The association sector is an integral area within the non-profit sector, which is so often undervalued by those working within the industry and in Canadian society, as a whole. When considering the reach of non-profit organizations, the majority of Canadians first think of internationally-renowned charities doing good across the globe, like Doctors Without Borders or the World Wildlife Fund. As a student graduating from the Non-Profit Management graduate certificate program at Seneca College, I know that prior to these studies that was certainly the first thing I thought of. This program taught me more about the full scope of the non-profit sector, as well as the importance of each area within it. Even still, it is the first area most people want to work when they say they want to go into the non-profit and charitable sector. It is unfortunate that this is the case, given all the amazing work that associations do that goes unheard. It may not be the most glamourous seeming work, which is perhaps why it so often is not published. Rarely, will you see accomplishments of associations in the media.
Associations are, in many ways, the backbone of our society, however. They are regulators of conduct and ethical standards. From engineers, to dentists, to lawyers, each of us wants to know that these professionals we interact with are conducting their business with the utmost integrity. Associations ensure that this happens. Associations protect the average person. Despite the importance of associations, the average person often has little idea of what an “association” actually is or does. It is time for associations to come out of the shadows and show society the impressive role they play.
In today’s socio-political climate, accountability is something that is severely lacking but increasingly being demanded by individuals. This is where associations can become true champions. They enforce accountability within numerous professions across society. Associations ensure that every individual practicing said profession is regulated and measures up to the standards each have created. According to the Canadian Society of Association Executives website, some sources indicate that there may be as many as 70,000 associations across Canada. This is a huge segment of the population that is being regulated by various association standards.
Unfortunately, many individuals will not always behave with integrity in their personal lives but associations being able to ensure that a large portion of professional society is upholding ethical standards is an amazing accomplishment. With so many vulnerable people in our society, it is important to have these standards to assure that those among us whose voices are unheard are still being supported and protected. Seniors and newcomers are two populations that are becoming increasingly prominent within the Canadian landscape but sadly are frequently taken advantage of, whether due to lack of familiarity with their rights or otherwise. Associations, such as the Law Society of Ontario or the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers, will become increasingly paramount with these shifting demographics. Our society is rapidly changing, and associations have a huge role to play in ensuring that we maintain a civilized environment throughout these changes. Associations can and should be on the forefront of these changes ensuring respect, integrity, and accountability in all professional societies and Canadian society, as a whole.
Charlotte Graham won the $1,000 CSAE Trillium scholarship in 2018. Congratulations Charlotte.