by Jen O Neill
The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is one of the world’s largest organisations for technical communication. We have members across the world. Currently around 18% of STC members are based outside of the United States, most in Canada. Around 5% of members are in Europe and Asia. So perhaps it shouldn’t be too surprising if it can have a very US-centric focus as most members are there.
But it is surprising. And frustrating.
Our business is communication and an increasing number of us work globally. Even if we may not travel as part of our jobs or be based in a foreign country, our work could well be used in multiple countries and languages.
Being global in outlook matters. Understanding how “global” impacts our work and jobs is important so that we can then better meet customer and colleague needs wherever they may be based. It also means we are better able to professionally evolve to changing market demands. As an international professional organisation, STC should be there helping us irrespective of where we’re based.
Problems faced by members based outside of the US
Non US-based members have been complaining for several years to the STC board about the lack of a real global outlook from headquarters and how poorly non US-based members are often served. Examples of current issues are
- Some membership benefits only available to US members
- Cost of webinars
- Can only pay using credit cards (EFT – electronic funds transfer – still not available)
- Lack of regional conferences and workshops
- Poor communication between headquarters and members
- Lack of in-depth sessions on localisation/internationalisation at conferences
- And the lack of globalized content in the Society Web site, communications and forms (such as dates, times, addresses)
Responding to our requests for change, in 2006 the STC board set up a committee to review how the society could better meet the needs of its international members. This Global Strategies committee advised the office and board on many globalisation issues. A globalisation audit of the society unfortunately had to be postponed in 2008 due to the financial crisis.
So how are we doing with globalising the society?
A year ago, the Globalisation Audit Task Force (GATF) was set up to determine how the society could improve communication with non US-based members and determine issues that needed to be resolved.
Over the past year GATF has collected a list of globalisation issues from multiple sources within in the STC such as our forums and conversations with members as well as reviewing the old website. They also interviewed non US-based members on their needs. All this work provides an insight into the problems faced by members based around the world and gives an informative update on where the STC is in its progress on becoming a more globalised organisation, better able to meet the needs of a multi-cultural membership working in a world that gets smaller every day.
Where do we go from here?
Progress on improving the international outlook of the society has been slow so this work by GATF is a good step forward. The report gives a practical list of action items and advises that the society how it could proceed.
From this list, we see that there are several things we could all do individually and collectively to push global issues:
- Educate members on globalisation: Write articles and blogs on STC sites (including the Europe SIG). If you have experience in globalisation, seriously consider submitting a proposal to the annual conference that’s aimed at other experienced members.
- Make webinars more available to different time zones: Run webinars ourselves to make them more accessible to members in different time zones. However, running a webinar using the facilities used by STC headquarters, Genesys, is too expensive when based outside of North America. Fortunately, there are many other tools around that are more affordable. We could compare notes with other regional groups on suitable webinar tools. Seek sponsorship to make them more affordable.
- Planning regional conferences (and with volunteers) is hard work (I’ve helped with a few and can speak from experience) so they won’t be annual events. Local initiative gets these off the ground. They don’t have to be large events. Perhaps partner with another international or national association on a shared theme?
Clearly change won’t happen overnight but we need to ensure that the board and office don’t just sit back and do little to solve this growing need. So this is where we all come into the equation. A small committee can only push so hard. We should now all help push the society to become the international society that so many of us want (and expect).
What ideas do you have for pushing these changes forward?
What suitable and affordable webinar tools can you recommend?
Are there issues not covered in the GATF report?
Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.