By Alexandros Osana, IEEE Region 8 HuAC Chair
and Ruba Aburub, IEEE Region 8 HuAC Outreach Team Leader
On October 2015 I was sitting at the back of a large conference room in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where the IEEE Region 8 Meeting was taking place. Costas Stasopoulos, the now ex-director, was making his semester report about our region. While the slides succeeded one another, Mr. Stasopoulos paused and said, “This is a very recent update: We have just founded a new ad hoc committee on Humanitarian Activities for Region 8. The chair of the committee is sitting at the back of the room. Go talk to him after the end of the session.” He was pointing at me.
Although I was too shocked to realize it then, this is how Region 8 HuAC was born.
The first discussion about HA—and especially about SIGHT—had taken place some months before, when we noticed the missing part from our Regional IEEE activity portfolio. Back then, I said to the director, “IEEE has developed Humanitarian Activities on other Regions. Why didn’t we follow?”
Since then, our team has been investing its effort into three pillars:
- Increase of Awareness for IEEE Humanitarian Project Opportunities
- Communication with the existing project groups
- Operations in regional level
Today, almost two years after the committee’s foundation, the team is focusing mainly on sustainable group projects. We have succeeded in making the SIGHT brand well known around the vast area covered by Region 8. As region-level momentum is being built, new humanitarian technology projects emerge from different sections. Groups of IEEE and non-IEEE members apply their engineering know-how to “advance technology for the benefit of humanity”.
These projects are an example of identifying and tackling societal challenges on a local level by developing or deploying technology. The fuel of this “sustainable revolution” is the volunteers of the groups who realize the social responsibilities we engineers have. In areas with high levels of similarity in terms of social implications, the same idea might be replicated creating a larger entity, identified by SIGHT leadership as Communities of Practice. An instance of such a case is the project on Internet inclusion, developed and carried out by Tunisia Section IEEE volunteers.
The Challenges of Region 8
IEEE Region 8 includes Europe (with Russia), the Middle-East and the whole African continent. In such a huge area, there is a major challenge in addressing the Extended Diversity among sections (for Region 8, the term “section” usually corresponds to a single country). Diversity in the case of IEEE humanitarian activities can be seen in two ways.
- There is diversity of humanitarian and societal needs among sections or areas within the same section,
- and there is diversity in the levels of membership among the sections (for example, Central in comparison with North Africa).
A general phenomenon that originates from that diversity is that the more economically developed countries and sections (mostly residing in Europe) enjoy higher levels of IEEE membership, and at the same time they have a more limited range of community challenges. Also, the opportunities for sustainable development projects usually lie in the areas of smart services, facilitation or improvement of state functions, and education-related actions.
On the other hand, in less economically developed sections, membership development and retention is harder. And yet the needs for humanitarian projects are much more pressing in those sections. Thus, there are many opportunities for our IEEE fellows there to volunteer in the service of underserved communities.
While SIGHT’s presence is increasing daily in Region 8, this major challenge needs to be tackled with new, smart approaches. For example, SIGHT teams could collaborate remotely, which will allow for higher growth of IEEE’s contribution and impact for the benefit of local communities.
SIGHT Growth Strategies in Region 8
The R8 team has invested significant time in creating channels of communication with the volunteers, and promoting SIGHT through them. Social Media, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram play a key role in this communication effort. Webinars have also been deployed as a tool of increasing the volunteers’ understanding of SIGHT.
In addition to an online presence and the creation of more visual content such as videos and photos of SIGHT groups and projects, we have suggested a regional competition for the best SIGHT group in Region 8, which could motivate groups and keep them active.
The mix of promotional outreach is divided into three parts.
We emphasize building good relations with IEEE societies and groups and non-IEEE organizations interested in technology and engineering management.
The most powerful advertising tool to use in IEEE is social media. We deliver marketing messages through the following channels: Facebook, Twitter, booths, IEEE TV, website, e-mails, Linked-in, and magazines.
We send direct personal e-mails to SIGHT IEEE members.
Strong collaborations between industry and students also seem to be a promising factor in SIGHT’s growth. When people start their projects, the first thing they do is to find a sponsor and create partnerships with others who can provide guidance and know-how. And we encourage the teams to develop a bond with industry.
Last but not least, publicity of all existing groups’ work has proven to be a significant motivator for new teams. That has been the case for teams consisting of IEEE and non-IEEE members alike.
Our mission is to position SIGHT among the largest sources of humanitarian projects, making it a platform that solves real-life issues through advancing technology and engineering management for IEEE members and non-members.