The role of security associations: a failed resource or a fundamental vehicle for a better security sector?
Chair: Martin Gill
Liz Chamberlin – Executive Director – International Security Management Association (ISMA)
Julio Fumagalli Macrae, CPP – President at GlobalLifeSafetyAlliance.org
Guy Mathias – Chair at The UK Security Commonwealth
Peter J. O’Neil, FASAE, CAE – CEO at ASIS International
Liz Chamberlin was the first to speak and noted that addressing relevance was a regular issue for associations and not one that has been driven by the virus. She outlines some of the benefits that have made associations relevant in the crisis, noting, as you will hear, activities like roundtables, communication to members on different issues, and providing them with the opportunity to benchmark performance. Liz accepts that there is more scope for collaboration especially when there are issues that are common to all associations and are to the broader benefit of the security sector. She notes that the impact of the virus in associations will vary depending on their revenue sources. In her own case she is more concerned about membership renewals given the cutbacks many business are facing there will be pressure on budgets to travel to events, and many anyway may be concerned about attending events. That said you will see her discuss reasons why she does not see much scope for consolidation amongst associations. As Liz says, it is important not to waste a crisis; it is an opportunity for the sector to show it adds value.
Julio Fumagalli Macrae underlines the important role that associations play covering certification, qualifications and standards and more albeit they are competing for budgets sometimes against each other. Yet there is a wide spectrum of issues to cooperate on and he calls for a joint commitment to promote best practices; adopt a common language; and raise the bar of regulation. He talks of his own willingness to promote other associations signifying his belief in the need for associations to work together. He sees the virtual world as one that generates new opportunities. The key challenge, echoing a point raised by Liz Chamberlin, is to overcome the difficulty of showing the added value of security. You will also hear Julio discuss the relevance of security to world challenges including sustainability and climate change.
Guy Mathias argues that associations have remained relevant expressed in a variety of ways from promoting best practices (as they have changed in response to the virus) and offering mutual support. This period of change does though provide an opportunity for a reset about how the security sector positions itself and to explore new ways of working together. He notes the good work done by associations sharing good practices via social media, but accepts there is a need for more creativity. After all, and this is an important point, he reasons that it is not easy to collaborate. Nor is it easy for the security sector to influence, and echoes a call for the security sector to show how it adds value and to work harder to get recognition in the c suites.
Peter O’Neil notes that in some ways Covid-19 has not changed things; after all there is always a constant need for associations to show relevance and to work on adding value. That said all associations are facing challenges for funds at this time, noting Liz’s point about membership fees he references the importance of GSX (the ASIS annual event) which generates 56% of its revenue; a plan has been put in place and the association can withstand the challenge. You will hear an interesting discussion about collaboration. He notes that at the base level associations generally cooperate, but every one of them has to ask, what is in the interest of its members? And although it is easy to highlight the value of working together Peter outlines some of the endemic difficulties including: the need for (a lot of) funding on initiatives such as say a joint commitment to promoting the security sector to different audiences; agreeing messages; getting support via Boards; lobbying (not all do this and those that do may do it differently). In reality associations have cooperated on research, guidelines and certification but he reminds us that sometimes competition is good too.
This webinar provides a robust defence of the central role of security associations in a diverse range of areas, including during the Covid-19 period. They have made plans to meet the known challenges, and while this is on-going there is optimism. Collaboration has much to commend it. There was agreement that there could be more but it is not easy as each panelist in different ways explains. But it is possible, and therein rests a seed for thought. Meantime the security associations appear to be in good hands and Covid-19, for all its challenges, is clearly developing some opportunities too.
3rd September 2020