What have the Romans ever done for us?


Not for Profit Association Members often ask what does my Association do for me? Particularly in the industry group sector. One answer is “provides advocacy”, but how can this be measured? Advocacy is a bit like advertising in this context. It definitely works but what part works best – no one really knows.

As the CEO of a small optical industry group with just 70 Members resources are limited and as a result, we need to choose wisely to advocate on behalf of and represent our members’ best interests.  

Recently in the space of two weeks, I attended these events to advocate for and represent the members of our Association:

1. UNSW SOVS Visiting Committee where discussion (amongst other matters) surrounded the selection of the new Head of School for the School of Optometry and Vision Science and access to optometry for underprivileged and rural communities.

2. Standards Australia’s Nominating Organisations Forum – Shaping the strategy in how Australian standards are formulated and funded into the future.

3. Macular Disease Foundation’s Australia National Action Plan Workshop – Developing plans for a united approach to assist the macular disease community. 

4. Optometry 2040 Workshop – Posing and answering the big questions ie, What might optometry and the sector look like in 2040?  

5. Australian Institute of Company Directors Annual Essential Director Update – looking at the latest challenges facing company directors and the endless compliance rules that are now applicable to our voluntary Board. Association Board Members are required to uphold the same standards as any director in a public company like BHP. 

How can our members measure the value and level of this advocacy?  

It might not pay off for 10 years and there will certainly be no change next week. Though things we have worked on over the years like removing duty on optical frames, our Start Your Own Practice models, and updating the Standard for sunglasses have benefited everyone.  

Association Membership should be a marathon, not a sprint.  So, should members be able to dip in and out when they perceive they can see results? Or when there is a big issue or cause?  Well yes, they should as membership is voluntary. However, Members that see the big picture and want to shape the future for their industry are the ones that understand the day to day value of lifelong membership. 

Without Associations voices and input at these types of meetings, who will represent an industry?, Who will see the big picture and shape that industry’s future?

These days when posed the question, What does my Association do for me? , I often just smile and think of the scene in the movie The Life of Brian from the brilliant Monty Python team – “What have the Romans ever done for us?” – before launching into my explanation.

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