In the face of the worst economic downturn for decades, one of the top priorities for outgoing AES President Dr. Diemer de Vries this past year was to strengthen the organization’s bottom line.
“The economic developments were a very good reason to critically review all activities that cost money, and to look for new activities that generate money,” explained de Vries, a Dutch academician and musician. “I think that this should frequently take place in every organization. Systems and procedures get old-fashioned and inefficient faster and faster, and should be updated regularly. So, you could say that the downturn had a positive effect on the realization of my goals.”
Having previously been involved with the Netherlands Section of the AES, de Vries was something of a newcomer to the international organization, but he was a quick study, and his fresh perspective helped shake things up a little.
“Being parachuted in as president into an international organization has pros and cons. Of course, you have to learn a lot of facts, habits and traditions. On the other hand, since you are not biased by these habits and traditions, you can developed fresh initiatives, which, of course, will not be accepted immediately and automatically, and will force you to formulate good arguments,” he commented.
Outgoing AES President Dr. Diemer de VriesAs he noted, “I have, during my university career, participated in projects where universities and institutes cooperate on an international level, so I was—in spite of my lack of international experience in AES— not fully provincial.”
Turnout of convention exhibitors and attendees this past year was impacted by the economy, of course. But, said de Vries, “The London convention last May—scaled down a little bit quantitatively—was of high quality, and both visitors and exhibitors were quite satisfied. Also, the three conferences this year were well attended, the recent one in Japan being the largest ever, with 200 participants!”
Did the recession affect the ongoing AES membership drive? “Not significantly. The AES lives!”
The previous AES president, Jim Anderson, encouraged the implementation of various new social networking and internet technologies. “The developments initiated by my predecessors have been continued by our very competent staff,” said de Vries. “The AES website is very informative and clear, with all good consequences for communication and membership.”
As for the future, de Vries noted that the direction of the AES is best steered democratically: “Initiatives should not only be developed by the president, but also by the board of Governors. I abandoned boring formalities from the board meeting agenda as much as possible, making time available to make concrete plans for the society’s future.
“As a preparation for the final plenary board meeting, the board members will come together in smaller groups for brainstorming. I think this is the way to do it— involve more people in a discussion on the ‘real things,’ leading to concrete recommendations for a great future.”