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SPIE phases out regional chapters

13 Jun 2008

A network of local societies will be a more flexible way of supporting an increasingly global optics industry.

“We need to adjust to suit changing times.”

In recent months two of SPIE's regional chapters have been retired, and replaced by the Photonics Society of Poland (PSP) and the Hong Kong Optical Engineering Society (HKOES).

This change is part of the SPIE Global Strategy Initiative, which will ultimately see all of the Society's formal regional chapters phased out and repositioned as local networks, each of which will then be supported by SPIE.

"This is a much more flexible way of working with people and meeting the needs that are identified in those local communities," SPIE's public relations manager Amy Nelson told optics.org. "Our main interest is in making sure that we are offering support that is really meaningful and can be used well. The traditional chapter structure looked too much like a US-centric construct that just did not work on a global level, and because SPIE's leadership is from all around the world they felt very clearly that this was the right direction to go in."

In Poland and Hong Kong, the leaders of the former SPIE chapters have become the leaders of the new local networks, with the freedom to set agendas that suit their regional needs and constituencies. "HKOES has started by focusing on links between industry and education through seminars and training courses," noted Nelson. "PSP chose to hold an inaugural symposium, bringing its members and the regional optics community together at the Warsaw University of Technology."

SPIE believes that the new strategy of direct interaction between local professional communities and the wider Society is a more effective means of support than formal regional structures.

"We were finding that we lacked a systematic approach to identifying and building relationships with people from organizations around the world," commented Nelson. "When requests for support came in from different areas, we sometimes lacked the criteria or rationale to base a decision on."

The Regional Chapter Program has been formally replaced by SPIE's new Outreach Program, to which organizations can apply directly for sponsorship of an event.

"Education trends and leadership in technologies is no longer concentrated in a few regions, but spread around the globe," Nelson observed. "The old regional chapters seemed to have lost their real reason to be in those areas. We need to adjust to suit changing times."

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