Community square

XXIX.3 May - June 2022
Page: 70
Digital Citation

Open(ing) calls, making space

SIGCHI Executive Committee

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In the coming years, our newly formed Executive Committee (EC) aspires to bring to the Community Square reflections from our experiences serving the SIGCHI community. Aligning with the theme for this Interactions issue, we write here about making space in community leadership through our commitment to open calls—the mechanism we've been engaging and promoting toward equitable and inclusive participation across SIGCHI volunteering. The previous EC, under Helena Mentis's leadership, introduced the practice of using open calls for filling volunteer roles on the EC and its committees [1]. Inspired by their success and the ethos they encourage, we now aim to make open calls integral to all processes across SIGCHI.

In our first six months since taking office, the EC has used open calls to appoint all its nonelected officers and form/replenish its committees [2,3]. These calls articulated the responsibilities of each EC role, aiming to set expectations honestly and accurately so that those interested in serving could make informed choices. Getting the word out on the SIGCHI-Members mailing list to first reach our membership, we then advertised the calls on all other SIGCHI communication channels (e.g., social media, our Medium publication, the Chapters Slack) before finally reaching out to personal networks. The subsequent review process was labor-intensive: For each role, committees of three EC members were formed to read, discuss, and short-list applications. The committees then created a list of questions to assess backgrounds of relevance, drive and vision, and commitment, and posed these questions to candidates in 30-minute calls. The EC member-committees discussed the calls privately before making a recommendation to the remaining EC members, who then cast their votes confidentially following detailed discussions. The process was no doubt laborious and time-consuming; it would certainly have been easier to handpick people we already recognized as being potentially good fits. Saying no to applicants not selected was also difficult, though we did our best to identify other volunteering possibilities for them.


The experience of conducting these calls has been rewarding and positive, and certainly worth the time and effort. We found ourselves compelled to discuss and make transparent our expectations around volunteering and volunteer roles. This made for healthier communication of priorities, greater clarity within the EC, and increased accountability beyond. We introduced new EC roles, and now look forward to delivering a wider range of services to our members. We uncovered enthusiasm in unexpected places, for we were prone to making incorrect assumptions about others' interest and availability without the open calls. As a result, our current EC draws participation from varied conferences, regions, backgrounds, sectors, and career stages, and we intend to make the most of this diversity.

Our current EC draws participation from varied conferences, regions, backgrounds, sectors, and career stages, and we intend to make the most of this diversity.

Making space on the EC and within its committees via these open calls, we have found, makes space for greater transparency, team cohesion, and diversity of perspective. However, as we are still learning, it must also entail making space for a culture that is inviting and encouraging of difference, a considered communications approach that comprehensively and accurately represents this invitation, and the willingness to navigate questions and tedium along the way. Among other things, we may need to make space for a new vocabulary, as we attempt to honor the contributions of all volunteers in all roles—for example, do individuals "apply" or "express an interest"? Do we "interview" candidates or simply meet with them to ensure clarity around commitments and priorities? Open sessions akin to SIGCHI's Equity Talks [4] are examples of safe spaces for information to be sought and exchanged, and many more are needed. We ask for your patience and cooperation as we continue to iterate toward a practice and culture that make space for meaningful, equitable participation and a joyful volunteering experience for all.

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