The future of membership

What are the drivers affecting why people want or choose to join organisations as members? This is a question that has interested us for some time. We've discussed how social networking technologies are impacting on membership in our second ICT Foresight report (see pages 23-4 in particular) and at our recent seminar (see the section on membership), but what other drivers are at play? After thinking about a foresight membership project for some time, I'm delighted that things seem to be suddenly moving forward at great speed now we've started sharing ideas with David Wilcox and Simon Berry (both excellent contributors to the ICT Foresight work) and with others including the RSA. David's pulled it all together here and there's an excellent discussion going on here (registration required), which Third Sector Foresight members may be interested in joining. Here are some initial ideas we've thrown into the mix:

  • Membership has been commodified – by which we mean that membership is increasingly viewed as a good or service that we buy and dispose of, rather than as a commitment. Have membership organisations been complicit in this, trying to buy members off with an increasing array of (useless?) discounts?
  • 'Direct-debit citizenship' - the flip-side of this commodification is what has been described as 'direct-debit citizenship'; the idea that you can discharge your responsibilities as a citizen by paying £10 a month.
  • The ease of online networking – aspects of membership that are based around mutualism, shared knowledge and friendship, have unsurprisingly migrated online.

If you'd like us to keep you informed as this project develops, email us with 'Membership project' in the subject line.

Last updated at 09:58 Fri 14/May/10.
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How will this affect your organisation? Have you considered it during your strategic planning? Can you share any interesting relevant links?

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