This is AAPOR, 2022
Last fall, when the announcement was made that AAPOR was transitioning to self-management, several members reached out to me expressing enthusiasm for the decision. I was intrigued that they generally categorized this as going "back to basics"—returning AAPOR to the way things had been before we had hired professional management companies to support our day-to-day operations.
I think I understood the sentiment, although I felt the need to substantially qualify it. In no sense did this change reflect a scaling back of our ambitions for the association and its membership. We weren't planning to do less. Rather, this was a substantial and logical step forward in our evolution.
Professional management firms have been enormously helpful to us over the last couple decades. I was a member of Council in 2002, when AAPOR first decided to use them. As membership grew, our conference, finances, and services became much more complex. These firms brought better-negotiating power with conference sites, better capacity to respond to member needs, more rigorous financial management, and general expertise and efficiency. Moving in that direction was the right call—and, most of the time, a very positive experience. I have enduring friendships with some wonderful collaborators from some of those firms.
More recently, it became clear that it was time to chart a new course. There was a growing sense that we were working at cross purposes with management firms—who, to be fair, need to make a profit and have incentives to align associations with their business models.
Nevertheless, a lot of our energy was being spent in unproductive directions. Those of us who yearned for "back to basics" may have sensed some of the underlying tensions and noticed a revolving cast of supporting staff, some of whom didn't seem to "get" us.
Self-management made sense, and although the transition has required much attention in the past year, its smoothness has exceeded expectations. But it's important to recognize that although the move has yielded improved efficiency, it was about more than that. The transition has been a deliberate move to a different way of being, from relying on outside hired hands to building a staff of insiders: colleagues who are part of the AAPOR family, who truly know us, understand our mission, and are full partners in meeting our goals. The idea is to trade the old tensions for a new, energizing sense of shared purpose.
Still, this is a profound practice change and requires deliberate effort. The staff has needed to both teach us about their capabilities and learn about AAPOR's mission and culture. Council has required to be open to new ways of operating for the benefit of spending less time on business functions and more time thinking about how AAPOR can maximize its value to our field and members. Member volunteers are relinquishing some tasks that staff are better qualified to carry out in favor of roles that use members' substantive expertise. In all cases, there will be no shortage of things to do and plenty of ways to stay engaged, even though some of the particulars are changing.
Overall, the change has been invigorating, making this an extremely exciting time to be an AAPOR member. Thanks to all who have supported the move, welcomed and encouraged our new staff, provided feedback on how we are doing, and continue to give your time and creative talent to AAPOR. We are counting on that positive energy going forward and are extremely excited about where this heightened spirit of partnership and collaboration will take us next.