Report of the Spring-Meeting of the Steering Committee of the Section of Professional Associations (SPA) in Berlin in May 2018

The Steering Committee of the Section of Professional Associations within the ICA, elected for four years, represents all archival and records management associations organized in ICA and – in consequence – all members of those organizations. Consequently, the work of SPA is focused on the support of archival and records management associations.

All members of the Steering Committee made the effort and made it possible to join the meeting in Berlin ( of May 2018) – a very rare and special situation. Therefore we could include the perspectives of colleagues from twelve countries and organizations in our working groups and discussions, namely from: Chile, China, France, Israel, Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Senegal, Spain, U.S.A. and Germany.

The discussions followed the business plan of SPA and was focused on these issues: 1) Position and tasks of SPA in the context of ICA; 2) Concept and preparation of the workshops in Cameroon at the annual ICA conference (2018) and in Senegal (2019) and the Africa strategy of SPA; 3) Stratregy of communication of SPA within ICA; 4) the toolkit-project to support for successful elevator pitches and 5) Concept and preparation of the next film festival of SPA (2019):

1) The Steering Committee of SPA discussed the organizational position of SPA within the ICA structures which seem to be rather complex and also partly not transparent. The ICA website structure reflects this quite well. Often enough the reasons and conditions for establishing a section and expert groups are not systematic and clear enough. Obviously, organizational structures are to be reviewed in many (archival) associations and NGOs. According to the SPA Bureau, such a discussion about organizational structures is also needed for ICA: It is for example suggested to raise the position of the Section of Professional Associations

2) Since 2012, „Africa“ is one of the highly prioritized topics of ICA. The Africa program promotes the support of archivists, archives and archival and records management organizations in Africa. To the same degree African colleagues and issues should be much more integrated in the ICA activities ( Therefore, the annual conference of ICA in 2018 takes place in Yaoundé (Cameroon) and therefore it is crucial that many archivists and records manager from all over the world follow the invitation to Cameroon. The Steering Committee of SPA will also contribute to this conference and will offer a workshop about management methods for running an organization. It is planned that archivists and records manager develop methods and tools for example for organizing a conference or elections in this interactive workshop. Other issues will be how to establish an archival and records management organization or improve networks and cooperations or how to push lobbying. Alassane Ndiath emphasized that it should also be discussed how African archival associations from the whole continent can better work together with each other and with the national archives. Presumably, the Steering Committee of SPA will offer a follow up workshop in Senegal in 2019. The Africa strategy of SPA pursues the goal to promote the professional exchange between African and non-African colleagues and institutions and to improve the collaboration. Now, the current situation is characterized by ignorance: There is a big lack of knowledge about persons, institutions, organizations and professional methods in African countries. Both workshops should help to reduce the gap.

3) Another big issue of the Steering Committee of SPA is to innovate and to improve the exchange and communication with archival and records management organizations and their members. Principle elements of the communication strategy are the – new structured – website of SPA on the homepage of ICA and the – more or less – regular – edition of the newsletter (sent via email and as PDF). The Steering Committee discussed, if news should be published on a blog instead of in the newsletter. Since the current websystem does not allow a blog, it was decided to place the “News” on the website ( In addition, an email will inform about new articles. Everyone who is familiar with public relation for an organization or an institution knows that a communication strategy must be repeatedly reviewed. That’s why the Steering Committee is grateful for any idea, hint or feedback.

4) Further, a small working group worked on a concept for a toolkit for the „Elevator Pitch“. You might remember that SPA published a brochure about successful “elevator pitches” for archivists and records manager ( “Elevator pitch” stands for very short and dense communication situations (e.g. in an elevator, at party or a casual meeting on the street), in which one as the chance to convince the other person of important issues for example for a proper records management or the increase of the budget for the archives. Small working groups worked on examples of such situations and presented their “elevator pitches” during the SPA workshop at the annual ICA conference in Mexico City in 2017. The next step is now to publish a collection of methods, tools and examples in order to encourage other professionals to develop “elevator pitches” and – consequently – improve their lobbying for archives and records management: the Elevator Pitch Toolkit.

5) Finally, the next film festival (2019) was discussed. The announcement is published: SPA encourages especially young professionals to contribute to the festival. We’re looking forward to you films! Besides the official meetings the professional exchange about current developments in archives and in records and information management and in member organizations of SPA was vivid: We learned that there is a discours in many associations about how to become more attractive (or “sexy”) for colleagues to get involved, how formats of meetings and conferences can be made “cool” or more innovative. Further, strategies of public relations must be reviewed and must aim to integrate more non archivists like IT experts, technicians or administrative professionals in archival institutions –also to be able to broaden the scope. During this Berlin-week, the Steering Committee visited the archives of the Administration for the documents of Stasi ( and the archives of the Archives of Arts where the meetings took place ( We are very grateful to Dr. Ragna Boden and Dr. Torsten Musial. It is already a tradition of the SPA team to meet students of archival studies during the spring meeting. This time, we visited the University of Applied Sciences of Potsdam ( Prof. Dr. Michael Scholz (also member of the executive board of the German archival association) invited the Steering Committee of SPA in order to introduce the courses of study of archival and information sciences. His students told about their motives to study archival sciences. Although many of them were encouraged by the work with historical material, they were very interested in current professional discussions and developments, e.g. in the relation between records management institutions / administrative agencies and archives or in the change of archival profession caused by technical changes. Above that all members of the Steering Committee encouraged the future archivists to become member of archival associations.

See for reports about the Berlin meeting on the Norwegian Association’s web page (, on blog the German archival association ( and on blog of the Catalonian Association ( An below you will find a report form the Chile Association.

Bettina Joergens

May/June 2018

Spa Meeting in Berlin report