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Minutes From Discussion About Local Chapters

From the SIGCHI Executive Committee Meeting held January 15, 2005 in Portland, OR

Discussion on Local Chapters
ACM wants to facilitate stronger connections with members of local chapters and to build activities and connections among them that enrich them in some way. Local chapters are viewed as a valuable but mostly untapped resource for growing membership and evolving future leadership in specific SIGs as well as the broader organization. For example, many SIGCHI members are members of local chapters, but many members of local chapters are not SIGCHI members. Also, knowledge of user locale, experiences, and desires for content would enable the ACM to create a more tailored user experience on the ACM portal and digital library through cross-marketing. The discussion focused on understanding how to achieve this stronger connection. Note that this issue is not confined only to SIGCHI, it is something that the ACM is addressing at an organizational level. However, since SIGCHI has one of the largest local chapter memberships, we discussed relations with our local chapters to offer broader recommendations proactively.

A Study on the Current State of Relations
Only SIGCHI and SIGGRAPH have significant local chapter membership. For example, SIGCHI has 60-70 chapters spread across 39 countries and 6 continents. Compared to about 5000 SIGCHI members, there about 10,000 chapter members!

How can ACM and SIGCHI reach chapter members and make it a fair exchange between utility for the member and cost (monetary, email and postal addresses, other personal information, etc.). What is it that chapter members want?

Apala Lahiri Chavan, Vice President for Chapters, conducted surveys and follow up interviews with a sample of our local chapters to understand the current state of relations and to seed ideas for how to improve those relations. She contacted 15 chapters and 7 chapters responded. Among many questions, Apala asked about the goals of the chapter, what types of activities they conduct (meetings, panels, lab walkthroughs, etc.), what do they perceive as the benefits of being affiliated with ACM, what benefits do they utilize the most, and how could SIGCHI or the ACM develop a stronger relationship with them.

Summary of Results
There is a wide disparity in chapter membership, with China having just 20 members to Germany having over 1200. The main activities are lectures, workshops, and panel discussions. However, several chapters mentioned that the largest challenge was to motivate volunteers to organize and participate in these activities.

Chapters want to build connections within their own community – they want to be made aware of available speakers and want reduced prices to research papers and journals. They also want to showcase what they do in context of other chapters and the broader HCI community. Chapter members want more lectures and workshops to happen, increased access to the digital library and at a reduced cost (e.g. free), want conference tutorial notes to be made available, and want more effective and timely responses from SIGCHI regarding their information requests (e.g., to update chapter sites, etc). On this latter point, chapters feel that the communication with ACM is very unidirectional and that chapter requests never get responded to.

Members were positive about having the visibility and credibility associated with being connected to ACM and SIGCHI. While this branding helps them attract members, they want access to more resources.

Unfortunately, chapter members feel disconnected from the ACM organization, some by indifference, others by lack of knowledge. Chapter members wanted more information about what their duties are and knowledge about where and how to access this information. As officers change over time, knowledge of membership duties is not shared or retained. Chapter members wanted to know how to update the local chapter pages maintained on the ACM SIGCHI portal, as much of the current information is sorely out of date. Chapters in Asia want financial support and greater explanation of benefits. European chapters were seemingly the loudest voices in wanting more from the ACM .

Ideas for Strengthening Relations
Based on the results presented by Apala, the executive committee brainstormed on how to strengthen the connection with local chapters.

An immediate idea was that the ACM needs to build awareness and information access points that are readily available to chapter leadership and members. ACM should provide chapters with information toolkits (web space with change permission, mailing lists, information packets, and more), should touch student organizations to start building leadership among students and student organizations. Apparently, ACM now has a person whose responsibility is to track and manage chapters. SIGCHI is seeking to lead in this direction by providing such information toolkits.

Another idea was that a person who joins ACM SIGCHI should automatically become a member of the nearest local chapter and be provided with contact information.

We agreed that the Council of Chapters idea should move forward at CHI 2005, headed by Apala. The idea is to invite chapter leaders to CHI 2005, bring them together at the local chapter meetings at the conference, and discuss the immediate steps that are being taken from the SIGCHI perspective.

Local chapter leadership should be invited to participate in SIGCHI conferences. There are lots of different controls that can be manipulated - tutorials, session chairs, panels, etc. This can also help develop the experiences necessary to lead future venues at CHI.

Finally, we discussed having a future SIGCHI conference (CHI, CSCW, UIST) in Asia that would create broader awareness of what HCI is all about and grow membership there.


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