CAI's Community NOW: Uniting Global Community Leaders for a Bright Future

Nearly 2,000 global professionals gathered at the recently concluded 2023 CAI Annual Conference and Exposition.
Staff Reporter | USA | Community Management

Community Associations Institute (CAI) commemorated its 50th anniversary at the largest international gathering of homeowners, community managers, and businesses serving community associations during the 2023 CAI Annual Conference and Exposition: Community NOW in Dallas.

The three-day conference witnessed nearly 2,000 community association peers from around the world coming together.

Keynote speakers Amy Blankson and Shola Richards headlined this year's conference. Blankson shared simple, scientifically proven, and practical life hacks to increase workplace performance and well-being. Richards introduced attendees to the Ubuntu philosophy and provided actionable strategies to transform work culture, amplify team civility, and inspire all to consistently bring their best to work.

The event also had informative education sessions from leading experts covering the latest challenges and trends in community associations—from building maintenance and electric vehicle charging stations to protecting assets in economic uncertainty, resolving conflict with homeowners, and much more. 

“We're honored to celebrate our golden anniversary at the largest annual event for our members," said Thomas M. Skiba, CAE, CAI's chief executive officer. “Judging by this year's attendance numbers, our membership is enthusiastic to honor our milestone, recognize the pioneers who founded our organization, and create new ways to support the communities we represent worldwide with highly educated leaders."

Conference Highlights

Bookstore deals

The CAI Press bookstore opened on Day 1 with the very best resources for community associations. From novice board members to experienced managers, CAI Press has the definitive collection of books on association governance, management, and operations.

Conference first-timers  

Martha Perkins, CMCA, a manager with PAMCO in Cedar Park, Texas, relocated recently and said that she’s here “to make connections and learn new things like AI (artificial intelligence) and how it will impact the industry.”

Tracy-Ann Samuel, director, resident experience with the Heritage Village Master Association in Southbury, Conn, said she is attending the conference so that she can learn how to “create change in her community and hear success stories” about programs and software that will help “bring her up to date and remain relevant.”

Alyssa Staples, a manager with Lake Forest Community Association in Louisville, Ky., said she hopes to “bring some new ideas back” to her community.

Meghan Keith, CMCA, AMS, with Silverleaf Management Group in Loganville, Ga., came to take the case study for her PCAM designation.  

50th anniversary poster 

CAI graphic designer Anya Semizhonova was onsite to sign the 50th anniversary commemorative poster she created.

Education sessions:

Community NOW introduced attendees to the first set of conference education sessions to inspire and inform about topics ranging from building maintenance and collecting assessments to conflict and more. “It all starts with a budget,” said Mitch Drimmer with Alexa Technologies in Miami. “If you have a thought-out budget, it is unlikely to result in special assessments.”

Community associations have become unhealthy microcosms of a divided nation, said Jessica Towles-Gottschalk, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, and Kelly G. Richardson, a partner with Richardson | Ober law firm in Pasadena, Calif.

They said that it’s time to recognize the ruptures and bring neighbors back together again.

Delores Ferguson, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, with CCMC in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Alexis Firehawk, an attorney with Carpenter, Hazlewood, Delgado & Bolen in Tempe, Ariz., advised their female peers, who make up a majority of the community management industry, to proudly embrace their stories, leverage their strengths, and lean on mentors to succeed professionally.

Ferguson said it’s important for women in community management not to give away their dignity despite societal pressures, stereotypes, and prejudice. 

Keynote Speaker: The Courage to Go Together: Three Questions to Change How You Work, Live, and Lead with Shola Richards

During the opening general session of the 2023 conference, motivational speaker Shola Richards introduced CAI conference attendees to an African concept that successfully combines compassion and connectedness for the benefit of workplaces and communities. Ubuntu encompasses basic concepts that can create healthy workplaces, Richards said, and involves asking three simple questions: “Is it kind? Is it true? Is it necessary?”

“Kindness is the one thing needed to create healthy workplaces,” Richards says. “Incivility leads to unhealthy workplaces.” This includes showing kindness to oneself as well as others, he says. 

“It’s frustrating when adults don’t know the power of their words and don’t care,” Richards says. “Bad behavior is the unskilled expression of unmet needs.” 

“Be kind to yourself so you can be kind to others,” Richards says. Kindness helps professionals “to make the right decisions.”

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