IEEE President Jim Jefferies On Defining the Future

Priorities for IEEE as a 21st-century professional membership organization

1 March 2018

It’s clear that the professional association landscape is changing. Organizations such as IEEE must adapt to these changes to stay relevant, both to members and to society.

Many know who we are, but not necessarily all that we do. To be sure, IEEE is a great organization with breadth both in discipline and geography. It’s a powerful brand that can open new opportunities and has an enviable mission that members, potential members, and the general public can all support. But IEEE is facing challenges in growing membership, in responding to revenue-impacting changes in publishing and conference business models, and in asserting our leading-edge position in technology policy.

It is responses to these challenges that are defining our strategic approach as we position IEEE to purposefully serve our membership and mission throughout the 21st century. This requires setting priorities, improving accountability, and creating a collaborative environment with a commitment to innovation and a forward-looking perspective while also creating the diverse next generation of IEEE leaders. The outcome will be more engaged members who are at the forefront of developing emerging technologies and the recognition of IEEE as the voice of technical professionals worldwide.


IEEE has made great strides in effective global public policy activities by engaging and leveraging the knowledge and insights of our international community. We believe that successful technology implementation often depends as much on the actions of governments as on the discoveries of scientists and the creativity of engineers. And that wise technology-related public policies are best developed through consultation between policymakers and technologists.

Our IEEE Global Public Policy Committee enables us to serve as a worldwide source of information to governments and to society at large about the social responsibilities and implications of technology and the roles innovations can play in enhancing quality of life and increasing well-being.

And our European Public Policy Committee, now a permanent committee of IEEE, is focused on expanding the dialogue between Europe’s engineering community and public authorities for the benefit of IEEE members, engineering professionals, and the general public. Opportunities for further engagement exist throughout the world.


The IEEE Industry Engagement Committee was also established as a permanent committee of IEEE effective this year. It works to improve coordination of activities across IEEE and provide opportunities for the development of products and services for industry professionals. The committee is the result of extensive outreach and engagement with international technology leaders to explore current and emerging issues in established and entrepreneur businesses. These efforts were essential in learning how IEEE can better provide value to industry and helped establish the framework for the IEEE Industry Advisory Board.

We are committed to working across our organization and with our members, volunteers, and professional staff to develop and implement an engagement strategy that delivers renewed value both to our members who work in industry and to our industry partners.


IEEE is dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. Through our diverse humanitarian and philanthropic programs, there are many opportunities to contribute to improving the human condition worldwide. The IEEE Humanitarian and Philanthropic Opportunities Initiative launched in August during Sections Congress 2017 in Sydney. This collaboration brings together the wide range of IEEE programs that aim to do social good. This initiative further highlights the mission-driven focus of IEEE and helps us incorporate a humanitarian component into all that we do.

My years of membership and volunteer service at IEEE have reinforced for me the relevance and importance of professional associations. There is significance in being part of a group of people with a shared purpose that goes beyond one’s own personal interests and current career.

Our strength is in our unity. We are at our best when we have active collaboration, communication, and cooperation among our units, whether it be boards, societies, or sections. With a joint focus on member value, we can share education, career, policy, and other high-interest materials among our units through communal, cross-discipline events.

The world’s leading technological professional organization can grow its lead with attention to crisp execution of our strategic plan, maintaining our greatest strengths in technical leadership, and expanding our global public policy and humanitarian impact—all with a renewed focus on membership. Our value is multiplied through our cooperation.

I can see an IEEE where private and public organizations facing major decisions involving our fields of interest routinely say they better check with IEEE first, where members regularly ask how they can be more involved, and where students enthusiastically ask how soon they can become higher grade members.

I encourage all our members to be engaged with IEEE’s activities, to inspire participation from colleagues, and to celebrate all that your IEEE membership does for you, for our professional community, and for the benefit of humanity.

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This article appears in the March 2018 print issue as “Defining the Future.”

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