Volunteering lies at the heart of CHI. The annual conference is organised by many volunteers with support from a few vendors and members of ACM staff. This post focusses on the work undertaken by the general and technical program chairs on the organising committee. This task involved finding and selecting 40 different sets of chairs and assistants to help organise the various aspects of CHI 2021. This process took many months and our goal was to involve a mix of junior and senior volunteers while pursuing geographic and gender diversity. The process of recruiting volunteers is ongoing as new tasks are identified throughout the lead upto the conference.
The General and Technical Program Chairs for CHI 2021 in Japan recognised there is an often untapped mass of dedicated and motivated volunteers seeking greater involvement in the organisation for CHI. We wanted to recruit a diverse group of people and to offer volunteer opportunities to new people, not just those who have been involved with CHI organisation previously. So, following feedback from the ACM CHI Steering Committee Chair and the ACM SIGCHI Adjunct Chair for Volunteering, we published our CHI 2021 (Expressions of Interest) form to the CHI community in April 2019. This call, which closed in May 2019, targeted the worldwide HCI community and sought to collect expressions of interest in helping to organise CHI 2021 in Asia. This call was not for technical program chairs, papers chairs, sub-committee chairs, associate chairs, reviewers for the papers program or for the CHI student volunteer program (which opens later in 2020). This was distributed on mailing lists and social media and we requested help from the SIGCHI local chapters and others to distribute the call widely, beyond our own networks.
In CHI, many charing duties are shared by two people but a few roles can include upto five different people, due to the expertise required or the workload involved. In 2021, we have over 80 people in various roles as chairs and assistants. This figure doesn't include the 40+ sub-committee chairs and hundreds of associate chairs for the papers program, who will be covered in a later blog post.
So you may wonder how did these 80 chairs and assistants get selected? Well, some of the 80 chairs are serving in a roll over capacity from previous years to help preserve institutional memory. 33 of these volunteers were identified through open calls while the rest of the chairs were identified and selected due to their experience, such as serving on committees for previous conferences, their local knowledge or their expertise in particular areas. This means over 40% of the volunteers selected to help with CHI 2021 volunteered through this open call.
140 people volunteered through the open call we made available to the community. If you volunteered through this open call then you had around a 23% chance of being selected. For each of the 140 people who applied we considered the description of their interests and relevant prior experience with respect to the positions selected. In many cases we had too many people expressing interest in the same role (upto 90 people in one case) while in others we didn't have volunteers with the experience required.
In terms of geographic diversity, over 35% of the chairs and assistants are from Asia (Japan, Bangladesh, Korea, Hong Kong and the Philippines). However, less than five volunteers from Latin America or Africa responded to our open call so there is more to do to encourage new volunteers from around the world to apply.
Many other volunteers are involved with CHI and details of future calls will be included in this blog. For example, student volunteers are selected through a combination of nomination, experience and a lottery. Details on student volunteering for CHI 2021 will be posted here. In addition, you can read this blog post from CHI 2020 on Diversity in the program committee for CHI.
In selecting members of the organising committee, the general chairs and technical program chairs would like to thank all the chairs and assistants who have agreed to help us. We are very thankful for the team we have assembled but please let us know if you have ideas, which can help future CHI conferences to become even more diverse.
By Aaron Quigley and Yoshifumi Kitamura, CHI 2021 General Chairs