What Does Innovation Look Like?

By: Rob Stott

ASAE's Innovation Grant Program offers a glimpse into how associations are fostering innovation in the industry.

What are associations doing to be innovative? ASAE's Innovation Grants Program (IGP), which completed its pilot run earlier this year, is providing some answers. The program, designed to raise awareness and encourage innovation in the association community, received 63 applications from a wide variety of organizations.

"The landscape of innovation is very broad and very diverse," says Michelle Mason, FASAE, CAE, managing director for the American Society of Quality and chair of the IGP committee. "There's a difference between breakthrough innovation and incremental innovation, and that was very apparent through the process."

"We were all quite impressed with the caliber and scope of proposals we received," says Sharon Moss, CAE, chief research officer for ASAE. "The proposals reflected an infusion of innovation across the fabric of the organization, not just in a single area like IT or educational offerings or meetings and conferences. ... Some applicants drew inspiration for their innovation plan from other environments, even outside the association community."

Open communication is key to successful innovation, says Moss.

"It's about sharing and creativity. You can't do it in a vacuum," she says. "Be willing to talk and explore, and be willing to accept you may not succeed at first. There are indeed lessons to be learned from the path that you take, not just the end result."

The IGP committee awarded four organizations grants of up to $10,000 to pursue their innovative projects:

  • American Alliance of Museums
  • Association of American Medical Colleges
  • International Association of Diecutting and Diemaking
  • Colorado Nonprofit Association

For more information on the grant recipients, their projects, and the IGP, visit www.asaecenter.org/igp.

Rob Stott is editorial assistant at Associations Now in Washington, DC. Email: [email protected]

Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor to Associations Now.