IxDA 2006 Board Retreat: Report to Our Membership

18 Sep 2006 - 12:55pm
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Robert Reimann
2003

IxDA 2006 Board Retreat: Report to Our Membership

Dear Members of IxDA,

The IxDA Board and I have recently held our annual Board Retreat, and
I am very excited by the results! As you may have noticed, while
several of our local organizations (NYC, Portland, Sweden, and Pune,
to name a few) have been very active, IxDA global leadership has been
somewhat muted for the past 6-8 months. This situation was very much
in the forefront of our Board's thinking at the Retreat, and I'm happy
to say that we have emerged re-energized and refocused to deliver some
terrific value to you, our members, by the end of this calendar year.
The details of the Board's plans are described in the summary document
below. Please read on!

I would also like to take this time to personally apologize to those
members whose offers of volunteer support have gone unanswered. We
will be contacting each of you early this fall and are pleased to take
any help you are willing to give us. Those who haven't yet contacted
us, please read the report below, and contact us if you think you can
help us achieve our plans!

Later this year, we will launch our first concerted fundraising
campaign, which will target both industry sponsorship for our
initiatives, as well as membership donations. It will include a
preview of our new virtual community site, which we believe will
provide a unique value for our members and move the organization into
the forefront of online design community support. We believe we need a
relatively modest US$17,000 (less than US$10 per member) to accomplish
our goals and will be looking to the interaction design community to
help us reach that funding goal.

I hope that, after reading the summary of our activities below, you
are as excited as I am about the direction in which IxDA is heading.
It's very important that you, our members, be excited by what we are
doing. I encourage you to write to us with your opinions! You are the
voice of the community, after all.

I look forward working with all of you to make the full promise of
IxDA a reality in the months ahead.

Sincerely,

Robert Reimann
President, IxDA

---

Background
----------
On July 29th and 30th, 9 of the 13 members of the IxDA Board of
Directors met for our annual Board Retreat, held this year just
outside of Boston in Brookline, MA, USA.

Attendees:
* Robert Reimann
* David Heller
* Greg Petroff
* Lada Gorlenko
* Luke Wroblewski
* Pabini Gabriel-Petit
* Micah Alpern
* Mauro Cavalletti
* Josh Seiden

(Board members unable to attend: Frank Ramirez, Dan Saffer, Carrie
Ritch, and Lisa deBettencourt)

Last year's retreat and our report on the last year
---------------------------------------------------
Last year's retreat was the basis for creating our organization,
establishing our overall strategy, and working on some high-level
tasks for achieving that strategy. Some of these tasks included going
through the exercise of creating a non-profit corporation, creating
our new logo, announcing our new name, applying our new branding to
our Web site and other communications, connecting to other UX
organizations, and organizing IxDA sponsored events.

Another task we discussed at the first retreat was the creation of a
virtual Community of Practice. We intended to build upon our #1 asset:
the IxD Discussion mailing list. This big project, which the Board
felt was crucial to our growth and to our providing value to our
community, has been very difficult to get off the ground. While we
succeeded in other areas, this one area required a lot of resources
from the board and membership, and fell by the wayside in the second
half of the year.

Leading Up to the Retreat
-------------------------
Leading up to the retreat, the following activities occurred:

* Jeff Howard took up, on his own initiative, the creation of a list reader.
* the Board connected with Jeff and created Project Donahue, using the
work that Jeff had started as the basis for moving toward creating our
community of practice. Steps completed thus far:
* iterative design of the reader
* a survey of our discussion list and announcement list subscribers
* development of a design proposal & project plan for moving forward
post retreat,
which was presented to retreat attendees
* a team of directors got together to discuss the communications side
of our Web
presence and what would need to happen there in conjunction with our
community of practice effort to have greater impact.
* we requested local leaders to send us their thoughts, about both
their local areas
and IxDA globally.
* the Design Track co-chairs for CHI 2007 have asked us to help them make the
Design Track even better than it was last year. Two board members will make a
proposal to the co-chairs about IxDA participation in CHI 2007.
* and of course, the board discussed priorities for our agenda, based on our
timing and resources.

Breakout Sessions
-----------------
The retreat participants decided to break out into groups, to divide
and conquer a bit. The groups suggested were:

* building our virtual community
* community of practice
* communications strategy
* fostering real-world communities and communication
* growing/building our local groups
* planning IxDA globally branded events
* organizing IxDA for success
* governance changes
* selecting our next Advisory Board
* budgeting and fundraising

Virtual Community: Introducing Project Donahue
----------------------------------------------
As an IxDA subscriber, you no doubt know the value of our mailing list
and its contributors to interaction design practitioners, students,
and researchers. Project Donahue is a way IxDA can make the great
content you are all helping to create and grow a central part of our
value proposition for the interaction design community.

Using Jeff Howard's Web-based discussion reader as our fulcrum, we're
building a repository of interaction design tips, jobs, tools,
resources, and more. We're also building better ways for you to enjoy
IxD discussions, including RSS and Web-based reading solutions as well
as community-based rating and tagging of content.

Keep an eye on the ixda.org site in the coming months for changes that
will help all of us better consume, create, and share interaction
design knowledge.

Fostering Real-World (F2F) IxDA Communities
-------------------------------------------
To move people's perception of IxDA to its being more than just a
mailing list, it is very important we organize real-world,
face-to-face activities and events. While local group activities are
going well in some places, most of the locales in the list on our Web
site either are not currently active or have never been active at all.
One of the major successes for IxDA, on many levels, was our
participation in the IA Summit by presenting a pre-conference event on
interaction design. We have also set up face-to-face social events at
many of the UX conferences like CHI 2006, UPA, DUX, and IA Summit over
the last year.

Call with Local Leaders
-----------------------
We invited local leaders to a conference call to give them an
opportunity to let us know their thinking about local-group
development and IxDA more generally. Some of the key points that came
from that call include:

* the need to reduce perceived barriers to starting up a local group
* some negative reactions to our local group policy/guidelines that
made it seem difficult to set up a local group
* difficulty in getting infrastructure assistance from the global
organization
* the strong desire for documentation about how to create a local
group and what works and what doesn't
* the need to make our Web site more useful and for its content to
clearly communicate what IxDA is and why it exists

Prioritization
--------------
During the breakout session on events, we listed a bunch of different
ideas that would have impact for IxDA—because they would add value to
membership and help advance IxDA as an organization—would be easy
enough to do, need to be accomplished within the next few months to a
year, and about which there is enough interest among the team members
to actually make things happen. (There is a clear understanding that
things in IxDA don't happen unless people are interested making them
happen.)

The list was quite long, but the things that floated to the top were:

* creating a "playbook" for local groups, including
* how to start up a local group
* how to maintain and grow a group
* event ideas
* additional tips
* creating an infrastructure that would allow local groups to easily
create their own Web presence
* assisting with the design track at CHI 2007
* doing another IA Summit pre-conference tutorial and possibly repeating it at
another conference relating to UX or IxD
* creating an IxDA conference focusing on IxD—well, not exactly a
conference, but
a multi-day event—perhaps 2 days or so

After we prioritized our list, the team broke into two task forces:

* supporting local groups
* planning global events

Building and Supporting Our Local Groups
----------------------------------------
The focus of this task force was outlining initiatives that will
support the growth of local communities of IxD practitioners. We
discussed how we could reach IxD professionals and support the
organization of local groups and their initiatives.

We recognized two endeavors as critical for local groups:

* creating a playbook for local group leaders
* building an infrastructure for establishing a Web presence for local groups

During our report back to the entire board, we decided that, in the
near term—that is, the next 3 to 6 months—the Playbook Project was the
most important, and we'll focus on its implementation. Local group
organizers would use the playbook both as a starting kit for qualified
practitioners who are interested in building and maintaining a local
group and as an evolving platform for knowledge exchange between the
leaders and volunteers of existing groups. We believe that engaging
the leaders of existing local groups to share their knowledge and
resources is essential to the creation of new groups. Likewise, we
believe this initiative will encourage the exchange of knowledge about
best practices among existing groups. We conceived of this playbook as
a living collection of documents, in the style of a wiki or similar
collaboration/CMS space.

We created the beginning of an outline for this playbook that we will
put out for review and discussion soon. The next steps are for us to
engage the local group leaders to get further feedback from them, get
more of the local group leaders involved, and write content for the
playbook. In parallel, we must choose the best wiki/CMS platform for
this project. We plan to create the first draft of this playbook by
the end of the year.

Planning Global IxDA Events
---------------------------
The task force on organizing global IxDA events discussed wide-ranging
possibilities for events such as

* organizing an IxD track at CHI 2007
* presenting courses or tutorials at other existing, compatible conferences
* developing courses or consortiums that we can present at multiple conferences
* organizing "unconferences"
* doing IxD roadshows
* creating an entire conference for practitioners of IxD

In the near term, we decided to focus our efforts on contributing to
the success of the Design Track at CHI 2007. We are currently
developing a proposal, which we will present to the co-chairs of the
Design Track at CHI 2007.

Our motivation for organizing such events is to provide value to the
IxD community, evolve IxDA from a virtual community to a real presence
in the world of design practitioners, and generate revenue for IxDA.
Thus far, the pre-conference tutorial that our leadership presented at
the IA Summit was our greatest revenue-generation success.

Organizing Toward Success
-------------------------
At the retreat, we took the opportunity to look at our successes and
failures as an organization over the past year and to use these
learnings to recommend some improvements to how IxDA is organized,
governed, and funded.

We discussed the following issues:

* modifying our organizational model—how the Board relates to local
groups, both in terms of governance and financial responsibilities
* improving the effectiveness and accountability of the Board and
Executive Committee (EC)
* selecting our 2006-2007 Advisory Board
* budgeting and fundraising

Modifying Our Organizational Model
----------------------------------
Our goal in this area was first and foremost to reduce the real and
perceived hurdles to forming a local IxDA organization.

The board was unable to vote on final proposals for changing our
organizational model, but there was strong agreement that our
organizational model needs to be empowering to local leaders and not
an impediment.

Improving Board and EC Effectiveness and Accountability
-------------------------------------------------------
The group proposed several measures for improving the level of Board
engagement and ownership:

1. reducing the number of Board seats from 14 to 9
* an odd number streamlines majority voting
* a smaller Board encourages greater ownership, faster decision-making,
and makes meetings easier to schedule
* a separate Executive Committee within the Board should be
unnecessary, which will further facilitate the engagement of all Board
members
* the Board would comprise the President, VP, Secretary,
Treasurer, and 5 Project Leads/Co-Leads
2. establishing a concrete set of criteria for selecting Board members
3. establishing an average, minimum time commitment from Board members
for IxDA initiatives per week
4. establishing a mechanism for the Board to vote Board Members off
the Board if they are not meeting their obligations as Board members
5. establishing a means for the membership of IxDA at large to approve
or disapprove a slate of Board members at the time of Board elections

The Board passed measures 2-5 at the retreat. Measure 1 was approved
by the full Board on September 17th.

Selecting Our 2007 Advisory Board
---------------------------------
The Board agreed that we would review the criteria for selecting
Advisory Board (AB) Members, approve a list of AB candidates, and
contact them by the end of calendar year 2006.

Budgets and Fundraising
-----------------------
As mentioned above, the Board has set a tentative 2006-2007 budget of
$17,000 and will be moving forward this fall with a set of fundraising
activities targeting industry sponsorships and member support.

Conclusion
----------
We hope this gives you, our members, a glimpse of what IxDA is
planning for the coming year and what our many challenges are. Thank
you for all of your support over the past year, and we look forward to
your continued support and enthusiasm as we move into our second year!

--
Robert Reimann
President, IxDA

Manager, User Experience
Bose Corporation
Framingham, MA

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