At times of turbulence or transition triggered or accompanied by inevitable socio-economic and socio-demographic changes, many clubs and societies (whether online or offline) have not escaped the fates and troubles that have fallen upon many companies and corporations. They are facing challenges that threaten their viability and even validity, including rising rent and public liability insurance premium, dwindling or aging membership, waning or diversion of interest, lack of prospective officials, declining voluntarism, rising individualism, shifting social moray, widening generation gap, changing public taste, altered cultural capital, persisting nuclear-family syndrome, dramatic technological change, as well as prolonged drought and water restriction.
Clubs and societies rise or fall according to the ways in which they manage their resources: people, information and money. They need to create the conditions in which their people will voluntarily give their best, and set the contexts for the rest of the organisations’ members to perform tasks, partake benefits and participate in activities. Appropriating from the wisdom of Arie de Geus, the following four characteristics are applicable to clubs and societies in good health and longevity:
- Long-lived societies sample, learn and adapt to what is going on around them.
- Sensitivity to the environment represents a society’s ability to learn and adapt.
- Long-lived societies are cohesive and have a strong sense of identity based on the ability to build a shared community.
- Cohesion and identity are aspects of a society’s innate ability to build a community and a persona for itself.
- Long-lived societies are patient, generally decentralised, with widespread decision-making authority, and tolerant of “non-core” activities on their periphery (which may well become tomorrow’s core).
- Tolerance and its corollary, decentralisation, are both symptoms of a society’s awareness of ecology: its ability to build constructive relationships with other entities, within and outside itself.
- Long-lived societies are conservative with their money, which they use to govern their own growth and to give them options.
- Conservative financing is one element in a very critical societal attribute: the ability to govern its own growth and evolution effectively.
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