IPA Delegate from Section Japan participates in the UIA Associations Asia-Pacific Round Table 2021

09 Dec 2021

I’m pleased to report that I attended the 9th UIA (Union of International Associations) Asian-Pacific Round Table held in Tokyo on 21st and 22nd October as an IPA delegate. Due to the international travel restrictions, the IPA Secretary General, May-Britt Ronnebro, with the approval of of the IEB, had forwarded this year’s invitation to me in Japan. More than 120 representatives of 75 associations, agencies, and private companies participated in this workshop either on-site or virtually from Australia, Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Japan. I took part in person because the venue was in the heart of downtown Tokyo, and too close to my home to make an excuse to join online.jproundtable

It was truly a precious occasion to listen to the thought-provoking presentations and the panel discussions of six guest speakers mainly focused on how associations should change learning from the experiences under the pandemic, and how leaders should act under various uncertainties. The keynote speech was given by the President of the UIA, Cyril Ritchie, who joined remotely from Geneva. He emphasised that associations should urge those in power to change society for the wellbeing of each country and the international community, and added that it was not only the right, but also the duty of associations to join the decision-making process of relevant political issues. He was followed by five speakers namely: Belinda Moore, Director of Strategic Solutions in Australia; Toni Brealy, CEO of the Australian Society of Association Executives; Chris Christophers, Japanese designer of communication technology and robotics; Julian Moore, Australian researcher of sponsorship; and Chris Dingcong from Hong Kong, brand consultant to AIA, FedEx, Godiva, Adidas etc. They all presented speeches and discussions remotely from their own countries by using the Avatar Robots that Chris Christophers has produced. I enjoyed listening and talking to their Avatars in the sessions and coffee breaks, but unfortunately we missed sharing dinner due to the pandemic.

I would like to share below with you some highlights that especially impressed me:



An important matter for associations currently is purpose and governance. Many associations lacking these have failed to survive the pandemic. In 85% of the associations that are still developing even under the pandemic in Australia and New Zealand, members feel positive regarding their purpose. In 90%, people think their associations have become more innovative than before. 40% answered that their board has become more effective and more ambitious. Covid has given us opportunities to experiment with new ways of working. We have put our efforts into communicating among members without meeting in person, and then, found that online communication works rather well. Learning from this experience, associations should establish their online systems to make it possible for every member to communicate with everybody inside and outside. Even the CEO of Toyota or Pokemon could attend their meeting if it’s virtual. Associations should keep and improve the skills they’ve developed from the pandemic and continue this path.



Leaders who stick to hierarchy or procedure cannot exert their abilities in chaotic or uncontrollable circumstances like the pandemic. Leadership of associations should be changed. Important elements comprise:

  1. Focus on Future. Leaders need to take the pandemic as a chance to improve their associations forward to the next stage;
  2. Flexibility and co-creation. We need to redesign working styles together with workers. Leaders need to be more curious re each member’s ability and condition, and ask members what way is the most productive they could be;
  3. Compassion connecting with staff, members and stakeholders on a personal level. They might have more private problems while working from home, by sharing time and space all day with their spouse and their kids. Leaders need both head and heart.


Remote way of Communication

Combining the latest technologies of robotics and digital twins, we are able to create new remote communication. An Avatar Robot can enhance events and networking, providing complete interactivity to remote participants, creating truly hybrid experiences. They provide the users with 360° view-eyes, ears to hear , a mouth to talk , legs to move back and forth and to turn around. Furthermore, everybody around your robots can see your face as well. You could visit a museum in another country remotely operating the Avatar, look at the exhibitions, listen to a guide, ask questions, and take a walk with friends. In the near future we will be able to hug each other with the arms of our Avatars.

This technology helps hospitalised children go to school to study, and play with friends. It enables people to stay in touch remotely with distant relatives. In this workshop, we shared the coffee break with the speakers’ Avatars talking to us from Geneva, Brussels, Brisbane, Sydney, and Hong Kong.

Last but not least: In the Q&A time, a young Japanese lady onsite asked one of the speakers: “What can we do if our leaders won’t change their mind?”  The answer was: “Talk and talk to the leaders, in cooperation with all your colleagues. And make them realise that what was important 12 months ago is not necessarily important now.”

I deeply thank the Secretary General, May-Britt Ronnebro, and the IEB once more for the great opportunity to participate in this workshop. 

Masahito Kanetaka, President IPA Japan