At the October meeting of the ISSOTL board of directors in Atlanta, we concluded an 18-month strategic planning process with the unanimous approval of a ten-year strategic plan for ISSOTL.
Our process began with the formation of an ad hoc committee made up of Kelly Matthews (then regional vice president Asia-Pacific), Rie Troelsen (regional vice president Europe), and myself (then ISSOTL president). Our committee examined strategic plans of other SOTL-related organizations (ICED, POD, etc.), led a half-day strategic planning exercise at the board meeting in Bergen, then drafted a plan that we submitted to the ISSOTL board. During the summer we made the resulting draft available to the ISSOTL membership for comments, which we then included in the final version approved on October 9.
This plan lays out an ambitious agenda for ISSOTL over the coming decade. The most important goal, and the one that generated the most input from our membership, is to be very intentional in increasing the diversity of our membership, in all the ways that we think of diversity, and to become an ever more inclusive society. As the plan says, “We intend to have a vigorous and ongoing conversation about diversity and inclusion that includes, but is not limited to race, ethnicity, language, disability, thought, culture, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and economic status.”
A second and related goal is to expand our work in promoting and advocating for SOTL around the world. Because the annual meeting is so critical to growing SOTL, we have committed to the difficult task of expanding the reach of our annual meetings to locations outside of our usual rotation of North America, Western Europe, and Australia. This geographic expansion will be critical to growing our diversity across many dimensions.
We have to increase the organizational capacity of our (currently) all-volunteer organization before we can expand beyond those locations we already know well and where it is relatively easy to host our meetings. Because we believe so strongly in the need to reach beyond our traditional locations, we have committed ourselves as a board to re-think the structure of the society so that we have the necessary organizational capacity to do this more challenging work. Steps in this transformation will include adding paid staff who can help us with the logistics of conferences, manage our increasingly complex finances, and develop deeper relationships with aligned SOTL organizations.
This sort of additional organizational capacity will, we believe, make it possible for us to grow our society from the current membership of around 700 to an eventual membership greater than 1,000. We depend entirely on membership dues and conference revenues to operate our society and during the strategic planning process it became clear that we have already exceeded the limits of what we can continue to do as an all-volunteer organization with 700 members. A larger membership and larger conferences will generate sufficient revenue for us to do the difficult work required to expand to new regions, provide our members with increasing opportunities to present their work, help us all build new professional networks, and grow SOTL as a field with international stature.
Change often makes us nervous and as our opening plenary speaker at ISSOTL 2019, Dr. Kasturi Behari-Leak made clear, boundaries are difficult to break down because boundaries and walls often give us the illusion of security. As our strategic plan makes clear, the ISSOTL board has made a commitment to breaking out of our current comfort zone in the belief that ten years from now, the hard work ahead of us will result in a version of ISSOTL even more international, even more diverse, even more inclusive than the one we know today. We won’t accomplish all our goals in year one or year two, but we have laid out a strong road map that gets us where we want to go.
ISSOTL Past President
George Mason University (USA)