Study Mission to Europe Connects U.S., European Association Executives

A wrap-up of ASAE's 2012 Study Mission to Brussels and Berlin

In May, 20 senior-level U.S. association executives traveled to Belgium and Germany to participate in ASAE's 2012 Study Mission to Europe. During the nine-day trip, attendees learned about the cultural, economic, and social dynamics of each country by meeting with government officials, European Union policymakers, and the heads of many Berlin- and Brussels-based associations.

Adding to the experience were the locations themselves, which are rich in association history. Germany's association landscape is the most sophisticated, organized, and structured in Europe, while Brussels is considered to be among the most proactive on the continent in soliciting the establishment of associations, particularly international ones. Today, more than 3,000 associations are headquartered there.

The study mission included a visit to the German Society for Association Management—the German equivalent of ASAE—where attendees met with board members and leadership to learn how they are working to "professionalize" the association management profession. In Brussels, attendees met with executives from the Union of International Associations and the Federation of European and International Associations, which was established in Belgium.

The mission also included two half-day sessions called "Meeting of the Minds," during which U.S. executives were matched with their counterparts in Brussels and Berlin. Together, they shared insights about their organizations' industries, scopes, and missions.

This educational experience could not have happened without the help of two partners, the Canadian Tourism Commission and MCI.

"By partnering with ASAE, the CTC was able to build brand equity and showcase its commitment to higher education within two major association hubs in Europe: Brussels and Berlin," says Michele Saran, CTC's U.S. executive director of meetings, conventions, and incentive travel. "The 2012 Europe Study Mission provided U.S. and global association CEOs the platform to exchange industry intelligence and best practices. Deep-dive sessions included meeting European Union senior policymakers and government officials to learn more about the economic, social, and cultural environments of two key markets, while establishing new relationships in the critical global MICE [meetings, incentives, conventions, and exhibitions] marketplace."

This was the first ASAE Study Mission for Gabriel Eckert, CAE, executive director of the Building Owners and Managers Associations of Georgia. The experience "expanded my knowledge of how international nonprofits operate, helped me expand my network, and helped me build friendships as well," he says. "One thing I found fascinating is the commonality of interests. Whether you're in the United States, Germany, or Belgium, we're all concerned with member engagement, finance issues, and best practices."

Eckert says the fact that he runs a state association didn't make the study mission any less meaningful for him. "If a CEO is looking for new ideas, you have to find new experiences," he says. "The study mission was a way to think completely outside of the box."

To learn more about ASAE's international work, visit