SIGCHI Executive Committee
The success of SIGCHI depends wholly on the time and energy that our volunteers are able to give to it. Through the years, and particularly upon the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have heard a great deal about volunteer burnout, prompting ongoing discussions within the Executive Committee and beyond about how we can support our volunteers better. In October last year, the EC hosted two open sessions on volunteering for SIGCHI, led by Volunteer Support Chair Priya Kumar. These were followed in November by a fireside chat with Geraldine Fitzpatrick on service and leadership. Here, we share some reflections from these conversations, and welcome your input on better caring for our volunteers—and for ourselves as volunteers. It is our commitment to make space for a culture of volunteering that is visible, nurturing, and compassionate, engendering a sense of belonging across SIGCHI.
Having a steady and growing volunteer base across the organization is crucial for preventing burnout at the individual level. The more people available to volunteer, the better the distribution of volunteering responsibilities, and the more balanced individual burdens are likely to be. Volunteering roles and pathways, however, are not obvious to most in our community. This is true in general, but especially so for roles that come with heavier workloads, such as serving on the EC or taking on the role of a general chair or program chair for a SIGCHI conference. In the second half of our term, and hopefully beyond, we intend to make such roles and the pathways to them more visible so that both the less and the more experienced members of our community can make informed choices regarding whether or not to give their time to different types of volunteering. Open calls have helped , but there is more work to be done to make volunteering journeys more visible and better understood.
And then there are volunteering contributions that are simply less clearly defined and/or understood than leadership or chairing roles. Providing mentorship to individuals, working toward growing a chapter, participating in community-building initiatives that promote equity and diversity—these contributions are crucial to the well-being of SIGCHI but are often too easily overlooked. And while we have been honoring lifetime service contributions and occasionally conference-leadership contributions, the seemingly smaller but critical roles could be much more celebrated and recognized. To this end, the EC has just set up a program for recognizing SIGCHI service at the conference, chapter, and SIG levels . We plan to recognize those honored at CHI on a yearly basis, and hope that this will be a step toward honoring service more widely and prominently than before.
Even as we recognize excellent service of various types, we could be more compassionate toward and accepting of what we imagine to be less than excellent service. Almost always, there are very real and understandable reasons for lapses in promised service, missing reviews, or requests for extensions. It is important for us as a community to normalize these occurrences so that the barrier to take on volunteering responsibilities can be lowered. A healthy volunteering experience depends on effective expectation management, both for those offering their service and for those being reported to (also volunteers). With the help of community members, the EC has been working toward creating a volunteering articulation document to facilitate expectation-setting. Those volunteering in any capacity for SIGCHI, whether conference reviewers or EC officers, also have a list of policies and guidelines at their disposal in the SIGCHI Volunteer Handbook . We hope to iterate on these materials so they can begin to add value to our volunteering experiences of all types, creating room for compassion alongside accountability.
A healthy volunteering experience depends on effective expectation management, both for those offering their service and for those being reported to.
But why volunteer in the first place? After all, volunteering is work, and can often seem like little more than unpaid labor. It is not that a monetary value has not been attached to it; rather, a monetary value can be difficult to attach to it. In return for the invaluable time, energy, intellect, and/or creativity that we offer as volunteers, we gain knowledge, mentorship, and friendships that are challenging to attach a number to. We leave you with a link to Cliff Lampe's article that offers a perspective on the importance of academic service , and extend an open invitation to all to volunteer toward enriching the volunteering experience at SIGCHI.
1. SIGCHI Executive Committee. Open(ing) calls, making space. Interactions 29, 3 (May–June 2022), 70–71; https://doi.org/10.1145/3530189
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