Recession profiteering v drop-down menu

An email popped into my inbox last night advertising yet another conference aimed at helping, guiding, supporting charities and other organisations survive, weather, capitalise on the recession, economic downturn, credit crunch.   The terms are interchangeable of course.  But you won’t have much loose change left afterwards that’s for sure.  The invitation I got yesterday cost over £400 for a place.  Ridiculous if not laughable.  I hope no one goes to it.

I suppose it’s inevitable that someone, somewhere was going to profit from the gloom but it does worry me that people  are paying an awful lot for information which actually falls well short of the far superior advice not to mention mutual support and links to networks that you can gain from being a member of an association or representative body such as ours.

Yesterday I had lunch with a colleague of mine and we got talking about membership associations and their value (yes, I am one of the most interesting lunch companions imagineable!). 

Without doubt, one area where AMRC adds value is in representing the sector’s voice to Government – or others for that matter – on specific issues or concerns.  Another is the credibility-gain that members get from being able to tell those they work with as well as their supporters and donors that they operate to the highest standard in allocating their research funds as set-down by the Association.

But, in difficult times such as this, it is the 1:1 help and support that member charities can access which increases in value.  And I think the model by which AMRC does this, is – and has to – change fast to meet the ever-changing needs of members.  So, gone are the days when our services might be expressed as a simple exchange akin to buying goods in a shop.  What is actualy happening is that charities are coming to us in the hope that we can provide a drop-down menu of options or choices that might lead them somewhere they had not thought of before, which helps to open up new opportunities. 

A simple and perhaps not very good example.  Yesterday one of my members visited me to see whether AMRC could help them get a couple of speakers from the MRC and NIHR for a meeting they were planning about research funding.  Talk soon focused on the need for them to build a wider coalition of voices to press their argument more effectively.  But they needed help to identify other charities they could work with.  By looking at our grants database we were able to give them the names of four or five charities they could approach about joint-working.  And after much further conversation it became clear that their strategy thus far had not involved industry.  Yet they already had good links with industry in other aspects of their work but had just not had the space to think how they could use this partnership in support of their research.

Making connections is perhaps a better term but it doesn’t make such a good headline for a blog (see above).

And yes, we still do conferences.  In fact our 23rd AGM and Conference including sessions on public and patient involvement, collaboration in a recession, and with broadcaster Geoff Watts as our guest speaker takes place on 21st October 2009.  And it’s free.  How good is that?

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