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September/October 2004| Home

 

Society News: Transformation Update

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Andrea Amesby Andrea Ames
STC President

 

Are you a chapter or SIG leader? If so, chances are you’ve heard of the STC transformation. If not, there’s a good chance you haven’t heard of the transformation. The following few paragraphs will provide a brief introduction to the transformation work, and the following resources will provide you with more details and updates:

  • Email (transform@stc.org): Get answers to questions or provide suggestions, comments, etc., and you will get an answer or a response within two business days.
  • Listserv (transform@lists.stc.org): Opt in and receive updates and news about the transformation, status/progress updates, notifications of web site updates, etc. (Sign-ups via the transformation web page, below, began on Thursday, July 15.)
  • Web site (www.stc.org/transformation): Visit often to see the main repository of transformation information, and sign up for the Transformation News listserv (above) for update information.

What Started All This? And What’s It Really All About?

Frankly, the economy started all this. STC income—both membership dues income and conference income that underwrites the cost of memberships (you might not realize that your dues don’t cover the actual costs of your membership)—began to drop a few years ago, and the STC Board of Directors’ efforts to cut costs did not solve our problem. When we dug into the cause of our drop in income, we found that many former members, for example, were unwilling to renew, because it meant paying for memberships that their companies had formerly covered. In short, although the economy moved the Board to act, what we found was that finances were merely a symptom of a greater problem—perceived member value. That’s what the transformation is really about: providing value that members want and need to develop professionally.

During our research, we confirmed something we already knew: Our industry and our members are incredibly diverse, with interests ranging from usability to editing, with skills and experience ranging from entry-level to senior, working in industries from financial to scientific, etc. We asked ourselves, “Can one organization really meet the needs, and provide significant professional-development value in all of these areas and industries, to this entire range of people?” In answering this question, we confirmed something else we already knew: Our strength is in our “communities”—what we currently call “chapters” and “SIGs.” The Society does not provide direct value to members in any or all of these areas; instead, the Society provides infrastructure, mentoring, financial and administrative support, policy, etc., for those communities to exist and flourish, providing member value indirectly through those communities. Unfortunately, the Society support for and representation of communities today—and the members’ experience across communities—is inconsistent.

The Bottom Line

Members want value, and value means something different to each of us. For the Society to rebuild—and increase—its membership ranks, we need to provide (among other things):

  • Communities: Consistent, equitably supported and represented communities from which members will derive their personalized professional development value (through the Communities, Finance, and Governance initiatives).
  • Flexible membership: A flexible membership model enabling members to opt in and out of various services and community memberships to customize their professional development experience.
  • Rich content: Education, knowledge base, research, and intellectual property of all types, that provides depth of practice in member-identified practice areas and is readily accessed.
  • Networking: Richer opportunities to network within and beyond geographies.

And we need to communicate information about the transformation, its initiatives, the changes and status of those, as well as solicit feedback from members and leaders around the Society, to ensure that we all understand our options, make informed choices and decisions, and implement the appropriate changes during the transformation process.

What We’re Doing About It: The Transformation

Some of these needs are met through today’s community success stories—of which there are many! In our efforts to improve consistency and equality of support and experiences across communities, we’re not losing sight of those that are working; instead, we’re building on the foundation of their successes...and planning to go a step further to provide even more to those communities to enhance their successes. For communities that are struggling, the support we will provide is designed to help, not hinder, their progress toward providing as much member value as possible.

The work to meet all of these needs is complex. As we change our community support model to be more consistent, many changes are required—in the financial, governance, and technology (infrastructure) areas, as well as the expected community policy changes.

We have a high-level roadmap that we’re following, outlining what we need to do at a very high level similar to the bulleted items above. We don’t have all the answers. We still need your input and your help. Contact us at transform@stc.org to contribute to the transformation.

Myths and Misinformation Abound!

If you have heard of the transformation, you might be concerned about some misinformation circulating. Here are a few of the most tenacious myths...debunked.

  • STC is not a chapter-based organization; it is a member-based organization, according to our Bylaws.
  • The transformation is not about finances; it’s about member value. Although the economic environment and STC’s financial situation in that environment was a symptom that alerted us to the problem, the real issue was members’ perception of the value of STC membership.
  • The transformation is not about marginalizing, de-emphasizing, or eliminating chapters—large or small. Chapters are communities, just as SIGs are. The goal of the transformation is to equally support and represent all communities—chapters, SIGs, and new, currently undefined communities.
  • We are not taking away any chapters’ money. At a Transformation Q&A session on Leadership Day at the STC conference in May, John Nardone, our Transformation Consultant, mentioned the well-known fact that STC’s chapters have a greater net worth than the Society, and he suggested that chapters with large reserves might want to volunteer to donate some of those reserves to the transformation effort. (Interesting tidbit: Some chapters have contacted me to volunteer to support the transformation financially.)
  • The transformation was not instigated by STC’s Washington, D.C.–based organization. STC’s decision-making, policy-setting body is the Board of Directors, your elected representatives, who are volunteers and live and work around the world. STC’s implementation and operations body is the paid staff at the STC Office, located in northern Virginia. Your elected Board of Directors voted to engage the transformation consultant (in May 2003) and to adopt the transformation roadmap (in January 2004) that the consultant and the initial transformation team proposed. The STC Office in northern Virginia does not determine how money is spent; they implement disbursals based on STC Board decisions.
  • The current dues rebates that fund chapters are not part of the transformed financial model. The new financial model has not yet been developed. Until it is, the Board of Directors will continue with the chapter dues rebate process: According to STC Bylaws, each year the Board analyzes the current financial situation—including the budget, membership renewals, conference income, etc.—and determines an amount to rebate to chapters.Top of page
 

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