Innovation in Associations Study

innovation in associations study

New technology, demographic changes, and other shifts are requiring associations to develop new ways of thinking and working. Association leaders recognize the importance of innovation, but when it comes to putting it into practice, many associations struggle to establish the necessary culture and capabilities. To understand the factors that advance or limit innovation in associations, the ASAE Foundation, in conjunction with Case Western Reserve University, conducted the Innovation in Associations study.

The research was conducted in three phases:

  • interviews with senior-level executives on the forefront of innovation, whose ideas and insights informed the creation of the survey deployed in the second phase of research
  • a survey of senior-level executives or CEOs to understand how their organizations implement innovation and what specific capabilities and practices promote successful innovation
  • focus groups built from the survey findings to extrapolate key themes and develop recommendations for innovation strategies, programs, and practices in the association community

Key Takeaways

Many associations are performing well in some areas of innovation, but the research indicates that leaders have opportunities to broaden their scope. Association leaders often focus on developing a culture of innovation, but they don’t give the same attention to developing innovation capabilities. Associations that are committed to innovation are more likely to pursue certain strategies that lead to success, including planning and implementing innovation practices in a deliberate way and consistently tracking efforts with specific metrics.

The findings were used to create a set of guidelines and recommendations for association leaders to use in implementing and improving innovation in their organizations and industries. The findings and recommendations are synthesized in the report Associations Innovate: The Journey from Intent to Action.

additional publications and resources

Innovation Requires Capabilities, Not Just Culture

Keys to Innovation Success

Making a Model for Innovation