Where to Start When You Don’t Know Where to Start:

Assessing Foreign Opportunities for Credentialing Programs Without Breaking the Bank


Certification Network Conference
September 16, 2009

Grand Hyatt Hotel, Washington, DC

Richard C. O’Sullivan
Change Management Solutions


“Go global!” screams headline after headline in association literature and the general media. For many associations the decision to "go global" comes not as the result of deliberate planning but in response to a contact or contacts initiated by foreign organizations, businesses, or professionals. These initiatives have been driven by a perceived necessity for some global activity not by any identified benefit to the organization or its members. Globalization has become an end unto itself. Oftentimes these forays of happenstance into international markets prove unfit for their existing members, their new foreign customers or the association and often are detrimental to existing members, products, services, and the organization’s reputation.

Before venturing into foreign markets, associations need to conduct as careful and rigorous market analysis and deliberate country selection as any business would to be sure that their efforts are viable and sustainable. This is especially important for credentialing programs as most of these requests come from countries only beginning to open up politically and economically. Many of the principles necessary for an effective credentialing program, such as transparency, pluralism, and rule of law – especially respect for intellectual property rights are unknown, misunderstood, or paid token attention by businesses and government agencies alike.

But with few associations have the resources to undertake a thorough analysis of global opportunities. If only there were ways for associations to evaluate different country opportunities and identify viable markets and products without huge travel budgets to study each country in detail or risky pilot ventures.

CAGE Analysis

Actually, there is. New techniques have emerged to help associations assess the opportunities of one country over another using information and resources developed for other nonprofit sectors. One of the most effective is CAGE Analysis, developed by Dr. Pankaj Ghemawat, professor of Global Strategy at the IESE Business School in Barcelona and the Harvard Business School, to help organizations to identify structural commonalities and differences in the political and economic environments of different market to assure that products and services are responsive to local market conditions and structures. The structural differences are:

Cultural: Differences in work ethic, relationship management (e.g. peer-to-peer, superior-to-subordinate), gender or age sensitivity, and other characteristics that could help or hinder.

Administrative (bureaucratic): Differences in market performance resulting from government regulations or private business practices. Understanding administrative distance is essential to determining the adoption of credentialed business practices that are beyond the practitioners’ control.

Geographic: The degree of competition or isolation from competing credentials and credential holders

Economic: Differences determined by economic infrastructure such as access to credit and financial literacy, level of education, mobility of resources, especially labor, income levels, and competitiveness in the markets in which credentialed practitioners will work.

Rather than looking for a “one-size-fits-all” globalization strategy, associations are able to identify market types and design product portfolios that either avoiding or exploiting these differences to improve their competitive advantages.

Through case studies of actual associations, Richard O’Sullivan, principal of Change Management Solutions, will show participants how they can use CAGE analysis to

Š      Confidently determine whether or not their organizations should develop global, international, or export credentialing strategies,

Š      Identify the three or four prevailing market types for their credentials and the business strategies most effective for each

Š      Use business environment and government practices indices and measures to make the strategy responsive to changes in foreign markets.

At the end of the session through a hands-on Q&A Rick will help participants begin to develop the outline for their own CAGE analysis.


About the Presenter

Richard O’Sullivan is the principal and founder of Change Management Solutions, a three-year old international consulting firm dedicated to helping organizations identify, understand, and harness the forces of profound market, economic, and social change. An economist and business environment analyst with 30 years experience in the public, private, and civil society sectors, he has worked with associations and other nonprofit organizations in the U.S., European, and Asian, Middle Eastern, and African markets. He is a well-established expert in the role and design of demand-driven and self-sustaining strategies to address social concerns. In 2006, he authored the chapter, “Sustainability – Civil Society as Agents of Change in the Collaborative Economy” in Professional Practices in Association Management, the required textbook for American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) professional certification. O’Sullivan also is an instructor at the Institute for Public-Private Partnerships, which trains and counsels governments worldwide on market-driven solutions to social issues. He has published several journal articles on the role and design of demand-driven and self-sustaining association strategies to address social concerns. He has spoken at several international association conferences. He was selected to be a keynote speaker at the opening session of the Global Association Congress in London, UK, this July.

From 2004 to 2006 he worked as a special technical advisor to the U.S. Department of State to assist post-communist governments in the Southeastern Europe to develop associations, public-private partnerships, and other civil society organizations needed to promote a free and competitive business environment.