Part 2: Professional organizations- what are they good for

As said in the previous blog post, I felt an extreme urge to explain and elaborate on professional organizations and my involvement in them after last #IntJC. In the first tweet where I expressed an opinion I said:

“I miss the discussion about the trade in the organizations.” Here’s what I meant – there are far too few discussion platforms within the professional organizations. Things are slowly starting to change ATA has great webminars and a lively discussion platform on LinkedIn (not to mention their conferences). AIIC is tweeting @aiiconline and has a great Facebook page as well as a group on LinkedIn. EST is on Facebook and also tweet at @estrans. But you can always improve – right? When I was a new comer to AIIC (I think I was just pre-candidate) I dared mention at a meeting that it would be nice with mentors. The idea did not catch on – to say the least. One wonderful colleague approached me after the meeting and said: “I’ll be happy to be your mentor, if you want to”. This was different times, and outreach is better now, but I think that we could still use mentors, I think that we could organize regular meetings with people in the professions, both in the real world and on the Internet. #IntJC is a great initiative for this purpose, but I’m sure there are more possibilities.

Second tweet: “Assn are expensive and you want value (i.e. jobs) for money”. Yes most associations are expensive and if you cannot directly see the benefit of joining – why should you? I mean if the organizations does not yield any paid jobs or even limit your negotiating space (like demanding you work under decent working conditions). Then there is no value for money – or is there? Well, let me take a few examples that I have experienced personally. And which also takes me to my next tweet:
“In hard times you act and negotiate as one big body which can be totally vital (sic. in the hurry I wrote vital, but I meant crucial)”. Here’s my experience of that. At one point government bodies in my country decided that the use of English should be the only policy promoted in international context. This meant that a lot of big clients stopped hiring interpreters completely, a very hard blow on the interpreter market. My regional AIIC immediately set up a contact group who visited all involved parties and presented AIIC and interpreting. It raised awareness of professional conference interpreting, and it also helped changing government policy. It demanded a lot of work, and it was not AIIC alone who could change it, but the fact that we were representing an international, professional organization with some 3000 members was a door-opener in this case. It did not mean that individual interpreters were hired immediately, but it probably saved a market in the long-term. My second example is about the ranking of academic journals that I’ve written about here. When the Norwegian Science Board were reviewing their ranking of academic journals (very influential in at least the Nordic Countries), we were many Translation Scholars lobbying for them to upgrade the Translation Journals they had downgraded a few years earlier. The down grading was not due to lack of academic quality, but merely reflecting the fact of an organizational restructuring in Norway. In that case we got support from the EST. The EST president wrote a letter to the Science Board explaining the status of Translation Studies and how the previous change in ranking was groundless. That battle is not over yet. Many publications fight for the higher ranking and Translation Studies does not have its own field in Norway. But our words carry more weight with important international scholars in our ranks. And these battles are usually long and tough unfortunately, you have to show stamina. And that’s easier to do as an organization than as an individual.
So, in my opinion, what are the most important areas for professional organizations? First of all outreach. If you’re not seen you have no impact. So, contact building with other organizations, institutions, practitioners and so forth. And it has to be done on the local level (bad news guys, more unpaid work :-)), the local chapter needs to promote their organization. We are so much stronger if we work in bigger networks with other organizations and people that have the same interests. Secondly, keeping the discussion, professional development and training going within the organization, we are added value! We should be something or members look forward to. Again in big international organizations the work on the international level must be combined with work on the local level. And I know of a lot of good examples as I mentioned in the last post, but I also think there is room for more.

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