Society To Open Call For Board Candidates; Moves To Adjust Leadership Model

In the Society for News Design’s open membership meeting June 18, 2021, the Leadership Council shared details of this plan for a board of directors restructure and election. This is the full text of the proposal discussed in that meeting. The timeframe is explained below. Watch SND.org and affiliated social channels for updates and developments. 

>> Watch recording of the business meeting, and related elections discussion here (must be registered as a member to view. If you have trouble accessing please contact [email protected]).


June 18, 2021

Motion to restructure the Society for News Design board of directors and immediately announce open call for candidates, to be followed by a full membership election.

The Society faces a critical, unprecedented point in its existence as we have explored and discussed at length over the past six months. Membership is flagging, the industry is in contraction, pandemic protocols have limited or eliminated in-person event programming — all during perhaps one of the busiest and newsiest eras in recent memory. 

The Society has suffered many departures and losses among our leadership ranks. We are overdue for an officer election, are in need of a permanent full-time director. Perhaps more importantly to the long-term flexibility and adaptability of the organization, we need board positions, committee formations, and action-oriented volunteers to be more fluid in the near-future than we might have been in the past.

Fresh perspective and new approaches are needed, and the current model of governance, volunteer roles and membership participation does not invite these. It is perhaps even more important for the organization to fully reflect and represent the geographic diversity of its global membership and constituency. Further, diversity of every type and definition is critical and must be included for the Society to continue evolving long into the future. 

The amount of changes needed for the Society to become viable in today’s news and information design era are nearly impossible to make when the structure itself can’t change. We have arrived on the following motion based on a multitude of conversations with previous generations of officers, the current board/officers, and a tremendous amount of insight and observations gained from our most recent membership survey. 

In an effort to promote and ensure the Society for News Design’s survival, evolution and reconstitution, we hereby motion to dissolve the current Board of Directors and Officer panel, as well as the presumed Officer Ladder election process we have used for many years to involve, familiarize and prepare future officers. The overall goal in this is to jump-start involvement and not require a daunting, lengthy volunteer service commitment. 

Structure:

This motion is to shift the Society’s leadership to a new format that includes five (5) board members at large, serving 2-year terms. They would elect a presiding president from their ranks that would serve a 2-year term. For the sake of this first election cycle two (2) board members would serve 1-year terms; 3 board members would serve 2-year terms. Going forward, every year half of that board of directors would be up for re-election. Additional specifics like term limits, titles, role definition would be up to the discretion of the new board once formed.

Governance model: 

This new format — essentially a cooperative board — would replace the historic tiered officer model. 

  • The old model required 4-5 years of commitment to a dedicated officer ladder of progression. 
  • The new concept would allow people interested in getting involved to jump in faster and have an impact sooner without having to weigh such a heavy time commitment or constantly changing role definitions.
  • The old model served the Society well for a long time, when it had more active programs and a much larger constituency (both in raw numbers and geographic spread) and better reflected the industry.
  • The new concept would be more nimble and could be focused on serving membership best as it refocuses and pivots to serve key interests.

Process:

It would be at the guidance and determination of the newly formed Board of Directors how they would approach management and jurisdiction of continuing and new business. By disconnecting the former board director roles from acting work groups, the size of the board could be tightened to better reflect the current scale and scope of the Society. Further, the Society had begun efforts as early as 2019 to move toward a more defined non-profit status, and this aligns with that general framework of best board practices.

It would be advantageous for the new board to continue enlisting and empowering topic and project teams (committees, work groups, volunteers) around specific efforts that could include such examples as DEI training and efforts, events, education, fundraising, etc. Those would also benefit from volunteer participation on focused tasks and projects that might help contributors be specific about their areas of interest and resource commitments. 

Additionally, this motion does not necessarily do away with any appointed board members in favor of the entire board being elected by the membership. These appointments sometimes provide valuable, targeted expertise necessary for specific assignments and goals. The hope is that these sorts of appointments could be made at the discretion of the newly elected Board. 

Key topics:

Programs currently in process that the new Board of Directors would need to assess and prioritize:

  • Continue to streamline business operations: Consider hiring of a permanent Executive Director; engage a bookkeeper to run Society finances
  • Evolve the annual competition: Format and strategy of Best of Design Competition for 2022 and beyond
  • Plot a course for reporting/celebrating/highlighting/archiving annual results. Determine strategy for annual awards book for beyond the 42nd edition; explore potential alternative formats.
  • Shape and schedule calendar of events: Monthly virtuals and potential for the next in-person workshop.
  • Grow membership: Continuing to audit and bolster Membership value proposition
  • Education, outreach, connecting with partner organizations
  • Curate rules and regulations: Full review and update to adjust Society bylaws to reflect new organizational approach, and leadership roles and definitions.

Timing: (Currently suggestions; details TBD)

July: Call for Board of Director applications. Candidates for this office must be currently active members; preferably with a history of volunteerism to the Society and/or the industry. 

July: Candidate applications due.

Aug.: Introductions to SND membership. Bios and position statements published on snd.org in advance of the session. Scheduled full membership session with all candidates. Each will be invited to give a 5 minute presentation on their merits and vision for the Society, then join in a moderated panel discussion and Q-A with members. 

Aug.: Election open for 10 days (minimum).

Sept.: New board convenes; overlaps with the current Leadership Council, who would be available for transition planning, support and guidance for a defined period of time. 


Motion brought by: 

Steve Dorsey

Paige Connor

Aly Morris

Joe Greco

Ryan Sparrow

Darren Sanefski