Farewell to Our Outgoing Executive Director

A Message from Society President, Martin Schaffernicht

Dear fellow members of the System Dynamics Society:

I have important news from the leadership of the System Dynamics Society (SDS). Last week, we said goodbye and farewell to our outgoing Executive Director, Mark Nelson.

What does this mean for the SDS?

As you will remember, the SDS is going through a transition with the aim to 1) solidify and streamline the Society’s operational foundation and to 2) improve the services we provide to you, our members. To that end, we have transitioned from a home office directed and managed by long-term members of the Society and hosted inside the University at Albany, towards a home office supported by a professional Association Management Company (AMC). At the same time, Roberta Spencer – our Executive Director (ED) during so many years – was preparing her retirement and the search and recruitment of a new ED was an important part of the “transition”. 

Mark Nelson had come to us as our Executive Director from outside the SDS, bringing a wealth of organizational and association management experience from other associations. Since taking office in September 2018, he was dedicated to questioning established practices, analyzing processes, interviewing hundreds of you and proposing strategic directions. This has enabled us to identify new initiatives to better fulfill our mission, developing new services that you – the members – value as a means to advance as system dynamicists. If you attended the Albuquerque conference, you may have heard me talking about BLISS in my President’s Address. BLISS stands for:

Broaden educational offerings,
Leverage program opportunities,
Improve new member retention,
Stabilize operations and
Strengthen governance.

As we stand today, efforts and progress have concentrated on the two S parts, and BLI will be the focus in 2020. We are very grateful to Mark for having helped to condense the manifold expectations and proposals into these five components. If you also attended the Business Meeting, you may remember the administrative challenges and novelties aimed at improving compliance and the financial development of the society (the two S) – advances in which Mark was instrumental. Our challenge as the SDS leadership is now to concretize the new initiatives and assure efficient operations. What we have presented to you as “transition” is fully underway but not yet complete. There is a lot of work to be done!

Having accomplished these steps, Mark wished to move on towards new professional challenges and opportunities, and the SDS leadership is convinced that we must now enter a phase where successful implementation of new initiatives is key. 

The Society’s leadership has been revising the ED job profile and will launch the search for our new Executive Director. In the meantime, the Vice-Presidents will work together with the professional team of our AMC, Capitol Hill Management Services, to guarantee seamless continuity in operations. The System Dynamics Review and the International Conference will remain our flagship products and we remain attentive to your questions, needs and proposals. Also, the process of revising our Bylaws goes on, and we are confident that in 2020 you will discover new opportunities to propose and participate in innovative initiatives being handled by the new Stewardship Committee (remember the BL). Please stay tuned - more details will be forthcoming, including the SDS Fall Newsletter!

I cannot finish my message without repeating the invitation to get in touch with us (the I). If you want to contribute to the journal, the conference or member services, do not hesitate to reach out to the respective Vice-President:

And if you have questions referring to the SDS as a whole, or even want to become part of the leadership team, I will be happy to answer your messages or talk with you until the end of 2019, and from January 2020 on it will be Birgit Kopainsky ([email protected]). Remember that we are a “member-ship” and that your participation counts! 

Thank you to Mark Nelson for his leadership and contributions over the past year. We wish him well in his next chapter!  And as ever, it is up to us to make the SDS sail towards a haven we want to reach.


Martin FG Schaffernicht