• CSAE Town Hall 2022: Updates on CSAE’s Activities and Strategic Priorities

    Tracy Folkes Hanson, president and CEO of CSAE, hosted the virtual CSAE Town Hall on June 15, 2022. She reviewed CSAE’s current strategic plan and activities, and answered questions from members.

    Watch the full recording below, or read on for highlights of the information shared.

    • CSAE’s focus remains steadfast on providing value to members informed by research and data. The member voice helped to lay the foundation for a solid strategic plan that launched in October 2021 and is now in full swing. It is focused on three strategic priorities:
      • Be the champion for associations in Canada
      • Be the centre of excellence for the Canadian association sector
      • Be a model for continuous improvement
    • Together, these strategic priorities will ensure that immediate and evolving needs of our members are served effectively and flexibly.
    • CSAE will build a resilient, relevant and welcoming hub for the association sector into the future.

    CSAE’s Aspirations

    What’s our vision for five years from now? CSAE strives to be the recognized leader and champion for associations in Canada. Whether government, media, association leaders or emerging professionals are looking for information, knowledge or support, they know to turn to CSAE. CSAE is the centre of excellence where association professionals and the businesses that support them all connect, collaborate, share and learn. We strive to lead the way while listening and continuing to improve and adapt to member needs, external circumstances and new knowledge and understanding. We strive to be an inclusive, diverse and equitable association which functions effectively and efficiently on behalf of members and the association community as a whole.

    Our strategic plan articulates the roadmap of how we’ll get there.

    Strategic Priority 1: Be the Champion for Associations in Canada

    • CSAE looks to research and data to support decisions and strategies for growth—and to ensure value and relevance to the membership.  A sector analysis recently undertaken provides a birds-eye-view and understanding of the sector as a whole, to more deeply understand the current landscape.  With it, CSAE will make informed decisions on how to best support our membership as a whole, and the association sector more broadly. 
    • We continue to build the advocacy portfolio—weighing in on issues of importance to the sector (e.g., CNCA review, Lobbyist’s Code of Conduct review, pre-budget and budget consultations). We are leveraging the collective voice of the sector to move the needle on issues of importance.
    • We strive to ensure we are communicating and transferring knowledge in ways that are most meaningful for our members and the sector as a whole. Part of this has included a communications assessment that will inform our future activities.
    • CSAE is making an investment to ensure our brand is clear, strong and resonant. To support our mission and strategic priorities, we will review how our brand can support CSAE as a champion for the association sector. We will share updates as this brand review process continues.

    Strategic Priority 2: Be the Centre of Excellence for the Canadian Association Sector

    • CSAE continues to consider improvements to the delivery of our programs and the transfer of knowledge. We recently introduced the CPD requirement to raise the professional value and credibility of the CAE® designation.
    • We’re working to enrich our members through CSAE as a hub for connecting and learning. The education committee continues to develop a roster of both virtual and in-person offerings informed by last year’s member needs assessment and the sector research.
    • We continue to develop a curated resource library on Associations Connect to ensure members have the best resources and templates available to support their success.
    • The CAE® program is a cornerstone for association professionals. Approximately 900 professionals have received their designation since the program’s inception, and there are roughly 500 active students. Nine professionals recently achieved their designations.  

    Strategic Priority 3: Be a Model for Continuous Improvement

    • CSAE continues to share learnings and promising practices with our members.   
    • With an almost completely virtual business model, we are also focused on engagement with employees in the virtual workplace. More on this ahead.
    • We are committed to diversity, equity and inclusion and are working to develop a DEI strategy to guide the way forward.
    • We remain committed to exploring new innovations for technological growth.   

    You can find more information on the Strategic Plan on the CSAE website here

    Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

    DEI is a focused priority under CSAE’s strategic plan. We are so excited to have begun work to develop our DEI strategy in collaboration with Shafana Mitha at aKollage consulting. This three-phase process involves stakeholder input, the articulation of a clear vision and mission for DEI at CSAE and the development of a measurable action plan to guide and evaluate our steps forward. We are fortunate to have the resounding support of CSAE’s board of directors in this commitment to building diverse, equitable and inclusive organization that will also serve as a case study for organizations seeking to move forward in this important work.


    The past two years have challenged all of us in many ways. Fortunately, CSAE’s membership has remained stable, and we look forward to seeing growth in our composition as the value of being part of CSAE increases.

    There was an initial decline in business membership, hand in hand with the interruption of in-person activities due to the pandemic and the subsequent job loss in the events industry. We expect this to rebound as we grow both in-person programming and other opportunities of value to suppliers. It is interesting to note that while business membership declined, sponsorship and partnership support increased.

    Business members are an important part of the ecosystem in which associations operate, and they continue to play an important role. Whether it’s expertise in communications, strategy, governance, IT solutions, technology, event planning, our business members provide us the supports we need. The business-focused needs assessment, conducted earlier this year in collaboration with Bramm Research, made it clear that the connections and engagement of in-person events are important. CSAE will continue to create opportunities and a marketplace for business members and association professionals to intersect and build connection.

    Volunteer opportunities are available for all members to have input into CSAE programming relevant to both emerging and established professionals. There is currently a call for volunteers to join our Board of Directors and several Board committees and a call for volunteers to our network councils and working groups is forthcoming in early fall.

    There is no current plan to alter our membership structure. Executive and Business Member input will continue to drive the future of CSAE’s membership structure.

    Workplace and Labour Considerations

    There have been many shifts in the workplace sparked or accelerated by the pandemic —new work environments, new ways to build and retain teams, new opportunities to foster healthy and productive cultures. The CSAE workplace is a continuing area of consideration and improvement, which will be enhanced by the DEI strategy.

    • CSAE has paid close attention to the health and well-being of team members and put a number of strategies into place to improve. For example, our team meets virtually three times a week on the Remo platform to maintain a sense of connection and the Wellness Committee is continuing to find ways to support the workplace culture at CSAE.    
    • Both during and coming out of the pandemic, CSAE experienced a bit of turnover on the team for the first time in several years. Departing employees opted to try new things —moving overseas or starting their own businesses. This has meant examining our recruitment strategies and thinking about what it means to grow as an employer of choice. We’ve fortunately been able to attract new team members and have recently welcomed some tremendous new talent.
    • Having an inclusive and open culture that supports curiosity and opportunity, competitive compensation and flexibility has been top of mind. We focus on current and best practices when it comes to policies—and just recently introduced a more inclusive policy regarding statutory holidays where team members can swap out five statutory holidays (Good Friday, Easter Monday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Civic Holiday) for a day of personal significance.
    • CSAE’s structure looks more like a Venn diagram than a traditional hierarchical org chart. We favour a more fluid approach that supports curiosity, exploration and cross-training—presenting opportunities for the team to learn and grow.

    Learning Opportunities

    Although virtual events offered a unique way for CSAE staff and members to remain connected, we look forward to hosting more in-person events in the future.

    • We resumed in-person events in April 2022, beginning with the Ottawa-Gatineau network’s most popular event, Tête-à-Tête. The event will return in February of 2023. In addition, Tracy Folkes Hanson recently attended the newly established Saskatchewan network’s first-ever meet and greet.
    • In-person events include Tête-à-Tête, the Summit and CEO symposia. The Governance Forum with David Weiss is taking place pre-conference, with group pricing, to help attendees make the most of their time and dollar while in Halifax.
    • Our network councils have been hard at work organizing events: a virtual session on diversity and inclusion through the Ottawa-Gatineau network who are also working on a collaboration with the Quebec network, a session on financial health in Manitoba, a session on setting personal boundaries in Alberta and a CEO roundtable exploring talent retention hosted by the BC network. 
    • The Young Professionals network is developing free programming accessible to YPs. There is a student rate of $25 to make CSAE membership accessible to students. Our DEI assessment will help us identify and address barriers to determine ways to further become more inclusive and accessible.
    • CSAE commits to supporting association professionals, whether established or new to the role.
      • CAE® 100 is a useful way to become oriented to the role and connect with other leaders.
      • Members can also turn to Associations Connect to pose questions and discover ways to overcome challenges based on the advice of other association professionals from across Canada. Associations Connect is home to a multitude of collaborative conversations that provide invaluable information to members. It also provides a resource library containing tools, templates and other resources.
      • The annual conference and the Summer Summit are great events for expanding your network and exploring a wide variety of aspects of association management. 
      • You can also access CSAE’s free virtual events across the country, which are open to all regardless of geographic location.    
      • Since governance guidance is key for association leaders: explore the Governance Forum or the Symposium for Chief Staff and Chief Elected Officers. As mentioned, there will be a Governance Forum taking place in October in Halifax prior to the conference, and we are currently scheduling the CEO Symposium for early next winter. 

    CSAE Summer Summit 2022

    The CSAE Summer Summit will be held on July 13–15, 2022 at Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ontario. To date, there are more than 220 registrations for the event out of a possible 250. If you have not already registered for this event and wish to attend, ensure that you sign up here as it is sure to be a sold-out event.

    CSAE Annual Conference 2022

    The CSAE Annual Conference will be taking place on October 19-21, 2022 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Aptly named REUNITE, this in-person event will be a time to recharge, rejoice and rediscover the CSAE community’s energy and camaraderie. A virtual option is currently in development and details will be shared as soon as they are available. Learn more and register here.

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