CRC: growing communities, empowering members

15 January 2013
graphic of the globe

The IET’s Communities Resourcing Committee may have only been in operation for just over a year, but it has already achieved many goals. Keri Allan talks to Nigel Ward and Steve Perry about the year ahead.

The Communities Resourcing Committee (CRC) is the Governance group that oversees the work of all communities in the IET including Local Networks and Technical & Professional Networks. Created in October 2011 following the IET Governance Review which assessed how the IET could best develop Communities worldwide, the CRC was born to focus on the financial allocation of funds to all the IET’s networks – both technical and geographical – as well as the prioritisation of resources needed to support such a diverse range of communities worldwide.

At the time the Governance Review was taking place the Community Engagement Programme was making recommendations about how the IET should adapt its approach to communities to provide a more flexible operating model for IET communities worldwide along with improved support and recognition for volunteers, and better tools.

It recognised that in order to remain relevant, the IET needed to make it easier for communities, both Local Networks (LNs) and Technical and Professional Networks (TPNs), to work together, respond quickly to new developments, and generate and share content. It also needed to make it easier for new communities to form and enable engineers and technicians to find like-minded engineers around the world.

The new community model seeks to remove barriers to engagement, making it easier for individuals and groups to connect with each other and deliver a range of activities on behalf of the IET.

Who is in the CRC?

The CRC comprises the chairman of the IET’s five regional Communities Committees (CCs) as well as other members, elected or appointed, with relevant experience of TPNs and LNs. The five CCs are responsible for the Local Communities in their regions and report into the CRC. “The CRC essentially brought together what was the Global Operations Board with the former TPN Steering Committee and in its new remit reports into the Knowledge Management Board” explains Steve Perry, IET head of Sectors and Communities.

“The CRC, unlike its predecessors, is focused on Communities. Communities link into the membership, professional development and knowledge parts of the Institution so we work across the IET, which is where we provide real value helping communities to thrive and excel at what they do.”

Volunteers and staff working as one

One of the aims of the CRC has been to encourage easier and better ways for IET members and staff to work together.

“From the get-go the CRC has been about volunteers and staff working together in a single team. We have a finite amount of money and staff time at our disposal, so that means there are a lot of detailed decisions to be made about how to allocate those resources amongst the c.120 communities across the world to get the best overall result for the IET,” says CRC chairman Nigel Ward.

“We try to encourage volunteers to be ambitious and try new things that will engage more people in the work of the IET and further the role of science, engineering and technology in society. The real plus point of working as one team is that volunteers are at the heart of making those decisions and we are a cross-section of people who understand what it’s like to run communities because we’ve done it across all parts of the world.

“Another point that might surprise a lot of people is that we are quite a young committee and I very much enjoy working with the young professionals (YPs) that are roughly one third of the current team - more than any other main board. I think it’s a great place for members of any age to grow their skills and gain up-to-date international knowledge. It’s very much hands-on though – no room for committee bureaucrats I’m afraid!”.

Year one achievements

One of the CRC’s very first tasks was to align all the communities’ planning and budgeting cycles and streamline the processes for ease of use.

The funding and operating cycles for both LNs and TPNs were brought together as one with the TPNs changed to bring them in line with the LN cycle. We now have one operating cycle running from October to September. The CRC has also created a single process for planning community activity and applying for funds. All internal processes have also been updated and aligned so that all communities have access to the same support tools and service levels.

“We have brought together the LNs and TPNs in a single resource allocation process that encourages those with geographic focus and those with technical subject focus to work more closely together,” explains Nigel Ward. “This has been a holy grail of the IET for at least ten years and no other leadership group has managed that previously.

“Of course that success is also down to the volunteers in those communities being willing to embrace new ideas as much as our leadership.

“The change has been more significant for TPNs because we wanted to empower them to become much more volunteer-driven whereas previously the staff team were mainly responsible for delivering TPN activity. Those involved have generally welcomed the change, but it has taken some getting used to and we’ll need to continue to support the TPNs to ensure they can grow their influence, particularly outside of the UK,” he adds.

Steve Perry adds: “We have encouraged LNs and TPNs to put on joint events and many have been held around the world. We have also responded quickly to requests for ad-hoc funds for communities to run strategically important activities around the world.”

Steve Perry goes onto say: “The CRC has also been great at helping to prioritise the work of the Communities staff team where we have a large volume of work and many conflicting demands on our time. It has also authorised and provided strategic guidance for the five Communities Volunteer Conferences (CVCs) held around the world in Bangalore, Calgary, Hong Kong, Paris and London. A total of 410 delegates attended the five conferences which is significantly more than could attend an IET London: Savoy Place-based event. These were a great success and enabled more volunteers to join their regional meeting and network and learn about the initiatives.”

Other achievements include working with membership in assessing how the offerings could be more international and applicable to members around the world.

CRC plans for 2013

There have been a lot of changes for Communities over the last couple of years and looking forward to the next 12 months, in many ways it is about consolidating the changes the CRC has made since its inception and bedding down a new way of working for volunteers and staff.

In 2013 the CRC will focus on empowering volunteers. Everything that we do will be about giving volunteers the confidence to lead and ensuring they are recognised for doing so. We will also be developing the tools further, providing training and effective support and managing expectations to ensure there is clarity in everything we do

The committee is looking to build on the work already started to advance growth in new hot topic areas that are aligned with the Sectors.

“The IET officially formed two new LNs in 2012, one in Pune, India, and the other in the Caribbean centred on Trinidad, where members wanted to formalise the IET in their area. That’s more new LNs in one year than the past few years combined,” notes Nigel Ward.

Steve Perry comments: “The CRC is looking to grow new communities and networks and will work on ensuring that communities around the world receive consistent support. They also want the TPNs to work on more international topics and develop their reach”.

Steve Perry is also keen to continue to improve communication. “I’d like the volunteers to hear more about what we’re doing on a regular basis and interact with us,” he says. “The regular emails for Communities volunteers from IET community communications manager Fiona Dew have helped but we need to assess how we can do more. I’d also like to see communities start making more use of MyCommunity for communication to people in their network.”

How to get in touch

If you have any queries or wish to discuss anything concerning your community then please contact your community relationship manager or one of the Communities Committees below:

CC-Europe, Middle East and Africa
CC-UK
CC-Americas
CC-Asia Pacific
CC-South Asia

You can find out more about the role of the CRC in the terms of reference, available on the IET website. With a united volunteer and staff team working together we can go onto even bigger things in 2013 and 2014.

Volunteer resources

Over the past year the Communities staff team, with help from the CRC, has been working together to produce a package of tools that are on offer for all volunteers to use and they are continuing to improve these offerings. Resources include:

MyCommunity is the IET’s online professional networking and collaboration platform for engineers. It enables individuals to connect, share knowledge, ideas and opportunities with a specific network of like-minded people. Steve Perry explains: “The IET is the first engineering institution to implement a professional social collaboration platform. The number of people using it is growing all the time and we now have over 6800 registrants and over 320 communities. We know there are areas where it can be improved and we are working with the supplier to provide on-going incremental improvements.”

The IET Marketing Toolkit is an online resource that allows volunteers to create their own marketing material, including posters, flyers, online banners and newsletters. In addition, it enables volunteers to order corporate stationery, branded gifts as well as IET literature such as E&T and Flipside magazines.

The IET Events Toolkit is a specifically designed handbook providing IET community volunteers with the information necessary to enable them to plan, organise and deliver successful community events and activities

The Events Calendar Web Form is a simple four-page web form enabling volunteers to upload events. Once the form is submitted and published the event calendar entry will be available to view on the IET event calendar and can be edited as required.

The Plus! For Events system provides a straightforward method allowing delegates to register online for events in advance, particularly useful if places are limited. Volunteers can use the system to set up online registration, monitor and manage event attendance and request feedback post event

“Self-service tools help business move quicker and be more agile and the same applies to the IET too,” highlights Nigel Ward. “Actually that’s more relevant to volunteers fitting the IET around their work and family life at various times of the day or night and in different parts of the world.

“However, the tools need to be easy to use and easy to access and I’d be the first to agree that some things in our current toolbox still need work to make them really sharp. Equally, there are some real stars that put IET volunteers way ahead of other professional bodies.”

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