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Is purpose enough?

A joint purpose (often expressed as a vision) is what brings interested parties together to cooperate and invest resources (time, effort, and money) in an association. The founding members may consider that cooperating with others is more impactful than not cooperating at all.

Therefore, founding an association to realise the common vision is worth the effort.

Nonetheless, the understanding of the vision is relative and there are 3 good reasons for this.


What constitutes a “common vision” is subject to cultural interpretation and asymmetry of information and can easily be misunderstood. Especially, the cultural interpretation can be amplified by linguistic barriers and misinterpretation of terms and expressions.


Over time changes in the micro-environment (members, partners, competitors, etc.) and/or the macro-environment (political, technological, sociocultural changes, etc.) of the association will put into question the relevance of the common “vision” and the actual need for cooperation.


Even though international associations are stable working environments, both the “secretariat” and the members (representatives) rotate over time. New commers will bring a fresh look over what is the common purpose.

Each international association is unique and a rather complicated ecosystem. People that participate in international associations represent diverse cultures, backgrounds, and interests and the perception of what the association represents varies significantly.

This diversity is not a weakness, but where the true power of an association is. Especially, if an association accept this reality and becomes a melting pot of all the of the different perspectives

Everybody is praising purpose as the key element of an association. But as much as we need a north star to set course, so do we need the necessary flexibility to understand what lies ahead and readjust course and a set of shared values to navigate through good and not so good times.

This is how an association can make both destination and travel worth the effort for its people.



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