The challenge of starting up an organization and engaging partners 
by Octavio 'Bobby' Peralta, Secretary General, Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia & the Pacific (ADFIAP) and President & CEO, Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE)
"If managing an association is challenging enough, what more if you're starting a new one!", says Octavio "Bobby" Peralta in hindsight when he initiated the founding of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE) in 2013 and subsequently the Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations (APFAO) in 2015.
"Laying the foundation of a new association requires three essential elements", Bobby continues. "I call them the '3Rs' of association-building. This is parallel to basic education building blocks which we learned when we were in grade school, the '3Rs' of reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic."
Expounds Bobby, "in association-building, these '3Rs' are relevance, relationships and resources. Relevance starts with purpose - knowing why your association does what it does, its 'reason for being'. An association needs to be very clear on its raison d'être so it can formulate its mission and vision and strategically plan ahead. To be relevant also means to answer the question of why members will join the association, because if there are no members, there is no association to speak of in the first place. To continue being relevant to members and other stakeholders is always going to be challenging."
"In the case of PCAAE, there was a gap to fill," recalls Bobby. Based on his 25 years (and counting) experience as an association executive, he says that there is no end to learning and innovating when it comes to association governance and management. He continues, "while associations and other membership organizations in the Philippines still thrive, continuing education and professionalization in governance and management of these organizations need to be sustained to be relevant into the future." To date, the PCAAE has been growing, with a certification program for association executives, an annual conference, an awards program and lots of networking, among other member services.
"Another critical element for associations is developing and nurturing relationships. No man is an island, as a famous quotation goes. Associations build communities and do not work in isolation. Partnerships, alliances, sharing and exchanges are healthy for associations in this collaborative environment", adds Bobby.
"This second 'R' is one of the reasons for the inter-regional founding of the APFAO which initially consists of national 'associations of associations' in Australia, South Korea and the Philippines, namely, the Associations Forum Australia, the Australasian Society of Association Executives, the Korean Society of Association Executives and the PCAAE. Of late, Japan and Malaysia, among others, are in the process of developing their own 'national' grouping of associations.
"For associations to be sustainable, they also need resources, both human and financial capital", Bobby mentions. Board members, member-leaders, professional staff and volunteers are important for associations to function and flourish as are revenues that have to keep coming in."
"The 'creation model' of PCAAE is one of a tri-partite cooperation", Bobby offers. "Three organizations with different motivations but similar advocacies for associations worked together to form the PCAAE. The Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the country's tourism marketing and technical arm, saw the need to put the associations in one common platform to help boost the MICE sector; the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) deemed associations, both nationally and abroad, were an important market they have to continue serving; and the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP) took the view that strengthening the associations' governance and management would make them more 'bankable and developmental-minded'”.
The challenges of starting a new association are enormous but from Bobby's perspectives and based on his experience, the '3Rs' of association-building can be a guide for future start-ups.