April 1997 Volume 24 Number 2
You Can Make A Difference
By Art GeoffrionIn my inaugural column I said that one of life's most gratifying pleasures is working with good people, and I really believe that. If you do too, please read on.
INFORMS has lots of good people, and it's simple to work with them; all you have to do is volunteer. This means offering to do some real work in an area that you find interesting and worthy of your efforts. You'll enjoy meeting and working with like-minded people and will have the satisfaction of completing the kinds of projects on which INFORMS depends for much of its vitality.
Let me say a few words about the major volunteering opportunities at INFORMS. Active volunteers in these areas are absolutely essential to the excellence of your society.
I'll start with committees. The INFORMS Board has 38 standing committees, eight subcommittees and a couple of task forces, each composed of volunteers like yourself. Most rely heavily on e-mail, have occasional conference calls and try to meet face-to-face at the national meetings. The time commitment starts at several hours per month.
Committees are appointed by the president in consultation with the nominated chairs, with Board confirmation scheduled for the INFORMS Fall Meeting because most committees start on Jan. 1. So it is definitely not too soon to begin jostling for a spot. Anyone can volunteer for any committee, although actual appointments are competitive based on background and enthusiasm.
There are two ways to volunteer. One is to find someone active in INFORMS to recommend you to the president. You can look for such a person in the INFORMS Internal Directory at http://www.informs.org/General/InternalDirectory.html. The other way is to volunteer through the form on the new Web page, http://www.informs.org/VOLUNTEER/. This page also lists all committees that accept volunteers.
By the time you read this, each committee will have a Web page at http://www.informs.org/General/Comm/ that includes its chartered purpose, current membership and innovation priorities for 1997. It will also have a Web form for public comments. You should find these pages quite useful.
Even if you don't serve on a committee, I hope that you will contribute in other ways to their success. You can do this by submitting comments and suggestions via any committee or Board member or via the new committee Web pages. These might include feedback on existing INFORMS products and services (you are our customer, and we need to hear your voice), suggestions for better ways to meet member needs, reports on innovations you particularly like at other professional societies, and your evaluation of recent continuing education experiences since we are planning to enter that business soon.
Another nice set of volunteer opportunities relate to INFORMS Online (IOL), which is evolving rapidly and becoming an ever more important part of INFORMS. As explained in my first column, INFORMS is being "webified." IOL is the most visible evidence of this, but other transformations are in progress with the help of the Information Technology Committee and our new Manager of Information Systems Ed Thrush, who is the nucleus of a new and badly needed core competence in IS and IT at the INFORMS offices.
IOL has a panel of associate editors (AEs) just as journals do. This structure works quite well. Each has an area of responsibility, exercises considerable autonomy within that area, and cooperates with the other AEs and Editor Mike Trick to negotiate overlaps and share knowledge and experience in connection with new projects and new Web technology.
As I write this at the end of February, there are six AEs, and Mike wants to roughly double that number as soon as suitable people can be found. There will also be a new category, contributing editors, for responsibilities that don't require as much time. Are you interested?
IOL currently needs volunteers in these areas: new features for full-time professionals (owing to a major policy shift), new features for students and young members, Web page aesthetics, IOL visibility to other sites and to search engines, new Web pages that package prize-winning work for both PR and consumption, member services (owing to a change of AE responsibilities), additional resources for job-seekers, and additional resources for research grant-seekers.
Even if these current volunteer needs are all met by the time you read this, which seems unlikely, the amount of work needed to achieve the full potential of IOL and other webification efforts is such that I am confident of an abundance of volunteer opportunities for the foreseeable future.
I hope that you will contribute to IOL's success even if you do not become an IOL associate or contributing editor. Please submit documents and links that help make existing Web pages more complete, point out errors, send updates and make suggestions for improvement. The goal is to make IOL as useful as it can possibly be to all categories of members.
Other Good Opportunities
Committee and IOL work certainly do not exhaust the opportunities for rewarding volunteer experiences. INFORMS journals have a nearly insatiable appetite for referees and various kinds of editors. INFORMS maintains external liaisons with dozens of other organizations; an IOL Web page is under construction, and will include a form for volunteers. A membership drive targeting full-time professionals is just beginning, and needs help developing data sources for the prospect database. The Net offers juicy opportunities for volunteer-powered, grass-roots PR and outreach through list servers, news groups, discussion forums on the on-line services and the Web.
I'll close with one more volunteer opportunity: to apply OR/MS techniques to INFORMS itself. That's right. Actually take our own medicine! If we implement and use planning and operational models wherever they can be useful, they could transform INFORMS into the best-managed of all professional societies and a living example of our value to society. Executive Director Randy Robinson is committed to moving INFORMS in this direction and needs your help. I'll bet you can't think of a professional activity which beats that for fun.
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