Last week, CIPE welcomed six mentee associations from the KnowHow Mentorship program to Washington, D.C. As you may recall from previous posts about KnowHow, the program connects volunteers with technical expertise to local associations seeking assistance from around the world.
The participants on this trip represented KnowHow ‘s regional and organizational diversity, and the attendees included:
- Ms. Yaneek Page, President, Women Business Owners Jamaica
- Ms. Jhaleh Hajiyeva, Executive Director, Azerbaijan Microfinance Association
- Mr. Kakha Kokhreidze, Executive Vice President, Georgian Small and Medium Enterprise Association
- Ms. Olivera Popovic, Vice President, Association of Business Women in Serbia
- Ms. Lina Tsaltampasi, General Secretary, Association of Greek Women Entrepreneurs
- Ms. Sangita Ahmed, President, Bangladesh Women Chamber of Commerce and Industry
After nearly a year of interacting with their mentors through Skype calls and email exchanges, the six KnowHow mentees were invited to finally meet them in-person and spend a day shadowing their mentors’ organizations. The KnowHow mentees also had four days of association management training sessions led by CIPE and American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) to hone their skills on advocacy, fundraising, membership development, and strategic planning. During their off-hours, the mentees also attended networking events to meet with numerous association executives in the Washington, DC area.
In between their busy schedule, CIPE took them aside to discuss what they were gaining from the the KnowHow mentorship. Most of the mentees commented that association management as a profession is a new field in their respective countries, so having an association executive from the U.S., a country where the profession has a long history, as their mentor was a crucial learning experience. One participant further noted that “association executives exist in my country, but they refuse to share their knowledge with others. They’re not very good with helping the next generation of leaders develop. From that perspective, my association has learned a lot through the KnowHow program. Having a mentor and attending this trip have given me more self-confidence and self-trust in my leadership skills to help improve my association for my members.”
And the mentee associations are already producing results from having a KnowHow mentor. The Georgian Small and Medium Enterprises Association’s (GSMEA) work with its mentor on organizational structure and strategy helped increase membership by 31 percent in eight months and hiring a new employee to expand GSMEA’s communications efforts. Women Business Owners in Jamaica worked closely with its mentor to successfully develop a comprehensive three-year strategic plan to strengthen the organization’s capacity. The Association of Business Women in Serbia’s (ABW) mentor helped develop a new fundraising strategy and revamped ABW’s communications plan, as well as its membership development plan, helping to increase membership by 13 percent in eight months. ABW also started a mentorship program of their own to help build the capacity of their members. The Association of Greek Women Entrepreneurs (SEGE) hired an IT consultant and developed a new website after its KnowHow mentor identified that SEGE needs to build more visibility in order to increase its membership and to network with potential donors.
As the week wrapped up and the mentees were saying their goodbyes, it was evident that from this trip the mentees gained a lot from each other as well. “Even though we come from vastly different countries, the challenges our associations face are universal,” Yaneek Page said. “And I’m going to especially follow up with Sangita to learn more about her Chamber’s successful advocacy campaign. Because that’s something my organization [WBO] needs to do better to improve the environment for women entrepreneurs.”
KnowHow Mentorship connects associations around the world with the know-how they need to be a force for change. If you have experience in association management and would like to mentor a growing business association in a developing country, or if you are a business association looking for advice from an experienced professional in the United States, visit the KnowHow Mentorship website.