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Some reflections from Esther Philips

Some reflections from Esther Philips

Leiden, 30 August

Dear colleagues and friends,

I would like to thank you all for the trust I received over the last 2 years and I would like to share a short reflection with you on my time as EARMA Chair.

Last Thursday, I chaired ‘my’ last EARMA Board meeting. It has been fun, serious, intensive, instructive and inspiring and it was a great pleasure working together with my fellow Board members over the past 2 years. Thank you all for the lessons, discussions and laughter we had.

This afternoon, I will travel to Leuven for a 2-day meeting, handing over to the capable hands of the new Chair Evelina Brännvall. Given the pandemic that started not so long after I took up the role of chair, it was a rollercoaster experience. We had to rethink, reschedule and deal with issues that in normal life would have been solved over a coffee. Collaborating only through Zoom or Teams is very challenging I can tell you.

When elected Chair, I of course had ideas on improvements to make and outcomes to reach. The sustainability aspect of our organisation has improved without any effort, so that’s a positive. And once we are able to have an onsite conference, there is a guide and an adjusted call for conference organisers on how to improve the sustainability of our conference.

Improving the connection and communication between the Board and the Standing Committees is one of the issues that didn’t work out as I would have liked. The intention was to have an in-person brainstorm meeting with the Board and all Standing Committees and the Editorial Board to exchange goals, activities and see where there was overlap or where added value could be created by Standing Committees working together. When this idea fell through because no one could travel, my intention was to meet with all the Standing Committees separately to get to know the members better, know their goal and answer to questions or issues arising in the Committee. Without listing excuses, this I could have done more adequately. The work of the Standing Committees and the work that was done by the Editorial Board is priceless and many activities wouldn’t come about without the effort and time of the voluntary members of our Committees.

A big change over the past two years was the appointment of staff members. EARMA grew from an office with a Managing Director and a Secretary to an office adding a Project Manager, a Financial and Administration Officer, a Communications Officer and an Online Community and Events Officer.

I can honestly say that I admire the way all staff members connected with one another, building a genuine team without having a chance to meet and get to know one another in person. Likewise, the staff members got acquainted with the organisation and EARMA’s members by only meeting them online. All staff members, without exception, have done a remarkable job during the pandemic, making sure EARMA and its members stayed connected. The flexibility, creativity and timeless efforts the staff put in ensured that EARMA stands strong in a time like this. I’ll miss many things, but collaborating with Nik, Emma, Sahar, Nyle, Borana and Johanna is at the top of this list.

Given that EARMA has now become an employer, this also made clear that the organisational structure needed to be improved. One of my last activities was to take the initiative to ask a consultancy bureau to help us in analysing and advising on a legal and proper structure in which lines of responsibility are clear. This process is ongoing and advise will be ready near the end of September. I sincerely hope a clear structure will ease and clarify the work of both the EARMA office and all volunteers.

EARMA is an inspirational ssociation, formed by dedicated volunteers and staff and I look forward to all future developments. I again want to thank all, staff and EARMA members, for their support and trust and hope to meet you in one of the many online or live events that are scheduled. Finally, I wish the new Board and Chair a lot of fun, success and creativity in the years to come.

Esther Philips