Roberta’s Eyes on The Future
By Roberta L Spencer
Roberta and her dad
round this time every spring I look forward to writing down my thoughts on the System Dynamics Society and the activities at the Home Office. This year I have some exciting news to share. In late 2015 I sent a letter to the Society’s Administrative Committee indicating that I wanted to step down from full-time leadership of the Society. My parents live in Florida and my Dad turned 90 in April. In September I look forward to the birth of my 14th grandchild (counting step-grandchildren). Family has always been important to me, and I am increasingly feeling the need to devote more time to family matters. This, and other things, were telling me that I just had to cut back my very full time work obligation. My kinship with the Society has been a richly rewarding part of my life for the past twenty years. My work has been much more than a job. I have truly wonderful friends from all over the world. I feel so fortunate to be part of a fantastic community where I am faced with surprises and challenges from around the globe and have opportunities to lend a hand helping resolving them. I meet people from a wide variety of social and cultural backgrounds, who are all in different stages of their studies or careers. There are always such great opportunities for learning. In short, I am finding it hard to think about a future not in and with the Society, for indeed it also feels like family to me.
So, as I plan my next steps, two things are very clear to me. First, I very much want to keep in touch with the Society and remain a part of the System Dynamics Community. Second, as I step out of the Executive Director role, I want to be sure that the Society is on a solid organizational footing, with great leadership in place. I am excited to be part of the search effort for that leadership.
Spencer family reunion, August 2016
Changes raise some questions: What are the next steps to find a new Executive Director? Where should the Home Office be located? What might my continuing role in the System Dynamics Community be?
Two years ago a Transition Committee was formed to think through the long range future of our Home Office operations. The Committee considered continuing operations at our current home at the University at Albany, looked at other academic sites around the world, and looked at other non-academic options. A preliminary report on these findings was presented to the Society’s Policy Council summer meeting at the 2016 Delft conference. The result of this search is that next year the Home Office operations of the System Dynamics Society will be fully supported by a professional association management corporation, Capitol Hill Management Services (“CapHill”). Once operations have been successfully transferred to CapHill, by mid-2018, the Society will launch a search for a new Executive Director.
Having our Home Office located at CapHill allows retention of the current knowledge and expertise of our existing staff, while providing us with a rich array of CapHill’s skilled staff and state-of-the-art support services and connections. Even though the transition is just getting started, we are already working with some of the CapHill staff members who collectively have a much wider range of competencies than we could ever hope to develop with our existing staff. CapHill’s business is managing non-profit associations. They have deep knowledge of that industry and hence the Society will be surrounded with many professionals who do what our office does and can share their knowledge and experience. CapHill is a welcoming home for the Society and will provide us with many new resources. I am confident that this new management arrangement will make us a stronger and more effective Society in pursuit of our mission. I am thankful to the members of the Transition Committee for their depth of commitment and the amount of thoughtful planning that led us down this exciting new path.
As soon as this summer, at the July conference in Cambridge, you can expect to see new faces (along with the familiar) from the Home Office as our Society’s capabilities are expanded with deeper experience in such areas as web design, member services, and contact development in industry.
Grandchildren playing and pie-making
While I am indeed looking forward to being able to spend more time with my husband, parents, grandchildren (and their parents!), siblings, and friends who are spread up and down the east coast (and farther), I am also looking forward to transitioning to a new role in the Society, working part time with our expanded staff at CapHill. There is a whole range of exciting programs and endeavors that have been on my wish list for the past several years, and now I will have the time to pursue them. When I see you at the conference in July, I look forward to telling you more. The major story of this transition is not my stepping down from full-time, but the enduring well-being of the Society, continuing all our efforts to create more stability and strengthen the services provided to the Society and the System Dynamics community.
1981 Conference Proceedings
My first System Dynamics conference was in October of 1981, before the Society existed! One of the memories I have is of a personal nature; an attendee telling me I looked like a pumpkin -- I was over seven months pregnant and I was wearing an orange blouse. The first order of business at the conference was proposed by John Morecroft to hold an interest group discussion on conference continuity and the formation of a professional System Dynamics Society. Look where we are now!