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British Society for Neuroendocrinology

Sue Thorn has been working with the BSN since 2014, initially identifying some serious risks and reworking our governance accordingly. We really valued her work on this and didn’t want to lose her advice, so asked her to remain involved. Since then she has renegotiated our journal contract on substantially better terms, led a strategic review, and taken a lead on our COVID-19 response, in addition to everyday advice and support. Sue’s work for the BSN has moved us on to another level and hugely increased what we are able to do in support of neuroendocrinology. Sue is a great asset to the BSN. The depth and breadth of her experience of managing learned societies has been invaluable.

Dr Giles Yeo, President

Case studies

Journal tender

Client X is a small society with no staff of its own, whose main income source is their journal. They approached me for advice about whether they should go to tender or renegotiate with their current publisher, with whom they were quite happy. I carried out a review of the journal and identified a gap between the service the publisher was providing and what the academic editorial team were doing. We went to tender, making clear we would be looking equally at academic and financial aspects of the bids. We interviewed three publishers and concluded a contract that included additional support from the publisher for editorial development of the journal - and delivered a greater than 50% increase in the society's financial return from the journal, which has put them on a completely different footing in terms of delivering their charitable objective.

"The best thing we ever did was appoint you."

Simplifying structure

Client Y's Council appointed me to carry out a governance review of the society as a matter of good practice as none had been carried out for many years. They didn't feel they had any specific problems although the new CEO had identified that their decision processes seemed cumbersome The review looked at many aspects of the society, but a major one was the complexity of their structure for a relatively small society. We were able to simplify this and, as a result, to simplify the decision process, as well as dramatically improving the level of engagement by the trustees. A key aspect of the process was providing a range of real-life examples from other societies to illustrate the various options.

"It's so obvious. I don't know how we couldn't see it before."

Reducing congress costs

Client Z held a major congress annually, which they subsidised significantly. The trustees tasked the CEO with making it break even. I was asked to facilitate a strategic session to look at how this could be done. I decided to approach it as a strategic review aimed at identifying first how the meeting could be improved. All sections of the society were entitled to hold a number of sessions at the congress, with the effect that the congress content was disjointed, there were many parallel sessions and some sessions had few attendees. We therefore concluded that reducing the number of parallel sessions by half and making sections compete for them would improve the academic quality of the congress - and at the same time reduce venue costs. Improved academic quality would enable the society to attract more delegates and so increase the income. This would not reduce the congress subsidy to zero, but I recommended that they run this for 2-3 years and then re-evaluate. Taking the very drastic action that would be needed to remove the subsidy in one step would risk damaging the meeting. 

The tone of the meeting went from resigned depression to enthused excitement!