Ksenija Polla
Regional Director North America, ICCA

Why do you invest your time & efforts in association work?

I am in awe of what association work can achieve and contribute as agents of change. By being part of an association’s work I know that even with just a little part I am contributing to a greater picture and working with all the amazing association executives out there to create a better world.

Associations are part of every sphere of human existence and have been instrumental in creating change and challenge status quo from the early Greek Academies to modern times. Without associations ensuring knowledge transfer, furthering research, inspiring policy changes and creating awareness for any societal issues we would not have been able to progress as human race in the same way we have.

What are the top three success factors of impactful association work?

  1. Appreciation: Every small contribution is important – to create a big puzzle you need every single piece of the puzzle to fit in, which is why it is important to nurture relationships and appreciate not only staff and volunteer leaders but every single member of the associations.
  2. Legacy: Associations are communities which you need to nurture and help grow – annual meetings are when those communities come together, but we have to be mindful of two huge elements – how can you integrate the association community in a destination and leave a long lasting impact and secondly when your community leave, how can you keep growing that community without losing touch until the next meeting. As part of a team within ICCA working on the Incredible Impacts Award I am honored to be part of creating those mindful strategies of building lasting legacies and engaging members year round.
  3. Community: One thing associations often lose track off because of their non-profit status is that they should have a different culture from big corporations. While they can learn from big Fortune 500 companies about customer satisfaction and adapt this to their association’s work – it is nothing different than ensuring your members are happy with what you have to offer. The difference is that the connection and culture of community is already built in for associations, so we need to capitalize on it and adapt to new business environments globally.

What should we #ChooseToChallenge when it comes to association work?

My #ChooseToChallenge for 2021 project would be ‘Change of mindset’.

Don’t think outside of the box but think WITHOUT a box, educate your board and members and staff to think what is unique to your association and take this as your basis – go back to basics and drive change from their by being mindful of your audience, your environment, your impact and most importantly be inclusive of every person regardless of gender, race, religion, ability, culture, political views or anything which would be considered as being different.

How is the association sector dealing with diversity and inclusion? Has it changed?

I have seen geographical differences when it comes to diversity and inclusion: while one aspect may be very much at the forefront in North America, others may be more pronounced in Europe or Asia and some may be totally off the radar for all.

Being inclusive of people with different abilities to work during your meetings is not often included in the RFPs of associations. There are changes and progress, but we should be much more progressive about it. Let’s take a stance and include this in our RFPs as well as in our missions and by-laws.

How do you select your staff? Do you have anything in your RFP for your meetings ensuring that you clearly state your position on diversity and inclusion? To achieve change, you need to get buy-in at the highest level – so look at your own elections procedures and how inclusive you are when it comes to your own board.