Once upon a time there was the Green Mill. There still is, but only the name survived.

In the Twin Cities it’s a well-known restaurant chain specializing in pizza. Before that it was a 3/2 beer joint, sort of like Cheers … everybody knew everyone’s name … but more poorly lit and with stickier floors.

It was, to put a word on it, a community. Then they added deep dish pizza to the menu, it became a go-to place for a more affluent crowd, and while its profits soared its community-ness evaporated.

Once upon a time there was the Little Wagon. It was where you went Friday after work if you worked for the Minneapolis newspaper. It was where we built strong relationships and weak livers.

But over time the whole idea of congregating after work for conversations and conversational lubricants just faded away: More and more of us left work on Fridays to start the weekend with our families, leaving socializing at the Wagon to a shrinking group of loyalists who worked on their cirrhosis the way more fashion-minded individuals worked on their tans.

And then, once upon another time there was the local association.

On my resume I brag (well, I mention) having served as president of the Minnesota Telecommunications Association. We met monthly at a local hotel, September through June, to socialize, compare notes, enjoy dinner, listen to a speaker talking about a topic relevant to the assembled multitude, and then disband so as to re-band at the hotel bar.

But over time we went from taking over the bar, to taking over a few tables at the bar, to occupying a couple of booths, to … well, to go home to our families.

As bar attendance declined, so meeting attendance declined. Eventually the MTA faded out of existence.

And with it went all of the personal networking that used to be one of the main attractions for joining.

Which leads to this week’s questions:

  • Is the demise of the local association … the sort with regular events that provide opportunities to socialize (and, yes, “network”) … just my perception based on my personal experience as biased sample? Or is this a real phenomenon?
  • To the extent the trend is real, what’s your substitute? Where and how do you make the social connections local associations used to be a vehicle for?

Bob’s last word: My research says I’m just out of touch – the associations and associations of associations report that associations are a growth industry.

But given the source, some of this analysis might be nothing more than the expected boosterism, and more might be that the reported trends are based on sample bias: There’s no reason to expect the same level of survey response from failed or failing associations than from successful ones.

Bob’s sales pitch: Do you like the ideas and approaches you read here in Keep the Joint Running but want more depth? I’ve written a dozen books to give you just that. You’ll find the list here.