Mark Athitakis is a contributing editor to Associations Now.
A listening tour, new education offerings, and events laid the groundwork for the partnerships that helped the International Parking and Mobility Institute advance global standard-setting.
Global standards for any association can be a challenge: By definition, they require agreements from stakeholders around the world. So when the International Parking and Mobility Institute announced last year that it had partnered with two other associations to establish a new parking-data standard, it was a big event for the industry. And it was one that came on the heels of more than a decade of effort.
Shawn Conrad, CAE, CEO of IPMI, began his tenure at the association in 2008, and one of his early goals was to legitimize the “international” in the association’s name. He conducted a listening tour of related associations, especially in Europe, with a mind toward establishing partnerships down the line.
“We were very sensitive when working with other associations not to diminish what they were doing or do anything that could be perceived as threatening their membership,” he says. To that end, IPMI ramped up its education and conference offerings outside of North America and increased its marketing appeals for its events.
Those efforts helped IPMI increase international engagement with its certifications and attendance at its annual conference.
That success prompted IPMI to convene a summit of global parking association leaders (with the deliberately cheeky acronym GPALs) in 2012 to explore partnerships. It was a novel idea, Conrad recalls: “GPALs was groundbreaking in that it provided a tangible forum to get everyone in the same room at the same time.”
Chief among the issues that emerged was a need for consistency in industry data metrics. Conversations on the topic prompted IPMI last year to create the Alliance for Parking Data Standards in partnership with two other associations covering Great Britain, Canada, and Europe. The nonprofit is IPMI’s brainchild, but Conrad recognized the importance of distributing ownership of the organization: He serves as its CEO, while his British counterpart chairs it, and board members hail from around the globe.
The slower strategy of building connections, Conrad says, pays bigger dividends in the long run. “A lot of people might say, ‘Let’s do market research to see where you can have an international impact,’ and there’s nothing wrong with that,” he says. “But my first focus was on building relationships.”
[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Slow and Steady Success."]