What Does a Peak Body Mean to You?

Sydney Fish Markets. 19/3/2015 Photo credit James Horan
Photo Credit: James Horan

The term ‘peak body’ can have different meanings for people within and outside an industry, which can be a source of confusion. The uncertainty is well-founded as peak bodies can take on many forms and roles. Researchers and others write whole books and engage in extensive debates on definitions.

It is fine for academia and those who want to extensively document and describe what a peak body may or may not be. However, this is not a productive exercise for business people looking at what value a peak body might provide for them.

The main issue here is that if people are confused, they become cautious about change. So in the case of the seafood industry, what in a practical sense is meant by the term ‘peak body’?

Here is the best way to look at it- 

My experience is that it is best for your industry to firstly look at ‘what’ a peak body does. When you do this, then two main functions stand out:

  1. Outward looking roles

These include activities such as defending and promoting the industry’s reputation (or ‘brand’) with the community; policy development and advocacy to government; providing feedback on government policy, regulations, programs and trade negotiations; developing alliances and strategic relationships with other groups (e.g. other industries, Non-Government Organisations) to extend the industry’s influence; and managing issues and responding to the activities of competing interests.

High performing peak bodies tend to be very strategic with their external functions. They are selective in choosing which activities to pursue and are solution-oriented. In contrast, poorly performing bodies tend to be reactive, concentrate on problems and spread efforts across many activities in an attempt to appease everyone.

  1. Inward looking roles

These include activities such as information dissemination, networking between members, coordinating efforts between members with common interests and priorities, and identifying areas where wider industry changes could improve competitiveness (e.g. setting strategic directions and shifting industry resources towards areas that will make the biggest difference).

Unfortunately, the inward looking role is often undervalued as people tend to perceive that the main barriers are always external. Yet even small industries can be as bureaucratic as governments. The key point is that high performing peak bodies can be powerful agents of positive industry change.

A crucial insight for both external and internal roles is that the work of a peak body is best concentrated on those jobs that businesses cannot do as well on their own.

The key message to take out of all this, is that peak bodies exist to create value where businesses can’t do it alone.

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