Two years ago, I became ONS’s third chief executive officer and the staff partner to a Board of Directors that had a clear vision for a system that marches.

If, as a member, you feel that ONS has undergone many changes in the past two years, you are correct. Some changes were set in motion by earlier Boards, others a result of the Boards with whom I have worked. Their decisions were based on their analysis of what would be in the best interest of members and the future of our organization. This is nothing new for ONS, though, because we have been a system marching forward for more than 40 years.

ONS was ahead of member associations when we moved from a committee structure to a project team-focused organization. The vision of engaging more members in ONS’s national work and partnering them with staff has been realized. I know that some of my generation of ONS members occasionally miss the committee structure. As I have learned more about the association world, I am seeing that many organizations are decreasing their number of committees and moving to a project-based model. More leadership comes from the field with project teams than any committee structure can bring, and all associations are seeking their emerging leaders this way.

We are undergoing yet another change as our special interest groups (SIGs) are transitioning to communities, still with a specific interest but with little of the bureaucracy that defined SIGs. This model will allow members to find other members with like interests and to find colleagues who can answer questions and share experiences as they solve problems in their work. This model will continue to facilitate leadership from the field as members collaborate on projects that are meaningful to their special interest or need. Staff support for communities will vary because we have no one-size-fits-all rules. It can, and will, feel messy in the midst of a change process. But, the task force that envisioned the model and the Board that approved it saw the potential to elevate the voice of members in shaping the work of ONS to keep us marching forward.

The bylaws that you approved are bringing a new look to our election process. You will vote on directors to the Board and no longer vote for the officers. That is the responsibility of the Board. However, as you look at candidates for the Board, you will be voting for colleagues who may be the next president, secretary, or treasurer. It is not essential that you personally know candidates, but educate yourself on what they will bring to the Board as you review their statements and resumes and listen to their podcasts. Michele Obama, in her speech at the 2016 Democratic convention, said that when we elect a president, we are choosing who has the power to shape our children’s lives for four or eight years. When you elect the Board, you are choosing leaders who have the power to shape your membership. Please use your privilege to vote; let’s increase our voting percentage in 2017.

John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” We have had change these past two years, but there is more ahead and the ONS staff and I are committed to continued progress.