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Investigating the New Future (Together): Looking Forward™ 2021

Participate in this valuable study to receive complimentary access to its data

Participate in the Association Laboratory Looking Forward Survey SquareWould you like to know the most substantial issues facing your members? Assess the challenges that associations will need to overcome to be successful in a dynamic and uncertain future?

Of course, you do. You can’t just spend your time drinking your way through the pandemic.

A fantasy? Nope, saddle up association executives and get ready to participate in the most recent, relevant, and comprehensive environmental scan of the association sector in history.

History is Dead.

One of the most difficult challenges facing leaders is preparing for the future. Historically, we would look behind us. Examine what worked and what didn't. We’d adjust accordingly.

The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed this approach. We can no longer assume that the historical assumptions driving our strategy are valid.

Tomorrow, Association Laboratory and OSAE are deploying the association sector’s most comprehensive environmental scan, Looking Forward™ 2021. This survey is only open to association professionals. 

Looking Forward™, now in its tenth year, is the world’s leading environmental scan of the association strategy environment.  The survey will be deployed in cooperation with the 20 state, specialty and global societies of association executives, including OSAE participating in the Association Laboratory Research Alliance. The Association Laboratory Research Alliance is dedicated to helping association leaders understand the changing nature of the association business model.

Select this link to participate in the survey!

Association executives who participate will get complimentary (that means free) access to the most recent, relevant information to inform your strategy discussions.

Let’s take a tour of the completely revamped study.

Looking Forward™ evaluates 61 factors impacting member decisions across 6 domains.

This summer, Association Laboratory conducted qualitative research asking volunteer leaders across the Association Laboratory Research Alliance what they thought the future of associations looked like.

The result? A complete re-design of Looking Forward™.

The study now consists of six domains encompassing the breadth of factors influencing association members. Within these domains (economic, technology, workforce, government, market psychology and global), participants will have the opportunity to review 61 different factors influencing member decisions.

Identify what you believe is critical. See how your response compares to your peers. Understand how the future impacts your members’ relationship with your association.

Evaluate Five Mission-based Strategies

Associations are all about the mission. While associations pursue many types of business strategies, Association Laboratory’s sector research indicates there are some mission-based strategy categories that are more common. This year, for the first time, Looking Forward™ 2021 will identify to what extent associations anticipate using these strategies to achieve mission-based success. We’ll look at the following:

  • Research Strategies – strategies focused on discovering new knowledge. For example, collecting information on the results of new research into breast cancer or identifying best practices in manufacturing.
  • Education Strategies – strategies focused on existing knowledge transfer. For example, presenting a small group session on Industry 101 at the Annual Meeting or a webinar on applying industry standards to a production process.
  • External Advocacy Strategies – strategies focused on benefiting the public or other external constituencies outside the profession or industry. For example, creating a public relations campaign advising parents to immunize their children or for drivers to drive safely around construction sites.
  • Industry/Professional Advocacy Strategies - strategies focused on improving the regulatory or economic climate within which members and/or member organizations operate. For example, hiring a lobbyist to advocate for increased reimbursement or reduced regulatory oversight.
  • Convening Strategies - strategies designed to position the association as a neutral body for the discussion or resolution of professional or industry issues. For example, convening a CEO-only event to discuss shared industry or professional problems like product quality or workforce diversity.

Looking Forward™ Assesses the Impact of Competition on Associations

Previous research shows associations must operate successfully in a highly competitive environment. This year, we assess competition for associations using a modified version of Porter’s Five Forces. You’ll understand, for the first time, the comprehensive nature of competitive influences on your association.

Looking Forward™ Assesses 76 Challenges Across 9 Essential Association Business Strategies

This year, we assess the importance of nine principal association business strategies. From membership to meetings, you’ll have the opportunity to tell your peers what you believe is most essential to growth.

Within these strategies, participants will identify the most significant challenges to their success. From understanding new audiences to creating effective relationships between buyers and sellers, every person  

Faster, More Detailed Information to Inform Your Association’s Decisions

This year, participants will have the opportunity review the results much sooner than previous years. Once the survey is closed in early December, you’ll be given access to a dashboard of the survey data, provided by Nucleus, the Association Laboratory Research Alliance’s data analytics solution.

See the data in the way that makes sense to you, and download the data to guide your volunteer leadership and staff.

Save the Date: Jan. 21, 2021 to Get Your First Glimpse of the Future

On Jan. 21, 2021 from 12 p.m. – 1 p.m. EST, Association Laboratory will release and discuss the results of Looking Forward™ 2021 at a complimentary hybrid event at the OLC Center in Rosemont, Illinois. This unique event, coupled with a nationwide broadcast, will provide different interpretations of the data from both trade and professional perspectives. Participants will learn what factors impact members and the implications on association strategy. Listen to different interpretations of the research. Learn how to drill down into the data for your own insights using Gravitate’s data analytics product, Nucleus. Talk with your peers, locally and virtually, about what you think it all means and what might be done about it.

Ask your state, specialty or other society of association executives about their plans for a satellite event. To learn more about the results party, please visit

Understanding the future and what to do about it what we do here at Association Laboratory. Thank you to the many partners, including OSAE, who make our investigation of the future on behalf of the association sector a reality. A big thanks from my seat at the (home) bar.

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