Michael Webb established the Charities and Associations Exhibition, known thereafter as CHASE in 1991, and kept it going for an astonishing 24 years! Earlier this year Glenda Parker, of Hart Square, gathered a ‘coalition of the willing’ in London to re-launch it for its 25th anniversary. The result – from a standing start in January – was available for all to see a couple of weeks ago. But was it worth all the effort?
Well, if you work for a membership organisation, you don’t need me to tell you that change has been rapid in recent years. Associations, institutes, and charities have developed joined-up systems and active member engagement processes. Their outward appearance has become slicker, their business acumen honed. Much of this is down to the digital revolution.
They are also innovative, adaptable, and increasingly fleet of foot. Because, they’ve had to be. They’re correspondingly independent, task focussed, and frequently small to medium enterprises. They are moreover fundamentally about people. And the best way to engage with people is to bring them together under one roof. Where you can entertain them, enlighten them, challenge and energise them!
And so, while it might have been time to light the 25th candle on its birthday cake, it was also time to take a fresh approach to chase25, bringing it up to date with a new venue, structure, exhibitors, and themes. With a show reflective of change, but without abandoning its heritage.
Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be! But if there was any latent yearning after the past, it was soon dispelled by the new surroundings, and the show’s fresh new format.
Yes, digital loomed large amongst the day’s themes. But then so did innovation, culture, and leadership. All served up as an appetising smorgasbord providing satisfying treats in portions ranging from amuse bouche to belly busting.
Julie Dodd’s reflections on the moral issues exposed by new technology, and its power to do good, during her Michael Webb lecture, was timely. Kevin Cahill, former CEO of Comic Relief, charting the transition from passion driven start-up to charity institution, opportune. And Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8 co-founder Midge Ure’s juxtaposition of the challenges of promoting a cause in both the analogue and digital universes spanned by his career, revelatory!
But, it was Midge Ure who, for me, came up with the unspoken theme of the day when he attributed Band Aid’s success to “finding like-minded people”. As he put it, “we put all our little soap boxes together to form a world stage”.
Surely – the realisation dawned on me – that is at the very core of what charities and associations do every day; gather like minds in a common cause. But this time chase25 showed us how to do it even better! I, for one, can hardly wait for next year!