Photo from @asaeannual

The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) is in the midst of a period of enhanced activism that includes an emphasis on new learning tools.

“Prior to 20082009, we may have been getting better at executing, but we were doing the same things,” says CEO and President John Graham. “Since then, our industry has been trending more toward an engagement model, so ASAE has been emphasizing that more in things like modern technology.”

Graham points out that the new tools and services offered by ASAE represent a broadening of options rather than an elimination of those that traditionally have been available.

“We’re really not taking anything away from anyone,” he says. “We are adding to what we already had, to engage more of our members.”

Some of the new options, including express learning apps, are particularly well-suited to millennials.

“We’ve added options for short-term learning,” Graham says. “Among other things, a new app will enable attendees to spontaneously organize meetings at our conferences.”

Anyone who wants to focus on a topic that isn’t included in the agenda can invite others to come to a pod for discussion.

“Some people prefer this type of platform, while others like all-day sessions,” he says. “We want to include a number of different platforms.”

At the ASAE press conference on Monday and in a subsequent interview with Smart Meetings, Graham discussed another significant developmentthe organization’s new stance on discriminatory practices.

“Our board decided that anyone who attends a meeting anywhere should be free of experiencing discriminatory practices,” he says. “We don’t take positions on political issues such as gun control and abortion, but intend to be more proactive about people needing to feel welcome when they go to any destination.”

Regarding widespread protest of restrictive human rights legislation in North Carolina, Graham said, “We probably would not hold a meeting in North Carolina.”

He acknowledges that sometimes, ASAE walks a “fine line” when trying to simultaneously discourage discriminatory practices while respecting different cultural practicesespecially in foreign countries.

Graham alluded to Saudi Arabia’s custom of having women cover their faces and walk behind men.

“That’s their culture, and we need to be respectful of other cultures,” he says.