Last week I attended "Digital Now", an association-specific conference put on for much of the last decade by Fusion Productions. Part of my participation was tied to my role as a board member with Association Media & Publishing, but I also got to sit on some non-publishing sessions along the way.
One particularly memorable breakout presentation described "Engineering For Change" (E4C), an initiative launched by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). E4C "provides a forum to connect, collaborate, solve challenges and share knowledge among a growing community of engineers, technologists, social scientists, NGOs, local governments and community advocates, who are dedicated to improving the quality of life all over the world."
The effort has garnered support from a host of allied organizations, notably the IEEE, whose mission parallels that of ASME. The collaboration is designed to give participating engineers the opportunity to work with others "to improve the quality of life all over the world".
The presentation touched upon both successes and some challenges in bringing a cross-section of institutions and individuals to the table. The initiative is new, and they are still considering how deeply to commit to outcomes rather than providing resources.
That part of the conversation strikes close to home, where authors and publishers committed to fostering reading are sometimes at odds with practices (library access, more affordable books) that would help them achieve those ends. There aren't any perfect answers, but if two 130-year-old organizations can try something like this, I'd like to think we can, too.