12 Apr Hermaneutics: In digital, associations are losing relevance
In the early to mid-1990’s the commercial internet was just grabbing a toehold in South Africa. In ’96/’97 I was still one of only a handful of journalists covering ‘new media’ in this country. I was classed a ‘tech journalist’ even though I didn’t know anything about gadgets. You see people who worked on/with/through the internet were easy to silo (at that point as ‘tech’).
Then digital went all Big Baboon House on every industry you can imagine. No more silos. If you work in media, part of your job is working on/with/through the internet. Ditto for advertising, marketing and a host of other industries.
This brings us to an interesting point. If you are an association created for people functioning in the digital silo, in a time when (dear senior big agency management please place your hands before your eyes – just for a moment) the digital silo is bust, just how relevant are you?
It seems to be one of the questions facing the Digital Media & Marketing Association (DMMA) – an association focussed ‘on growing and sustaining a vibrant and profitable digital industry within South Africa.’ Its members consist of a bunch of publishers and agencies that value their digital capacity and skills, and often have a digital legacy, but are no longer necessarily digital pure plays.
The question of the DMMA’s influence (if not yet of its relevance) has come under the spotlight with revelations that its current management structure have, and this is putting it kindly, outpaced its constitution. Without its members really noticing. Ahem.
The eight member elected executive committee, whose mandate is limited to one year terms, was replaced by a reduced board which extended its own mandate and then appointed a (nominated but unelected) steering committee, all without the organisation updating its constitution (which would require a vote in favour of changes by 75% of its members).
The board of any industry organisation or association holds a fiduciary (ethical and legal) responsibility to members, which is generally set out in a constitution. In fact, in the case of DMMA, its constitution specifically states that ‘The Chairperson shall preside at all meetings at which he/she is present and shall enforce observance of the Constitution [of the DMMA].’
Failure to do so represent a failure in the fiduciary duties of the board and directors. In the instance of the DMMA, it also represents a failure by members to hold their board, who oversees a good deal of money paid in membership fees, to account. Members had been informed of the decision by two of the eight persons elected to the 2012 board to effectively extend their own mandates by eight months (to the next AGM – rescheduled from January to August) and to appoint a third director and the steering committee.
Either members felt it was worth ignoring the constitution set up to protect their interests in the hope that the new team would deliver a better functioning organisation (this seems increasingly unlikely given the nature of the current comment thread below the original story) or they felt intimated to voice an opinion within the structures of the organisation (which would be a devastating indictment on the culture of the organisation and/or industry it represents). Finally it could simply be, to put it bluntly, that they considered the body to be of so little influence that they could not be bothered.
And who can blame them? The digital silo is dead.
The opinions expressed in this column are by the author and do not necessarily represent those of 10and5.