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Newsletter of the East Bay Chapter of STC
May/June 2004

STC Transformation Project: Focus on Communities


by Ginny Redish
STC Fellow


The following is an excerpt from the transcript of the STC Transformation – Communities broadcast phone call. The excerpt was edited for DMV by Gwaltney Mountford.

This is the second in a series of telephone calls that explain the Transformation Project to the Society’s community leaders. In the first call, Thea Teich, president of the Society, focused on the goals and principles of the Transformation Project.

This call features Ginny Redish, an STC Fellow from the Washington, D.C. chapter, co-founder of the STC Usability SIG, member of several other STC communities of practice, and former member of the STC Board of Directors; Fred Sampson, President of STC’s largest geographic community, Silicon Valley; and Whitney Quesenbery, former Manager of the STC Usability SIG, one of STC’s oldest communities of practice.

The excerpt is from Ginny’s portion of the call. To hear the call in its entirety and to see the full set of slides, go to the transformation web site. (The audio file for this call stays on the web site for only a short period.)

STC’s four goals for the Transformation Project:

  • Increase the value of our services to members.
  • Create financial stability for the organization.
  • Promote membership growth.
  • Be a leader and an advocate for our profession.

I’m talking with you today because I was part of a three-person team that took the lead on thinking about communities for the STC Transformation Project. The two other members of that team were Fred Sampson and Whitney Quesenbery. Fred, Whitney, and I based our work on the goals and principles that the STC Board established for the Transformation Project (see the sidebars in this article).

As we worked on the concepts for communities, we thought about how to apply these principles to meet the goals.

What Is a Community?

Here is our definition: An STC community is a group of people who share common interests, activities, and initiatives; who communicate regularly; and who derive benefit from their association.

  • STC communities must provide value to their members—value that members think is worth paying for.
  • STC communities must have enough people to create a sustained group of leaders, over time.
  • STC communities must do more than simply exist. They must have a visible presence; for example, with some or all of the following: a newsletter, a web site, discussion groups, listservs, conferences, educational programs, or other innovative ways of serving members.
  • STC communities must grow and evolve. This may be through increasing the number of members, adding new activities, or the energetic participation of members in current activities.

What Types of Communities Does STC Have Now?

Transformation Project’s seven principles:

  • Do no harm.
  • Respect our existing communities.
  • Build on the organization’s strengths.
  • Support the development of communities of practice.
  • Diversify our membership.
  • Offer more and varied choices.
  • Promote the value of technical communication.


STC currently has 118 geographic communities (chapters) ranging from five to just over 1,000 members. STC also has 21 communities of practice (Special Interest Groups or SIGs) ranging from 249 to more than 2,400 members. Figure 1 lists the number of members in the 21 largest geographic communities and in all the SIGs. Notice that all of the SIGs are larger than most of our geographic communities.

25,200 of us belong to one or more of STC’s SIGs. STC has 20,000 members. That means that many of us belong to more than one STC community. You belong to a geographic community—your chapter—and perhaps to several communities of practice—your SIGs.

STC also has 33 student chapters, most of which have 50 or fewer members. Many of these local communities centered on a college or university campus include both enthusiastic members and academic advisors, preparing the next generation of technical communicators who will then join our other communities.

Another very important aspect of community within STC is how we have spread around the world. In her reasons for the transformation process, Thea said, “Our world has become global.” Indeed it has. STC has communities all across the U.S., Canada, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand. We have innovative solutions to far-flung geography. For example, the TransAlpine chapter gathers technical communicators from five European countries.

Members from all of these places also participate in our virtual communities. The editor of the Usability SIG newsletter lives and works in Belgium. The Communities Committee for implementing the Transformation Roadmap has members from New Zealand, Finland, Austria, Belgium, Israel, and Germany as well as the U.S. and Canada. Connecting STCers across geography is critical.

What Does All This Tell Us About STC and How We Must Change?


Table 1: Number of members belonging to more than one SIG

Number of members

Number of SIGS










more than 5

Why do we need to redefine community within STC?

As you have just seen, the reality of our community affiliations in STC has changed radically in the last decade.

Here are some other interesting and important facts to consider:

  • In a membership survey that STC conducted in 2002, 42.4% of the respondents said that they had not attended a single chapter meeting in the previous twelve months.
  • As of today, 43% of STC members belong to at least one SIG. At present, we pay extra for each SIG that we choose to belong to. This is particularly striking when you consider that many of us belong to more than one SIG. See Table 1 in the sidebar.

It is clear that the structure of STC is not in line with what the members are doing with and in our communities.

  • The voting board is based entirely on geographic communities. All the Director-Sponsors represent chapters; the SIGs are all represented on the board only by the first vice president, who has other responsibilities besides representing all the SIGs.
  • The award and reward structure has recognized some types of communities far more than others.
  • The budget process and rebates have not been equal across types of communities.

Our communities have changed. Now STC is going to change to keep up with what has, in fact, happened.

A key element of the transformation is equal treatment from STC for all communities.

What Types of Communities Are We Thinking Of?

What types of communities might STC have?

Communities may be based on many concepts, as shown in Figure 2. As you look over the seven clouds, you will recognize many communities that already exist within STC, as well as some that perhaps don’t exist yet, but that logically fit with those that do. The figure might spark your thinking of new communities that you would like to help start or participate in. Any of these community types might be virtual or face-to-face or a combination.

. . .

The STC transformation is a work in progress. Fred, Whitney, and I helped to start the thinking about communities. Now we are part of the Communities Committee headed by Linda Oestreich. The committee has 24 members representing many geographic communities and many communities of practice. See the list of Bay Area contacts.

The committee is focusing on two major goals, with a sub-committee for each. Deb Sauer leads a group that is defining a community, in more detail, and determining what support (financial and administrative) it needs. Roger Grice leads a group that is determining the criteria and process for re-chartering existing communities. The re-chartering process gives communities the opportunity to evaluate and articulate their goals and the value they bring to their members.

The Communities Committee will be working closely with the committees that are working on other aspects of the transformation—governance, finance, membership options, education, and communications.

. . .

What Can You Do?

There are many ways you can get involved.

  • Talk with your chapters, SIGs, and committees about the transformation and what it will mean to you and to them.
  • Start to think in new ways about your communities.
  • Post questions about the calls at the transformation web site.
  • Contact your director-sponsor or your SIG leader with questions or comments.
  • Read the articles on the transformation web site.

Help make this happen! It’s your profession and your Society!

Resources and Contacts


Society Contacts

See the Board of Directors web page for Society contact details.

Bay Area Contacts

We want to hear from you—your comments, your suggestions, your questions. Please participate in this large STC community endeavor. The Bay Area chapters have three representatives on this committee:

  • Viki Maki (Berkeley Chapter): Re-chartering criteria sub-committee
  • Fred Sampson (Silicon Valley Chapter): Re-chartering criteria sub-committee
  • Gwaltney Mountford (East Bay Chapter): Community definition sub-committee

Final Note

Gwaltney encourages East Bay members with thoughts about communities to contact her. She will make sure that your thoughts are discussed with the committee.Top of page


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