Creating a Federation of Equals in the Social Marketing Community

By Patrick Cook, President, International Social Marketing Association (iSMA).

In May, 2017, the Board of the iSMA voted to explore moving our association toward a federation, or alliance, of professional associations representing social marketing professionals around the world. Currently, we have four “regional” associations—Australian Association of Social Marketers (AASM), European Social Marketing Association (ESMA), Pacific Northwest Social Marketing Association (PNWSMA), and the Social Marketing Association of North America (SMANA). Groups in both Africa and Latin America have also started discussions about forming a professional association of social marketers in their area.

As a result, the Executive Team of the iSMA Board—Kelley Dennings (Treasurer), Jennifer Wayman (Secretary) and myself—sought more detailed input from our four regional associations and developed a draft strategic business plan and budget to guide our efforts over the next three years. The full Board discussed the draft plan during our meeting in September (see our meeting minutes here), and agreed to refine and finalize the draft plan. Here are some of the highlights from this plan:

A Federation of Equals. In order to reduce “competition” among our associations, iSMA will restructure itself into a federation, an alliance of independent member associations that share a common approach—social marketing—to address the challenges and solve the “wicked problems” faced by communities, states, and nations around the world. The member associations will initially be defined by region (e.g., Africa, Asia, Pacific Rim, North America, Europe, etc.). At a later date, iSMA may choose to define a member association in other ways such as by practice area. By implementing a new federated structure for iSMA, we will be better able to foster, encourage, and support the growth of our profession.

Support and Coordinate. As the hub of our new alliance, iSMA will always seek to support and coordinate rather than initiate and compete with the products or services offered by the member associations. For example, if a member association is developing an online learning library, then iSMA will work with the member association to determine how the library can be made available to all member associations rather than start a competing service.

Priority Products and Services. As a hub, iSMA will provide value to the profession of social marketing by offering some priority products services to all members of the regional associations that participate in our federation. Some of these include:

  • Association mentorship program to support the establishment of new member associations.
  • Membership management system to support recruitment, registration, and retention of members for our member associations.
  • Professional development program to support professional growth and development of our members including in-person conferences, meetings, webinars, publications, and more.
  • Professional standards resource center to encourage the adoption and implementation of common standards, concepts, and ethical approaches to the practice of our profession.
  • Advocacy program to encourage national, bilateral, and multilateral funding agencies and foundations to make social marketing a fundamental part of their programs and initiatives.
  • Engagement platform to promote member associations and iSMA to new members and encourage existing members to participate in services and events offered by member associations and iSMA.

While there are many ideas and no lack of enthusiasm for what iSMA can offer to the community of social marketing associations and professionals, it will be important for our small, volunteer-run associations to establish which of these and many other products and services are a priority and which ones can wait for another day. Over the coming months, we will establish these priorities, with input from the member associations, and you, our membership. We hope to make have a final plan in place for our Annual General Meeting in early 2018.

In the meantime, if you have questions, have some great ideas, or want to offer up a cautionary tale, then please get in touch with me ([email protected]) or any member of the Board [link to Board bios and contact info on website].