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Become an opportunity-maker for the member organization that most matters to you. Imagine that your association or special interest group kept innovating to create more value and meaning for members.

That’s what TED has done and we can too by taking three collaborative steps over time:

1. Offer a single major conference  – as most associations already do, of course. Involve the members in choosing topics, speakers and formats, base on core guidelines, chosen by member vote. Create a format that enables members to participate in reach a single – and singular goal.

2. Encourage the launch of local conferences yet don’t try to control them. Instead create ground rules for local leaders to succeed while maintaining the quality of the “brand.”

3. Co-brand a fresh version of your national conference with another respected organization on vital topic that matters to the members of both organizations. Allow the founders of your local conferences to co-sponsor that new conference by enabling their members to view it together in their area.

The team at the TED conference announced this third step today.  See how you could adapt these steps to the member group that most matters to you.

Step One

The national TED conference has grown increasingly popular throughout the past 22 years, with the biggest community of members becoming those who avidly watch the videos of speakers.

Step Two

Building on the strength of that largely online community, TED launched, just last April, local events dubbed TEDx. Rather, in true collaborative fashion, they announced guidelines for these local events and invited people to co-host, design and run them. In just one year local leaders stepped up and hosted over 600 such events around the globe.

Hint: To encourage local events, the guidelines start with the benefits for the local organizers and provides an easy-to-follow toolkit: “In the spirit of ‘Ideas Worth Spreading,’ TEDx is a program that enables schools, businesses, libraries or just groups of friends to enjoy a TED-like experience through events they themselves organize, design and host.

We’re supporting approved organizers by offering a free toolkit that includes detailed advice, the right to use recorded TEDTalks, promotion on our site, connection to other organizers, and a little piece of our brand in the form of the TEDx label.”

In so doing, local communities bonded, learning together and created other local collaborations.  Imagine! In over 25 languages were spoken at these talks with opportunities for translation to spread the messages farther – and make speakers more well-known, thus spurring participation by great speakers.

Hint: the more popular your events become the more people you attract to donate their services.

This is the path to peace – and savoring your life with others. Diverse individuals meeting to learn and share best ideas with each other – and, in conversations during the event and afterwards, to find ways they can accomplish greater things together, than they can alone.

Step Three

Today the third step was announced. A new event is linking local groups to the mother ship of the national group – around a new topic area, yet connected to the underlying TED brand of innovation, new ideas – and solving a problem together.  Local groups will get to meet and share this new event live – with other local chapters around the world.  The announcement was that “On September 20, 2010, more than 150 of the world’s leading thinkers and doers will come together in New York for TEDxChange, convened by Melinda French Gates … and hosted by TED founder Chris Anderson.”

With such member loyalty, interest and clout accumulated by TED it can attract a big-time partner – the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  Also together they share a Sweet Spot of mutual interest – bringing bright minds together to address a big problem: how to improve health around the world.

Plus smart partners tie their collaboration to as many meaning goals and events as they credibly can.  For example, this conference is tied to the 10th anniversary of the famous Millennium Development Goals.

This is a three- stage template that you could use to grow the value and visibility of your profession association – and make it more meaningful for your members.

In fact any member-based club or special interest group could adapt it to their needs to grow its capacity to make powerful changes while imbuing its members with a sense of meaning in their participation.

Think what the Rotary Clubs have accomplished over 20 years with their single goal, bottom-up approach to wiping out polio.  Imagine local Rotary clubs have rallied around this single cause and have raised about $127.4 million for this cause – plus personally worked on projects to make it happen. That gives their lives meaning and builds extraordinary bonds between members and with those they selflessly serve. That dedication and progress towards a singular goal (key to great collaboration) attracted the Gates foundation as a partner.

Tip: When people bring out each other’s best talents in collaboration around a sweet spot of mutual interest they accomplish greater things together than they ever could on their own – and they savor the experience along the way.

To make your member-based organization a member-attracting tool for major change and a source of meaning in the life of your members what singular goal would you suggest they achieve?  For your organization, how would you adapt this three-step approach that has been wildly successful for TED?

moving from me to we


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