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Social Justice and Sustainability: An Association’s Power

Associations Advancing Goal #1 - Ending Poverty

As the Institute of Association Leadership (IAL) launches its social purpose initiative (IGNITE), we need to ask – what opportunities and influence do associations have in trying to affect change through their knowledge, expertise, and connectivity?

Have associations got to grips with what is expected from the U.N Sustainable Development Goals, and do they appreciate and understand the role that they can play in addressing sustainability and social justice issues?

Co-founder and President of the African Society of Association Executives, Jeffers Miruka, appreciates the difficulties in engaging membership organisations in the discussions regarding what action each one can take to address social injustice, climate change, and poverty at a time when they may be fighting for their survival.

However, following the global pandemic association, executives realise that sustainability is the key to any association's success and survival.  In a recent Association Transformation episode, Jeffers discussed the work he has been doing to reach out and engage with the 400,000+ associations across Africa in developing a sustainable future.

In reaching just 10% of those associations, a message is already being spread., if only 10% of that 40,000 actively engage, then 4000 associations have a significant impact, and we start to see change while also allowing those organisations to obtain their objectives.

The COVID outbreak prevented the old "normal", as traditional revenue streams dried up. So, it was back to the drawing board and try to find new ways of working for the African Associations.  They realised that to remain afloat financially, sustainability was the key to success.  The African associations are now thinking collaboratively to ensure survival and success for all

This is not a unique case for African associations. The collaborative global work with the U.S Society of Association Executives, and the European and Australasian associations are also beginning to see results.

Sometimes the challenge of the Social Responsibility Agenda can feel overwhelming and  impossible.  It is  much broader than it at first appears including goals such as Gender Equality, Health and well-being as well as access to clean water and sanitation. 

Some organisations feel that talking of such issues is beyond their scope or capabilities. 

However, it's not necessarily about making an immediate, big impact - it's the little differences in which organisations truly believe that will have the most impact.  All great journeys start with small steps, and the next generation will take up the challenge and continue to develop and progress what has been started.

It is important that associations focus on what they can do, rather than being deterred by what we can't (at the moment) achieve. Associations must be about bringing people together to shine  a light on issues of Social Justice, and they must find a way to incorporate them in association policy.

As Jeffers commented – "as we move forward, we must not fall back into the 'old normal', but find a 'better new’".

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