How do we avoid legacy thinking when facing our association’s toughest challenges? Organizations and their leaders increasingly are applying design thinking to shift their perspectives on problem-solving. 

The design-thinking methodology focuses on understanding and empathizing with your community's user's needs (your members and non-members). It's a human-centered approach to designing programs, services, and solutions. 

VSAE is piloting this initiative to train association leaders in applying design thinking to their organizations. Unlike traditional peer groups or “sage on stage” presentations, these mini-innovation summits will allow association CEOs, executive directors, and senior staff to leverage design thinking principles in addressing the challenges facing their organizations and their members.

Program Design
What is Design Thinking?
Workshop Format



Program Design 

In association management, we tend to “tweak around the edges” when attempting to solve problems, often due to stakeholder risk aversion.

What if we blew up the traditional ways we innovate and examined our core issues from the perspective of our stakeholders so that we deeply consider their needs before determining meaningful ways to deliver solutions?

Innovation Pulse offers association executives a fresh perspective on solving real-time association issues by applying a design thinking lens. More than just a theoretical overview of design thinking, this program is a practical learning experience where executives will get to “idea-storm” case studies with the brain trust of their peers, break down core issues, and then reassemble to generate creative new opportunities.

Given the interactive nature of this program, each session is limited to twenty (20) association leaders/staff. 

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process that teams use to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and create innovative solutions to prototype and test. Involving five phases—Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test—it is most useful to tackle problems that are ill-defined or unknown. (Attribution: Interaction Design Foundation)

VIDEO: Overview of Design Thinking from HBR

Workshop Format


  • Registrants will share their most pressing association challenges. Based on the submissions, the facilitators will create composite case studies around common themes. 

During the Workshop 

  • Learn the principles of design thinking.
  • Participate in an “idea-storming” small group cohort to apply learnings using one of the composite case studies.
  • Identify fellow association leaders who can become future design thinking thought partners. 


Shira Lotzar, Chief Engagement Officer, Purposeful Hire, Inc.

Since 1994, Shira has been actively engaged in the association community. As a search consultant, career coach, executive coach, and more recently, a strategic planning facilitator, her diverse practice areas have provided her with a 360-degree lens around the business challenges facing association executives. Additionally, she's served on multiple ASAE committees and is the past President of the HR Leadership Forum. 

Mary Power, President and Founder, M-Powering Leaders, LLC
Mary Power is an accomplished business driver whose entrepreneurial instincts and strategic vision have carried multiple organizations through rapid growth and major organizational change.  She has 25+ years of CEO experience, leading three very diverse associations through significant turnaround and global expansion.  She is an ASAE Fellow and recipient of their Women Who Advance Excellence in Associations Award.

Date and Location

Date: Tuesday, June 11, 2024
Time: 8:30 am (Registration), Program 9:00 - 11:00 am
Location: National Society of Professional Engineers; 1420 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314

VSAE is a CAE-approved provider. This program is eligible for 2 CAE credits. 


  By May 13 After May 13
VSAE Member* $65 $75
Non-Member* $85 $95

* Registration for this event is limited to association/AMC staff professionals only.