Vol. 43, No. 2, April 2014
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Notes from the Inside
by Robert J. Malone
As the Newsletter goes to the designers (I would say “goes to press” but its preparation now consists solely of digital specialists who craft it for its electronic appearance) we are reaching the highpoint of our strategic-planning process. More than 40 members and supporters from around the world will convene in Chicago this weekend (29-30 March) to discuss the Society… its mission and its activities. I am grateful that these individuals would give up a weekend to help us examine these important issues, an exercise that will determine the Society’s future. These intense two days will be spent in an airport hotel, chosen so that we could gather dozens of people into one place as quickly and as cheaply as possible. We will spend our time talking about HSS’s current mission (to foster interest in the history of science, its social and cultural relations), about the people whose lives the Society changes, about what these people value, about our results (where we should concentrate our resources), and about our plan (a concise summation of our purpose and future directions). The next phase will consist of collecting all of these ideas and penning our goals—our long-range direction. As our process manual tells us, our goals should be overarching and they should be few in number: if you have more than five goals, you have none, since you will be spreading yourself too thin. We will then ask HSS Council to approve the plan at the annual meeting in November, in Chicago.
The Executive Committee once asked me, what are my priorities in the Executive Office. This is a difficult question because I do not believe it is my job to prioritize the HSS’s functions, and I immediately thought back to something Anna Freud said when asked what is the most important thing she does. Her reply? “Whatever I’m working on at the moment.” I gave a similar answer to the EC and they helpfully looked at all of the functions of the Office, from Newsletter, to Web site, to governance, and the thousands of details in running the HSS and then ranked activities according to their sense of priorities. Strategic planning (or self assessment as it is sometimes called) will recapitulate this prioritization but on a grand scale. Through in-depth interviews, multiple surveys, and the retreat in Chicago, we will look at what we do so that we can focus our efforts. My hope is that this will mark the rebirth of the HSS, a channeling of our strengths and advantages into ever-more productive avenues.
Thank you for your membership in the HSS.