Strategy and Surveys – The Why

Published online: 17 July 2015

The Nutrition Society is conducting an annual survey at the moment. There have been annual surveys by the Society before, but in the past few years they have been conducted using the narrow and somewhat flat platform called Survey Monkey. This year (and in future years) we have decided to use a professional research body. They have now worked with us to design the questions, organise the sample groups, and eventually will provide the initial analysis. They are conducting a range of online surveys and telephone interviews with members, non-members and past members. If sufficient individuals take part in the survey it will have real depth in its findings. In addition the outcomes will allow us to build a year-on-year analysis as well as benchmark ourselves against similar organisations who conduct such surveys. Most importantly it will provide excellent data to feed into our strategic planning process.

The good news is we are very close to achieving the level of response we need to have a robust sample size. If you have not completed the survey please do take the 15 minutes needed soon – it closes next week. If you are not sure it is worth the time please read on, as I attempt to explain why the Society needs to hear from you.

Change now seems to be a reality of daily life, people's expectations and values continue to change, and it is a real challenge for an organisation such as a scientific Learned Society to balance the need to respect its history and traditions yet remain contemporary in its approach and development. One of the aspects of our research at the moment is to gain a sense of what it means to be a scientific Learned Society in the 21st Century. I suggest this is becoming one of many Learned Societies' major challenges. Traditionally people identify with a group or cause (such as a Club, Church, Society etc.) through its proven identify, and therefore if we are to continue to be at the leading (and cutting) edge of nutritional science in the world, the Society has to continue to attract the very best, intelligent, renowned and eminent individuals. What kind of identity does our Learned Society need to have to be attractive to such a group? Is it a narrow approach, or a broader more open approach with opportunities for many? Perhaps we have reached a stage where one size does not fit all anymore. I, and many individuals I consult with, do not know the answers yet to these important, and profound, questions. Hence why taking the time at the moment to rigorously examine what it means to be a scientific Learned Society in the 21st Century is so important to the Society's long term sustainability.

I would argue in favour of regular annual surveys to feed into strategic reviews and planning - it is at the heart of any well organised endeavour. This process helps avoid short term, reactive thinking and actions. It provides an opportunity for inputs from those directly impacted by decisions which will result from the strategy. I must confess to being 'deep into' strategic planning. That is why I am going to great lengths in the consultative phase of the planning cycle at the moment to gather a wide range of data to help with the rigorous analysis that will follow. As current custodians of The Nutrition Society our Trustees have a duty to honour and respect the past achievements, traditions and history of the Society but equally have to have access to up-to-date data to enable them to chart a safe, yet enterprising future direction.

Our members' input to the new annual survey is the cornerstone of our future strategic planning. It is helping to answer the important questions of what the Society needs to be to retain (and grow) its reputation as the very best in the World. Thank you to all of you who have participated thus far in the survey – the opportunity still exists for those of you who have not! 

Mark Hollingsworth, CEO