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Creating the Association Blog

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“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.”

So wrote American Founding Father and polymath Benjamin Franklin. Here at NAATP, we take that aphorism to heart in our operations, member services, and leadership responsibilities. Demonstrating value as an association means continuously adapting to the needs of our members and the profession at large. Some changes are the result of internal decision-making; others, like the seismic shifts brought on by COVID-19, are brought on by forces outside of our control. The interplay of the internal and the external, of choice and circumstance, come together to make up the experience of life.

Of the many changes NAATP has undergone this year, one within our publications platform – the creation of this blog – has allowed me to reflect on the necessity of organizational change. As with most transitions, the formation of The Association Blog has been a process, rather than a single event.

Across NAATP’s 42-year history, traditional newsletters were published under varying formats and names. The most recent iteration, addictionLEADER, began in 2015, after the association underwent a comprehensive re-branding program. During the re-organization process, we saw the opportunity for addictionLEADER (AL) to serve a purpose beyond bullet-pointed operational updates; instead, the newsletter of the National Association should expand to offer a deeper discussion around current issues in addiction treatment.

From the first issue, AL tackled meaningful topics like the field’s dearth of and critical need for outcomes measurement data and the ongoing professionalization of the field. Staff, board members, and guest columnists reported on SUD policies on the Hill, tracked the ongoing progress of our Code of Ethics and Quality Assurance program efforts to curtail fraudulent behavior and raise industry standards, and chronicled the development of landmark educational resources like our Quality Assurance Guidebook and Outcomes Measurement Toolkit.

Over five years of producing AL, as communications best practices evolved, so too did our delivery format. Newsletter issues were initially circulated to our member organizations via printed, mailed copies. In 2019, AL became a digital-only publication to leverage the greater accessibility of online distribution.

At the start of this year, we planned to continue an AL production schedule that included some layout tweaks, but still delivering the same substantive content on which we pride ourselves. But – as we all know – many aspects of 2020 did not roll out as planned. The dysfunction caused by the pandemic forced the NAATP team to take a step back and re-evaluate our systems and deliverables to best guide the treatment community through this uncertain time.

The unpredictability of this year clarified the need for rapid information sharing and more (virtual) connectedness. In our shuffle to pull together as an association, the demand for a publications change became clear; to release information at a faster clip, we had to set aside the newsletter tradition and move to a format that allows for more and more frequent releases. Hence, The Association Blog was born – at least, version 1.0.

Threaded through this long transition, from newsletter to blog, is our organizational conviction that change must not only be accepted but sought. NAATP weathered the challenges of 2020 precisely because constant evolution is engrained in us as a team and as an association. Again, and again, this year has made me incredibly grateful to work in a dynamic industry and for a flexible organization with leaders who welcome the great opportunities that are only possible through change.