How the Association World is Evolving


Ben Hainsworth, executive director for K.I.T. Group, talks about market change and legacy.

Ben Hainsworth

I spent many years working for a large European medical society where I managed the congress and meetings division. But in 2014, I felt it was time for a change and I moved on to an association and conference management company.

At K.I.T. Group we have a diverse range of European and international associations with an array of activities including some major events. We handle association and event management for clients that include the International Society for Pediatric and Adolescent Diabetes (ISPAD), the International Union of Immunological Societies (IUIS), and the International Liver Transplantation Society (ILTS) — all very different animals but all good examples of how the market is evolving.

Association governance has changed dramatically in recent years and a key focus is on business sustainability. Of course, this has a financial aspect, but there are also reputational considerations, and these are leading associations to be more inclusive and outward looking.

ISPAD’s annual congress in India this year will have a patient and public outreach initiative, with the motto “Reaching the Unreached.” The legacy will be an improved understanding of how kids can live full lives despite their condition, an important message for the children but also for their families and teachers.

Much of our team’s time is spent delivering daily support, but we spend a lot of time consulting on longer term strategies. Next year’s IUIS congress in Beijing has been in the pipeline for five years. Successfully aligning the interests and expectations of our client, IUIS, with those of a very assertive and powerful host society is a cultural and diplomatic marathon.

At ILTS, the traditional focus on membership numbers, conference attendance, and sponsorship revenue remains. But more attention is being given to building values, engaging the community, and creating networks with governmental, philanthropic, and NGO sectors.

We are also seeing that the combination of K.I.T. Group’s event know-how (PCO) and our flair for community management (AMC) are being solicited from organisations beyond our traditional association base. Not long ago we organised a high-level global financial summit in Germany. Now we are speaking with the same international development agency about the possibility of orchestrating an ambitious health-care policy development initiative in Asia and Africa.

As the market changes, our business is evolving and taking us into all sorts of exciting new areas. Associations are going from strength to strength, but not in the organic and predictable ways that we have known in the past.

Ben Hainsworth is executive director for Berlin-based PCO K.I.T. Group, whose core business is the planning and organisation of conferences, meetings, public events, and exhibitions. The company operates more than 30 events per year. Ben Hainsworth is a member of the 2018 PCMA EMEA Advisory Board.

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