What happens when your members need a comprehensive resource that would require a ton of staff time you don’t have? Engaging member expertise in the process and serving as a hub is a great low-cost solution.

The Council for Undergraduate Research (CUR) has a small team that supports a diverse and supportive community. That turned out to be an excellent proving ground for a mutually beneficial resource collaboration.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

CUR’s members serve faculty that support students in undergraduate research and requested a database where they could access opportunities for students to present their research. With a small staff, CUR didn’t have the capability to create a list of all the places students could do that.

But Executive Director Lindsay Currie, CAE, knew members in the field had that expertise, so CUR’s team created an online form for them to share that information so CUR could turn it around and share it back with the community.

“It’s crowdsourcing, but eliminating the staff-heavy time crowdsourcing often requires,” Currie says.

Members are only able to submit the form if they complete all the fields, which helps with data integrity. Then CUR’s staff approves the forms on the backend. Forms also include a date, which helps with eliminating items that are no longer current.

WHY IS IT EFFECTIVE?

Members and nonmembers—it’s open to everyone—can get information about where students can present their research quickly, because sometimes a Google search “doesn’t solve for everything,” Currie says. There’s also a lot of terminology fluctuation in what’s included for a call for proposal, so CUR’s resource is much more accurate and timely.

“It is a need that most of our members have,” Currie says. “So instead of each of them trying to create their own databases of all these presentation opportunities for their students, we can serve as that hub.”

CUR uses the information collected on the forms in other communications channels, including its website, newsletter, and online communities. “Then it gets distributed across multiple channels,” she says.

WHAT’S THE BENEFIT?

Members are interested in sharing the information with the community, plus it aligns with CUR’s mission of creating undergraduate resources for all students. “It allows us to better serve our members and eliminate the heavy administrative lift for our staff in an efficient and timely manner,” Currie says.

And because the resource is available to everyone, “It helps show the value of being part of this community,” she says.

LISA BOYLAN

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE »