On Saturday 20 May 2017 the committee of ISAANZ met at the ‘Library on the Dock’ in Melbourne’s Docklands to discuss the future of the association and strategies to improve its activities. Ronan McDonald, Elizabeth Malcolm, Brad Patterson, Malcolm Campbell, Dianne Hall, Fidelma Breen and Eamonn McNamara were in attendance. Anastasia Dukova, Sophie Cooper and Philip Bull (the latter being represented by Elizabeth Malcolm) were unable to attend. Facilitating the discussion and strategic focus of the meeting was Fergal Coleman, an experienced digital strategy consultant and director. The day’s proceedings involved presentations from Fergal, brainstorming activities and short presentations of ideas by the committee. We separated into groups to discuss how the association could better achieve its aims and brainstormed how we could become more useful to non-academics and Early Career Researchers. Under Fergal’s direction we concluded by identifying concerns raised about the association, our hopes for 2020 and how we would go about achieving the aims discussed. Informing our discussions were the anonymous members’ surveys conducted by Dianne Hall from April-May 2017, Brad Patterson’s November 2016 discussion document, suggestions from the November 2016 AGM and a draft communications strategy document from May 2017.
The key concerns raised in the meeting are summarised below:
- Static membership of the organisation at 62 and members not renewing their memberships.
- Untapped potential of outreach and growth of the association – including academics from a broad range of disciplines including those studying aspects of Australia who could have an interest in Irish studies.
- The perception that the association is ‘Melbourne-centric’.
- A lack of engagement with New Zealand and a lack of communication with Irish studies scholars and enthusiasts in both Tasmania and Western Australia.
- The perception that the association is ‘too academic’ and does not engage sufficiently with non-academic members of the association.
- The feeling that the $50 membership was not value for money.
- Lack of organised events (small-scale and regional events) other than the conference (every 18-24 months).
- Hopes for new income streams, especially through philanthropy to fund initiatives like postgraduate bursaries to the conference.
The committee agreed to the following aims by 2020:
- 150 members.
- Clear modified mission statement (as the last one was written in 2006).
- Clear understanding of the value of membership benefits for key groups, especially non-academics and Early Career Researchers.
- To become the ‘go-to’ organisation for Irish studies in Australia and New Zealand.
- To become a more accountable committee with clearly defined roles for committee members.
- To develop a stronger sense of community involvement and engaging more people in the association around Australia and New Zealand.
- Improved communications and a more thorough and streamlined communications strategy (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, emails and newsletter)
- A new website that could include members’ names and interests, the committee’s interests as well as encouraging information sharing among members.
- The possibility of including an Irish Studies stream at events like major Australian and New Zealand history conferences and one day events throughout the calendar year around Australia and New Zealand (especially in years without the ISAANZ conference).
- Cohesion and understanding between the academic and non-academic members of the association, recognising the value and contributions of both groups.
- More income streams especially through the acquisition of new donors, adding the option of asking potential applicants to donate money when joining.
- To offer bursaries for postgraduate students and Early Career Researchers to attend the conference.
In concrete terms the committee members resolved to perform the following actions by the following dates in 2017:
- (30 May): Elizabeth and Eamonn to record the Newman College lecture on 30 May as a test.
- (30 June): Each committee member to write a description of their position on the committee, to create more structured roles that are more accountable to the association as a whole.
- (30 June): Fidelma to document a 12 month calendar leading into 2018 outlining the association’s upcoming events.
- (31 July): Ronan, Brad and Fidelma to review position descriptions and agree on the composition of the committee and its various roles. Also to have compiled and agreed to an action plan for the period up to 2020.
- (31 July): Molly and Anastasia to develop a new version of the website that is more intuitive and presentable and to create a plan for ‘digital strategy’ into the future.
- (31 December): Philip, Malcolm and Ronan to review the revenue model of the association and to check the legal and tax structures that we operate under, in both Australia and New Zealand, in particular, to check tax deductibility of donations in both countries.
- (31 December): Eamonn to film and upload a video of a presentation to the website.
Actions with no specific dates:
- Ronan to refine the mission statement (written in 2006) as well as refining the ‘value proposition’ (what we get for $50) i.e. a statement concerning the benefits of joining the association.
- A future strategy meeting of the association to be held in conjunction with the AGM (undecided whether this meeting should be directly before, or after the AGM).
The committee members were satisfied with the outcomes of the meeting and look forward to defining their own roles more clearly in the weeks to come. We would like to thank Fergal for his time in facilitating the meeting and helping us to outline our strategic aims.
Postgraduate Representative of ISAANZ
29 May 2017 (revised 7 June 2017)