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2/17/2006
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Parry and Thrust

Here’s a model for working with an international association. Since we’re in the Olympic season, for our example, I’m reaching back in time to when I was an active fencer. No, not the crime, nor the white picket border installer, but the athlete.

Long ago, the only methods fencers used to communicate with each other between in-person tournaments and events were letters, faxes and/or phone calls. Why would these competitors wish to communicate or even collaborate with each other? Well, aside from being an innately social bunch, they had issues.

The issues ranged from inaccurate judging or scoring at events to lack of participation to sponsor interference, just to name a few. So, the fencers started forming associations, local, national and international groups to get their issues addressed. All this time, most of the fencers belonged to local clubs or fenced on school teams (high school as well as university).

After the associations had been established, they started distributing the scores, updates to the rules, upcoming competitions and other news via newsletters they mailed to fencers who paid their dues to the associations. Other than these newsletters and the aforementioned communication techniques, there was nothing interactive for the fencers until they started using email and instant messaging to spread the news.

Let’s jump forward to today. Let’s also say that I now am working with an international fencing association as a client. I’m not, but I’m simply using it as a here because it’s a fun example. (Which is not to say that if a fencing organization contacted me I would turn it down, because I wouldn’t. So, email me, Peter Westbrook.*)

What I would present to this group of esteemed athletes is package of tools that would

  • allow them to post and track the scoring of the fencers,
  • provide a discussion forum with blogs for select fencers,
  • give them areas for fencers to communicate about local as well as national and international issues,
  • allow them to create custom calendars for events and tournaments,
  • add value to the experience by providing a marketplace for vendors as advertisers,
  • provide a live chat mechanism for member fencers,
  • allow them to have web-based conferencing for online workshops and other events,
  • give them the ability to have restricted access areas for private topics,
  • and provide a lot more ways to communicate and collaborate than they had before.

While you will have to wait for the summer Olympic games to see the extraordinary skill of the fencers, you can probably use the model for an organization you have as your client.

*If you want to find out more about fencing and the history Olympian Bronze medal recipient Peter Westbrook has made (and, more importantly, how he’s giving back to the community today), visit the Peter Westbrook Foundation. And, if you have the pleasure of talking to him, just remind him of a certain high school girl in the 1980s who fought the state of New Jersey to fence on the boy's sabre team.

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