Adopted by AER Executive Board 16 March 2016.
Implementing mission and core objectives
The present Member relations strategy is part of a fourfold global strategy of the Assembly of European Regions which aims at setting the stage to ensure that the mission and objectives of AER are implemented effectively.
AER’s mission is:
- To be the voice of the regions of Europe
AER’s core objectives are:
- Promoting regional interests in Europe and beyond;
- Fostering interregional cooperation to promote the exchange of experience and the development of regional policy.
AER believes in the following values:
- Democracy and transparency – two totally complementary and inseparable values: AER will act transparently to focus on defending the interests of all member regions while respecting democratic principles.
- Fairness and solidarity – the root of mutual respect and acceptance of cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic differences: AER advocates solidarity between all regions of Europe, while urging fairness as a source of cohesion between member regions and promoting equal opportunities for all.
- Openness and dialogue: AER is open to all European regions and their elected representatives, men and women alike, from all non-extremist political movements. AER promotes dialogue and dares to confront ideas;
- Boldness and effectiveness: AER seeks to stimulate creativity and encourage political debate, and aims to transform the regions via forward-looking projects.
Objectives of this strategy
1) Putting members first – understanding members and their needs
AER’s member relations strategy is a tool to put members’ interest and needs at the heart of AER’s activities. Understanding membership processes as well as external policy developments are key in achieving this objective.
2) Developing strategic approaches to membership development and growth
Furthermore, the member relations strategy identifies and develops concrete action steps to retain and develop a strong AER membership base, and providing input on further recruitment strategies.
Political rationale – numbers are politics
The Assembly of European Regions is a political network pursuing political goals. The force and strength to achieve these goal lies in the number and diversity of members in terms of culture, politics and geography. Thus, the political rationale for membership development is – finding allies to pursue a political cause.
Financial rational – numbers are independence
Developing AER membership has also a financial rationale. To be politically independent AER is using a subscription fee model, meaning that a majority of its resources come from membership fees rather than grants from the European Commission or other sources. This allows AER to express its views freely and to be independent.
Eligibility to an association is shaping its rationale and character. As a political association representing regions, AER has developed specific criteria defining a region, yet is taking into account rapid institutional and political changes.
Defining who a member is
AER members are regions that are defined in AER’s statutes. They have access to full AER membership, including access to political decision making as well as access to all services AER is providing. These are so-called full members.
Embracing new realities
Due to the diversity of territorial governance systems and changing institutional set ups, AER is embracing and welcoming territories and public authorities that do not strictly correspond to AER’s membership criteria, yet will provide benefits to the network due to their related interests and outlooks.
These members are so-called associate members. They don’t have access to political decision making, but to all other services AER is providing.
Managing members’ expectations
The benefits and obligations of membership are defined in the AER Statute and the AER Procedures.
Growth and development
Not losing members (member retention) and attracting new ones (member recruitment) are key to growth and development. Keeping members and gaining new ones is based on three principles:
- Defining and communicating AER added value: Making sure that members understand why they are part of AER, what they gain through membership and why it is useful to promote AER to other regions and stakeholders.
- Enhancing network ownership of members: Increasing member loyalty through AER’s democratic decision making processes, clear communication and a transparent planning cycle.
- Understanding and identifying needs of members and potential members: Profiling regions and potential member regions in order to better align AER services to their specific needs and constant monitoring of sub-national governance developments in Europe and beyond.
- Knowing members-gaining member intelligence: Regular monitoring and analysing membership behaviour as well as profiling non-members and identification of their needs.
- Accessing members: Updating and monitoring of right contacts in AER’s database and developing further user-friendly ICT tools to contact and stay in contact with AER members and potential new members.
- Better member service through one contact point: Providing one membership service point that is dealing with administrative as well as strategic membership issues and a clear reference for members on membership issues.
- Keeping ahead of membership retention and recruitment trends: Training and mentoring.
- Using AER events for active member relations: Geographic planning of AER events in line with strategic membership aspects and anchoring AER in the territory by involving as many relevant stakeholders as possible.
- Making AER Bureau a main recruiting event: Recruiting non-members by invitation to the public political discussions at the AER Bureau as provision of first insight to AER’s network and activities.
The AER Toolkit will serve as a means of explaining AER to potential members.
Monitoring and evaluation
The monitoring of the member relations strategy will be measured on a regular basis according to pre-defined criteria. These will be established in 3 main areas:
- Member satisfaction;
- Number of members;
- Membership income.
Linking the strategies
Planning helps Communications to determine where and how to act throughout a planning cycle, and defines the distribution of responsibilities and timing of the decision-making process.
Communications helps Member relations in Identifying and defining the added member value, a key component for success.
Member relations helps Planning to determine on what field to act depending on the demands of regions at AER.
The tools will take their full form in the AER Toolkit as an independent publication.