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Membership handbook: “A small but crucial step to securing ETIM’s future as a global standard”

Vice President Mary Shaw on ETIM International’s issued Membership Handbook.

It has been a longtime wish of Mary Shaw’s, Vice president of ETIM International, to provide more structural guidance to aspiring ETIM Country members. As Mary both initiated and later on re-established the ETIM North America chapter, she knows first-hand of all there is to consider, decide, take on and manage, both when it comes to the application process and as a fresh ETIM organisation. With the recently issued ETIM International Membership Handbook, a living document to serve both future and current ETIM members written by Community Director Jeroen van der Holst, her wish is now a reality.

Why this Member Handbook and why now?

Mary: “For me (and many others, as I know now), the process of setting up an ETIM Country chapter was a painstaking learning curve of trial and error, of blind spots and reinventing the wheel. I would have loved to have had some kind of roadmap, back then. We weren’t sure what requirements we were supposed to meet or what was expected from us in our capacity as a country member. As I said, we weren’t the only ones to struggle: in those days, ETIM International only had one staff member who needed to focus on the further development of ETIM as a standard. The organisation simply lacked the resources to optimally support aspiring members. Formally, of course, we had the statutes for reference, but these did not contain any practical guidelines or tips to create an organisation. As a result, I had to lean on a very willing and helpful, but already overstretched Marc (Habets, Technical Director) and sometimes contact country members, who may or may not have encountered the same issues before us.

With every step of the way, I became more aware of the need for a practical document containing clear criteria, tasks, and responsibilities, but also shared learnings and helpful references to allow for a more effective and efficient course of action. This idea stayed with me over the years and once I became a member of the International Board, I kept looking for ways to make such a guidebook happen. With the expansion of our organisation and the appointment of Jeroen van der Holst, I knew we had to seize the moment and finally create this Membership Handbook. Thanks to his efforts, we can now provide both potential and current members with the information they need to effectively set up and run their own chapter.”

Clear criteria as a (self-)selection tool

In addition to that practical information for (potential) applicants on their road to represent ETIM in their country, the new Membership Handbook also helps mitigate another important issue, a phenomenon that most organisations seeking to grow encounter: the proliferation of their original organisational set-up. Mary explains: “Organic growth has been crucial to our success: in the beginning, making room for growth also meant bending the rules a bit with regards to our own policies: sometimes, new members were welcomed even if the applicants in question did not entirely fit the non-profit profile. And sometimes we accepted those, who wanted to join ETIM as country representatives in a country that was already represented by another trade organisation in another sector. However, when you aim for global expansion in a field like ours, you need to uphold guaranteed neutrality and show long-term consistency, especially with regards to strict compliance to rules and regulations. So, with 22 country members and counting, we more than ever need to address occurring issues in this regard and create the same uniformity and transparency on an organisational level as we bring with our standardisation model. One way to secure ETIM’s future as a stable, independent, and truly global standard, is to stimulate a more critical (self-) selection process from the start. The guidelines included in this handbook support this objective.”

ETIM Buddy system: easy-access to practical support

Creating a Membership Handbook document was one thing, but Mary and Jeroen sought additional ways to stimulate a smooth and effective entry of new members. The new ETIM Buddy system, as introduced in the handbook, is another big step in this direction. Mary continues: “We received a great deal of positive feedback when we pitched this idea at the ETIM Forum last year. As it turned out, most of our more experienced members are more than willing to help aspiring and struggling members seeking advice and guidance. Of course, as a non-profit with a large volunteer-driven community, helping each other out and collaborating is common practice with regards to the standard itself. Marc and I, for example, very happily spent time working with the founders of ETIM Australia/New Zealand, sharing our own learnings on both an operational and strategical level, when they started their chapter. After all, we all benefit from a strong, world-wide representation of our standard. With the ETIM buddy system, we simply formalised such partnerships from an organisational point of view, allowing both current and future members easy-access to practical knowledge anywhere in the world.”

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