In this article, Octavio ‘Bobby’ Peralta, PCAAE co-founder and current CEO, shares the story of how the organization went through from infancy to a bubbling toddler in a span of three years.

The Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE), the country’s “association of associations”, is still a toddler. As an infant presented to the world on November 20, 2013 at the first association executives conference held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), the PCAAE is still a growing child, starting to move around and discovering new things.

Raison d'être

The PCAAE was born out of love of the association executive profession and as a way of giving back to the profession that the founders have loved. In the Philippines, the association executive profession is not well-known and recognized unlike in the United States where the 90-year old American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) exists and still going strong.

I remember when I asked the over 200 participants of our very first association conference in 2013 who amongst them write in official documents their profession as association executive, only me and another person raised their hands. This “reality check” further motivated me to pursue my dream of advancing the association management profession in the country.

Supportive parents and friends

Certainly, the PCAAE is not only one person’s dream. It was providential that the Philippine Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the PICC and my organization, the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific (ADFIAP) had the same dream. And so with TPB giving financial assistance, the PICC providing the conference venue facility, and ADFIAP serving as secretariat, the three “parents” made the dream into reality. There were also the “guide parents”, both Washington D.C.-based ASAE and the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE) which shared knowledge resources, contacts and advice.

Then there are the volunteer friends from within the association community that comprise the Board of Trustees elected by their peers to set PCAAE’s strategic direction, governing policies, and oversight guidelines as well as the management team that runs the day-to-day operations of the “baby” organization.

The “parents” believe that this delineated governance structure, i.e., separate Board and management roles is aimed to sustain PCAAE into the long term and set it as an advocacy and a benchmark for other associations to consider emulating.

Crawling, walking, running, jumping

Like in a child development stage, the PCAAE had also to develop slowly its “cognitive, social and physical skills”. Starting from negative zero financial position (the founders had to draw from their own pockets the initial money required to register the PCAAE as a non-for-profit organization in the country) and realizing that its initial members were not yet ready to pay membership dues, it had to rely on its “parents and friends” for initial funding. It then started expanding its database and developed and provided fee-based educational program offerings, partnered with same-purposed organizations, sought grants and sponsorships, and a year after building trust and credibility with its stakeholders, it started a campaign for membership dues collection.

These steps were simultaneously supplemented with branding, marketing, communication and visibility. The PCAAE website was developed first. Then an e-newsletter, a members’ helpline, a certification program, an awards program, and an annual associations summit. In terms of visibility, PCAAE has endeavoured to be in the “guest list” of international MICE events and association conferences to be able to have the chance to send the PCAAE advocacy message and to enhance its stature and image.

Toddler’s “firsts”

As they say, the toddler years are full of "firsts." In the case of PCAAE, it has branded itself first and foremost as an “association of associations” and, at the sidelines of the first ASAE Great Ideas Asia-Pacific Conference in March 2015, the PCAAE initiated the founding of the first and only Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations (APFAO) comprising of similar “association of associations in Australia (the Associations Forum and the Australasian Society of Association Executives), Korea (the Korean Association of Association Executives) and the PCAAE. As of this writing, Malaysia and Japan are also on the verge of setting up a similar grouping of associations.

PCAAE is also the first and only association in the Philippines that honors outstanding individual and institutional achievements of associations and other membership organizations through its annual “Ang Susi” Awards (English translation: “The Key”). “Ang Susi” also is an acronym for Associations nurture National Growth through Social Unity and Sustainability Innovations.

Just recently at the 4th Associations Summit held at the PICC on November 23-24, 2016, the PCAAE has conferred the title of CPAE to the first batch of 12 graduates of its Certified Professional Association Executive Program (CPAE) and launched its first specialist magazine, the “Association World”.

Concluding Remarks

The “development” of an association can be likened to that of the human stages of growth and development. It has to be born out of love and of purpose, weaned properly and carefully nurtured into a good being, given the environment to experiment and discover what works and not, and guided through the years by a passionate and supportive community of stakeholders. This is what the PCAAE underwent as it hopes to grow and develop fully into “adulthood” and eventually go back to infancy, if need be, to be a more progressive and sustainable organization into the future.