Future Administration of the System Dynamics Society

An Invitation to Submit a Proposal to Run Society Business from Designated Academic Base

In my recently completed President's Letter I mention future administration of the Society as an issue that needs special attention. This fax is the first step in tackling the issue and the beginning of a venture that may occupy not only my Presidency but also George Richardson's Presidency in 1997.

As you know, the Society's affairs have for many years been administered by Julie Pugh. In her post as Executive Director she has generously provided her time on a purely voluntary basis. However, as the Society grows and becomes more international it is unreasonable to ask anyone to fill this post on a voluntary basis. So I am beginning this year to examine the options for the future administration of the Society in the expectation that a professionally funded office will meet our growing needs.

To generate options to put before the Policy Council I am writing to several key individuals who may be in a position to arrange a base from which to run Society affairs with funding for professional administrative support provided by the Society. In each case I am inviting the individual to reply with an expression of interest. Those who express a definite interest should then prepare a brief proposal according to the format specified below. The list of individuals and institutional bases comprises:
David Andersen - University at Albany - SUNY, USA
Paal Davidsen - University of Bergen, Norway
David Lane - UK Operational Research Society (of which David is an Officer)
Peter Milling - University of Mannheim, Germany
John Sterman - MIT Sloan School, USA and strong connections to INFORMS

If you believe there are other individuals who should be added to this list then please let me know. The key requirements are that they are long-standing members of the Society, operating from a stable academic base, with access to (or the authority to approve) administrative support.

Financial Support from the Society

The Society will offer seed-funding for the administrative post in the expectation that the post will become self-funding on the basis of revenue generated from Society activities. The scale of such seed funding will need to be thought out in relation to current Society reserves, the likely demands of the post, and the likely skills required of the post holder. However, as a rough guide it is probable that the Society could commit to fund a half-time staff position to be paid out of Society reserves for a guaranteed period of two years. Thereafter the post would become self-funding as mentioned above.

Approaches to Administrative Support

George and I have identified three different approaches to providing professional administrative support of the kind the Society needs:

  1. A paid Society administrator to be located at an established system dynamics university centre.
  2. Sharing the administrative structure of another professional society (e.g. a joint venture with the Operational Research Society in the UK, or with INFORMS in the US).
  3. Maintaining a volunteer administrative structure but linking our conference administration with another professional society such as INFORMS or with a professional conference organiser (such as Pegasus Communications).

If you have ideas for alternative approaches please let me know.

Potential Revenue Generating Activities of the Society

There are a number of ways in which a professional administrator could work on behalf of the Society to provide support for members and at the same time generate revenues that eventually could build to a level that would fully support the administrative position. George and I have identified the following:

  1. Central support for conference administration to provide practical assistance and guidance to local organising committees of future conferences and to ensure continuity in the 'look and feel' of professional gatherings of the Society. The Central office would bill the hosts for the service provided at a rate to be agreed.
  2. Sale and handling of 'public domain' games, simulators and microworlds. The best current example we have of such a revenue generating activity is the sale of the 'Beer Game'.
  3. Administration of funding from institutional and individual sponsors of the Society. There are currently a number of such sponsors including High Performance Systems, GKA Inc, Modelldata AS, Pegasus Communications Inc and the System Dynamics Group MIT. The full list of current sponsors is shown in the opening pages of the System Dynamics Review. A professional society administrator could work to expand this list and to ensure that existing sponsors remain committed.

No doubt there are other possibilities and I would welcome your creative ideas.

Suggested Timing and Format of Proposal

I am looking for a short written proposal of about two pages in length. I would like to receive the proposal in advance of this summer's conference in Cambridge MA which begins on Monday July 22nd. Please fax your reply direct to me at London Business School as soon as possible, using the number indicated at the end of this fax message. Even if you are not seriously interested in participating, please send me a note declining my invitation to bid so that I have a record to show Policy Council (and the Society membership) of the process we have been through.

I suggest you prepare a proposal under the following headings:

  1. Declaration of Interest: One or two lines that indicate whether or not you are interested in helping the Society to set-up a new administrative structure for the future.
  2. Institutional Base: A short description of the institutional base that would house the proposed administrative post - e.g. university department, existing professional society. You should also indicate as clearly as possible the likely degree of support (both now and in the foreseeable future) for such a post within the department or existing Society.
  3. A Description of Administrative Support: A few paragraphs that describe the kind of administrative support you feel you would be able to organise through the institutional base you have specified. e.g. nature of post (seniority and feasibility of a fractional appointment) , access to computers, databases, network, telephone, office supplies etc.
  4. Time-Scale: An indication of how quickly you believe the administrative post could be up and functioning.
  5. Estimate of Operating Expenses in First Two Years: A rough estimate of the expenses you envisage for the post over the first two years in which the Society is likely to provide seed funding.

I look forward to receiving your reply

Yours sincerely,

John Morecroft
President of the System Dynamics Society