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AGI at the crossroads: an interview with Anne Kemp

By Peter Fitzgibbon - 8th February 2013 - 20:20

As Britain’s Association for Geographic Information reaches a turning point in its journey, we asked its chair, Anne Kemp, where it is heading

Given that most Chairs arrive when an organisation is at a certain point on its journey, where would you say AGI was on its journey?

I would say that it’s at a turning point. I think it has served the needs of its members very well, up to a point, but I think we probably all sense that to keep current and relevant, to keep the membership levels stable and to grow, we have to change. I would say that there is uncertainty about what we should look like, but our ambition is to grow and in a world characterised by collaboration and networking it is important that AGI is recognised as a valuable organisation that serves the needs of all geospatial professionals in the UK. It is really important that we connect with the membership, to facilitate connections between our members and seek new opportunities for our members beyond our current geospatial boundaries.

It sounds like it’s quite a pivotal point in the organisation’s history. What then would you see is your role in that as Chair?

I sense that AGI Council and indeed the Chair, have less visible over the last few years. We’ve lost connection with our membership, and wider stakeholders. As Chair, my role this year will be to ensure that we re-connect and connect with a broader membership, making sure that we create a resilient and sustainable connection which keeps us going on into the future. It’s not just about making connections however, we’ve got to stimulate renewed dialogue which galvanises us into action – action that not only delivers the AGI mission, but action that results in a clear purpose, and establishes a way forward which subsequent Chairs and Council take forward in partnership with the overall membership.

You mentioned before that it will be important to keep the AGI as the organisation that is current and the one to belong to - how close would you see it is to that now?

I think we’ve drifted, through changing times. We are a broad church, and there is a blurring identity, with different groups of members wanting different things and looking in different directions. If we can’t bring that back together as a common vision we will be weaker as a result and I’m absolutely convinced that with renewed commitment from across our membership we can reinvigorate all parts of the geospatial industry to collaborate around our common goal. I would therefore encourage everyone to engage – and let us know what they think. It’s a case of “anything goes” here – we want to know how people feel, what they care most about, what do they want - so we can take that on board and come up with a package which gives real value to members. And, actually, it’s not just about the membership, it is about the wider stakeholders and the markets – discussing how location plays a part in key decision making and why the way our members approach problems adds value.

What do you think AGI needs to do to ensure that those stakeholders and members do engage and contribute in the way that you want them to?

This year we have completely restructured our Events Programme and developed a Conference programme which will allow for informative and challenging debate throughout the year. These programmes will include things which have been left unsaid in the past, that need bringing to the table. We are keen to reach out through social media – as well as our website. I’m very keen that AGI Council becomes more visible and accountable - at the Events, at Conference, and through the social media – reporting on what we are doing for the membership, our targets and performance, our successes and achievements and requesting help and input from the members –making it much more dynamic than perhaps it’s been in the past.

And what’s your sense of how ready the members are to connect and engage?

I’ve been heartened by the willingness and enthusiasm of people to help when asked – when they know that help is needed. That gives me real hope, that colleagues from all corners of our industry do still believe in the mission of AGI -that there is a way forward, and that with a bit of grit and determination, we can nail what the future is for AGI and make it a success.

So here and now, today, do you have a vision of what you want it to look like?

I see a dynamic, vibrant membership motivated around a common passion -a vibrancy coming from a drive that location is key, but with a realisation that GI is not ‘special’ but a part of a continuum of information – fundamentally it is about location unlocking, of releasing the value of information, and exploiting that to gain insights into how the world is operating and how you can exploit that information to make sound decisions. AGI’s mission to maximise the use of geographic information (GI) for the benefit of the citizen, good governance and commerce – remains ever important, but in addition to a strong membership we will need to drive engagement and thought leadership across the community to ensure our success. Our ambassadors will help to influence the higher echelons of our corporates and government, supported by a hive of activity and free-thinking in the grassroots with discovery of new and improved solutions and applications. So we get a whole spectrum which is inter-connected and inter-dependent.

So for the readers of this article, what’s your parting call to arms?

Engage and challenge! We are putting out requests for help, for feedback on how we are doing: what do you want? What is your vision of the future? How do you want your industry to develop? What opportunities do you want to unlock? Help us achieve our collective aims! We will be reaching out, we will be at the events - so let’s have a great conversation.

Biographical note:

As well as being Council Chair for the Association for Geographic Information, Anne Kemp is Vice Chair of BIM4Infrastructure UK, and Chair of the Institution of Civil Engineers' Building Information Management (BIM) Action Group. Anne Kemp has served on the AGI Council since 2010, as Treasurer and Vice Chair, and assumed her chairmanship of the Council this year. In her professional career, Anne is currently a director at Atkins UK and thought leader for the company’s BIM Strategy and Implementation

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