Ever had what you think is a brilliant idea for something new, then found out someone else had the same idea? Maybe it’s a psychic connection, or just a coincidence, or maybe it’s a sign that it really is a brilliant idea.
Anyway, Suzanne Deatherage, an IABC member at Texas A&M University, and I recently discovered we’d both had the same idea. We’d never met before, but within a couple minutes of meeting, we were excitedly discussing our shared vision for something that we think could be an amazing IABC member benefit, capitalizing on our organization’s global network. Best of all, it’s something we think could be completely member-driven, doesn’t require a lot of work or budget.
Our idea (which is not fully developed, and could use lots of input) is to foster an exchange program that would give IABC members the opportunity to gain experience in different countries, industries or markets. Something like a foreign exchange student or internship, but perhaps more along the lines of peer-to-peer job shadowing.
For me, the idea was born out of my own experiences staying as a guest in the homes of IABC members when I’ve visited chapters in the past year, because I find that the experience is always much richer that way than staying in hotels. And everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve wished I could stay a bit longer, really get to know the market and the people, learn more about the cultural differences, maybe even learn the language. In fact, the other influencer on my thinking about this was Julie Freeman‘s experience last summer participating in a Spanish immersion program that involved living with a local family in Guatemala. What if, I thought, IABC members could do something like that, where members around the world opened their homes to fellow members. Could there be potential benefit on both sides? Could it be a professional development opportunity? Could a company benefit by having a senior-level “intern” who comes in and works on a project or provides free consulting in exchange for the experience and a place to stay? Could a communication professional who is between jobs use this kind of experience to expand their skills, gain knowledge of another industry or develop their resume?
Suzanne actually had the opportunity to participate in a formal program offered by CNN a few years ago, so she brings lots of great ideas from a different perspective, and she’s researched and found other organizations that have done similar things.
We’re thinking that a good next step would be to start an eXchange site and get more ideas and feedback, possibly attract a few folks willing to participate in some pilot exchanges, and go from there. While Suzanne is getting that site set up, I’ll start the ball rolling by asking for comments here, and see if there are others who would like to help shape and drive the idea forward.
Let us know what you think.
UPDATE: Suzanne has launched an eXchange site to continue this discussion and develop the idea further. Anyone interested in working on it, please go to http://proexchange.x.iabc.com/.