Why the International Seed Federation turned its member area into an interactive experience

What challenges did the ISF tackle? As a Trade Association, the ISF realized that its purpose — continue reading
Posted by Taco Potze
June 22, 2022

Losing the in-person connections during the pandemic, meant associations have a diminished relationship with their members and they were not able to offer networking opportunities between members.  As a result, members were starting to question the relevancy and membership value of the association. The International Seed Federation (ISF) eliminated the engagement challenges that came with the pandemic with a community platform.

What challenges did the ISF tackle?

As a Trade Association, the ISF realized that its purpose is not to deliver events, be they online or offline. Their purpose is to help seed companies and associations fight for the rights of plant growers and breeders. Its mission is to make sure farmers around the world get access to quality seeds.

  • Their events-only strategy was limiting their mission potential
  • 50-60% of their members could not attend their in-person events
  • Webinars did not help members interact, contribute or feel included


Airah Cadiogan, Digital Media Associate of the International Seed Federation says in an interview with Open Social’s Community Strategy Consultant Mathijs Vleeming: “What we really offer is access to the community that the ISF is.“

Connecting all of these seed companies and associations is what leads to the fulfillment of their mission. 

If 50-60% of their members can’t attend in-person events (to connect, contribute and collaborate) – a huge potential is left unrealized. 

Their member area offered only a repository of documents – great for downloading and passively consuming content, but incapable of facilitating conversations and collaboration between members.

The International Seed Federation decided that the core of what they do is offer access to their community. They’re elevating their members’ community experience to make them feel included and engaged year-round. 

What solution did the ISF adopt?

Their goal was clear, they wanted all of their members to be able to:

  1. Participate in conversations and contribute to the association community’s joint mission
  2. Feel a strong part of the ISF community
  3. Attract new members by showing the world what the ISF community is


This would tackle all of their engagement challenges and develop a vibrant community of members who are active, contributing, and pushing the association’s mission forward.

As Ariah says in the interview: “We will never be able to replace physical events”. 

But the goal is not to replace them. The goal is to add a continuous online engagement layer around their core physical events, to utilize the maximum potential of their membership.

They’re doing just that with their online community platform, turning their member area into a central safe, trusted, and interactive digital space that empowers their members to share.

Watch the full interview on “How the ISF eliminated the engagement challenges that came with the pandemic!

Some of the moments for learning and adopting a similar approach you will get from watching the video:

  1. How to increase engagement with- and between your members?
  2. How the ISF made its members feel at home during the pandemic
  3. How does their member’s area is helping fulfill their mission
  4. Why we cannot replace in-person events and what to do about it
  5. Why they chose Open Social for their online community building

How to drive value by going back to your association’s core: Community building?

Associations are in the community and communications business, not just in the events business.

Having become accustomed to events being the primary method and channel for community building, this can easily be forgotten.

The engagement model of successful associations is changing from events-led to community-led.

Read more about the changing engagement model of associations.

Download our free eBook “The Association Community Compendium – How to harness the collective power of your members” by clicking the image below!

Association Community Compendium

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