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If you had to guess the American Dental Association’s core purpose, what would you say? Good guesses might include that the ADA aims to improve the lives of dentists, or the patients they treat. 

These are reasonable assumptions — but they’re not quite right. In fact, the ADA’s core purpose is to “improve oral health globally.” 

Of course, supporting dentists and patients can lead to this outcome. But the ADA’s core purpose is effective because it provides a top-level goal that guides its advocacy, events, membership benefits, educational resources, and more. 

Open Garden organizations like the ADA take a broad view of their role in society. Rather than prioritizing a singular business goal — such as attracting more members — the Open Garden model empowers associations to expand their mission and increase their impact in new ways.

Here’s how an Open Garden model can help your association thrive:

Open garden organizations have an inspiring core purpose

The world is full of organizations that have predictable, uninspiring missions. In some cases, members could belong to an association for years without ever committing its overwrought mission statement to memory. Even worse, the same might be true for employees.

Instead, Open Garden associations hone a core purpose capable of inspiring action. An effective core purpose, such as the ADA’s mission to “improve oral health globally,” proposes an ambitious, actionable goal.

As employees at all levels face challenges, a good core purpose will provide clarity and a sense of purpose. 

Open garden organizations have a strong internal culture

Associations that become true industry leaders are made up of strong internal teams. Everyone wants to work in an environment that aligns with their values, nurtures their passions, and helps them build skills. (Ideally, you’ll love working with your colleagues, too.) How can associations provide this experience for their employees?

 The Open Garden model provides one compelling path forward. Open Garden associations build strong, supportive internal cultures through two main tactics:

  • Embracing vulnerability
  • Encouraging creativity and smart risk-taking

These two factors go hand in hand. Managers who embrace vulnerability encourage employees to think outside the box, without having to fear consequences. And smart risk-taking helps associations embrace new technology and stay ahead of industry-wide trends.

Along the way, a thoughtful core purpose will keep everyone aligned, from members on front lines all the way to the C-suite.

Open garden organizations attract a large, inclusive audience

Associations strive to attract a cohesive membership united by similar goals, values and professional affiliations. 

But your association may also produce research and advocacy that can benefit a wide range of stakeholders. While the ADA’s 163,000 members are primarily dentists, every member of the general public has a need for excellent oral health. To truly live up to its core purpose, the ADA must also devote some attention to this larger, global audience. 

The Open Garden model encourages associations to think beyond its core membership. This allows the ADA to advocate for a wider range of policies related to student debt, the opioid crisis, and Medicare — all without straying from its core purpose.

While these benefits are eye-catching, they’re only the beginning of what the Open Garden model can do for your organization. Over time, you’ll discover even more ways the Open Garden model can drive long-term, sustainable growth.

You have to let people into your organization first so they can see the value of being part of it. Our worksheet will help you take a hard look at what your organization is doing — and not doing — to reach as wide an audience as possible. Download our FREE Open Garden organization worksheet to learn what an Open Garden model is and how your association can begin to reshape its thinking.

AssociationSuccess.org is a digital collaboration space for association professionals looking to challenge the status quo and think in innovative ways to move today's association industry into the future. We publish educational content from forward-thinking minds in the association industry and beyond. With articles, eBooks and our uniquely collaborative virtual conferences, including SURGE, we look to spark new ideas that can drive change and create new leaders. We don’t worry about where good ideas come from; we’re more interested in what those ideas actually are.

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AssociationSuccess.org is a digital collaboration space for association professionals looking to challenge the status quo and think in innovative ways to move today's association industry into the future. We publish educational content from forward-thinking minds in the association industry and beyond. With articles, eBooks and our uniquely collaborative virtual conferences, including SURGE, we look to spark new ideas that can drive change and create new leaders. We don’t worry about where good ideas come from; we’re more interested in what those ideas actually are.

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