to be answered before you make any decision about what is best to turn the UPA into a truly global association where all members around the globe have similar membership benefits.
Ever since I joined the UPA Board of Directors I've had this dream of the UPA turning into a global association with many decentralized yet connected hubs around the globe. For example, for me personally, UPA China is an equivalent partner of UPA North America, both of which are alliances of UPA-I (UPA International), the overall international organization which is headquartered in Chicago. The same is true for UPA Europe or UPA Latin America. But this notion requires a change in our mind because it implicitly suggests adapting and expanding existing values and beliefs. Let me explain what I mean by talking a little bit about the UPA Europe 2008 conference as a case study.
UPA Europe 2008 in Turin, Italy - A UPA-I Case Study
Since I am a true believer in piloting strategic concepts and ideas, my colleague Michele Visciola (President UPA-Italy and my fellow Co-Chair of UPA Europe 2008) and I convinced the UPA-I Board of Directors back in June 2007 to pilot a regional UPA Europe conference in 2008. In case this is not obvious: This is a huge step for the UPA-I because it implicitly suggests changing the the model of having one annual UPA-I conference in North America.
Here are some of the more important lessons learned.
My eye openers are more related to UPA-I, rather than to the local conference. They are:
Because of the widespread global membership of the UPA it is not enough to hold the UPA Annual Conference outside North America to reach out to all local UPA members equally. Instead we as an association should facilitate our membership with different regional annual conferences around the globe. In that way we create a win-win situation for all.
However, if we want to continue with regional events, such as UPA Europe Conferences in the future, then I see two options:
Succeeding with either option gives us a scalable model available to turn the UPA into a truly global association.
For more information, see the regional UPA Europe conference site.
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