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Consortia, Confederacy, Commerce -- A goal for for AgeTek, GOAL, CAST

Groups, groups, and more groups. Within the past month, two new initiatives formed that added to the list of aging-related tech consortia and industry trade groups.  GOAL (Get Older Americans OnLine) launched in early April and the Aging Technology Alliance  (AgeTek.org) in March, adding to the existing CAST (Center for Aging Services Technology) consortium. These groups all share an overlapping objective: propel, expand, improve access to technology for older people. Let's take them one at a time:

AgeTek.  AgeTek was formed by an initial group of small vendors at Silvers Summit in January, revealed at ASA in March, with more to follow on April 22 -- see the website. AgeTek, chaired by Peter Radsliff of Presto, wants to evolve into the 'world's leading aging-focused technology consortium'. Their belief is that if small vendors of technology for seniors band together in a trade association, they can have more impact on the market, particularly in terms of visibility, than they can individually. The initial concept includes possible advisory roles for large vendors -- but details of how, when, and why are to be worked out.

GOAL. Just launched last week, Project GOAL (Get Older Adults Online) is chaired by Debra Berlyn, previously with AARP, now an indepdendent consultant. Members include initial sponsorships by Verizon, Microsoft, Facebook, AT&T, and advisors like AARP. Mission: "The project will serve to help promote the adoption of broadband services by older adults, to raise the profile of the challenges confronting the use and adoption of technology within the older community, and to create a new voice representing these issues." Emphasis is mine.

CAST. The Center for Aging Services Technology is a sub-group of the non-profit senior housing consortium AAHSA -- Mission: "leading the charge to expedite the development, evaluation and adoption of emerging technologies that can improve the aging experience." According to the website, "CAST has become an international coalition of more than 400 technology companies, aging services organizations, research universities, and government representatives."

Consortia must deliver results.  My goal for all: Capitalize on the efforts of the past to get a measurable, positive outcome.  One executive of a company recently told me that firms (especially large ones) suffer from 'consortia fatigue'. I interpret that as a fatigue born out of joining with initial enthusiasm, participating in objective setting, expansion of overhead and a ballooning set of objectives and tactics, and then...a loss of momentum when only a limited number of objectives are achieved and enthusiasm wanes.

Recognize a shared objective -- measured progress.  All of the groups above want to help technology reach those seniors who need and could benefit from it.  CAST exists today but does not appear to have accelerated adoption, GOAL and AgeTek processes are yet to be defined.  My strong recommendation to both new ones -- search the CAST material, look for previous initiatives or projects that seem similar. For Project GOAL, link into SeniorNet and senior center work coordinated by the National Council on Aging (NCOA) to train seniors in use of computers and how seniors are going online today. Then set measurable and achievable objectives that will help us all know that progress has been made.

Learn from the past.  One of the truisms of the technology industry has always been reinvention from failure -- often an old idea is given a new name, when the old idea ran out of steam. New initiatives to help seniors (or coalesce the vendors to better reach them) should acknowledge the work of the previous or existing efforts, celebrate their progress, and complement those efforts with forward motion. I look forward to reading or hearing that all three recognize and acknowledge each other's efforts.