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Volunteering for the future

By [email protected] - 1st July 2019 - 13:38

Over the past few decades, the surveying profession has gone through a series of significant changes and innovations. The main technical advancements have been the introduction of GNSS, laser scanning and digital photogrammetry, in conjunction with the use of UAVs. The global localisation of the place where we “are” has become child’s play, thanks to the technology of communication and GNSS.

Decades ago, a surveyor’s typical services were only partly accessible and generally reserved for military and state administration purposes. This has changed radically. Today, geo-information and related areas are seen as a public good and beneficial for the well-being and betterment of society. Additionally, modern geo-data products are increasing in quality and are becoming increasingly available, free of charge, to the user.

Sociologists say that we are living in ‘one global world’ – in other words, our daily lives are more similar than they were in the past. We wear similar clothes, listen to the same music, and watch the same series on TV or Netflix. But although our societies are becoming more and more aligned with each other, there is still greater individualism. During the past decade, it has become increasingly difficult to convince people to do volunteer work for organisations such as the local football club, the choir or a professional organisation.

Our professional and private lives have become computerised. With modern communication technologies such as the internet, smartphones, email and social media, most of us are and want to be present everywhere, 24 hours a day.

We are also encountering an overall acceleration in the technical world. Digitalisation is one of the buzzwords we encounter nearly everywhere. Innovations are appearing faster and the lifecycles of products and entire product groups are becoming significantly shorter. This trend of accelerated changes will not stop in the future. We will continue to adapt our professional and personal lives to these changes.

FIG must update

Over the past 30 years, FIG has become an organisation that acts on a global scale. If we want to keep our position as the premier international representation of surveyors, we cannot ignore the dramatic changes in technology and society that have occurred to stay relevant for our profession and society.

The motto of the term of office for 2019 to 2022 is ‘volunteering for the future’. FIG is a global organisation representing and promoting the interests of our profession and of all surveyors worldwide. The brand ‘FIG’ is well known but this will not automatically continue. If we want to maintain our leading position as a professional organisation, we need volunteers and ongoing support on all levels. These commitments and personal involvement are achievable in many different ways.

The most common possibilities are as follows:

  • To participate in FIG Working Weeks and Congresses.
  • To encourage and motivate our colleagues to participate in future FIG events and activities.
  • To promote FIG in our personal professional environment.
  • To contribute to our events, by giving presentations, writing publications and participating in the work of our Commissions, Working Groups, Networks and Task Forces.
  • To assume responsibility as the officer of a Commission, Network or Task Force.
  • To support the next generation of FIG members.

Today, our profession is regarded as a necessary and important part of the infrastructure for achieving a better and more sustainable life. Being active for FIG is also beneficial for our profession, society, and the planet.

The workplan of the FIG Council will focus on two major targets:

  • Making FIG fit for the future
  • Promoting the relevance of our profession, together with our partners

The first target looks inside FIG and tries to improve and adapt our structure, strategies and activities to future needs.

The second target is not a new goal, but a continuation of previous targets from former councils. This is normal and even expected for the pursuit of a sustainable long-term strategy.

Making FIG fit for the future

In 1998, the FIG General Assembly decided on a large constitutional change from the ‘bureau system’ to a governance system, based on the principle of individual and personal votes. Part of the bureau system was an office that ‘wandered around’, run by the president and the bureau members. At the same time, the General Assembly introduced a permanent office, which has resided since then in Copenhagen, Denmark. Both measures improved the attraction, quality and performance of FIG.

Building on the results from a Task Force during the previous term investigating the FIG Commission structure, there are several reasons to continue the review process.

For example, the review process has been focusing on the structure of the 10 Technical Commissions, so it is sensible to extend the review to FIG’s entire structure.

But independently from FIG’s structure, we must ask: is FIG fit for the future? Is the format of our events, including Congress and Working Week, still up to date? Is our way of communicating still valid? How can we attract the next generation of surveyors?

Promoting our relevance

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the plan-et, now and in the future. At its heart are the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs), from which more than 200 indicators were derived. Most of these SDGs, targets and indicators rely on georeferenced data. Therefore, Council decided to evaluate how our profession can contribute to fulfilling the SDGs and there is now a Task Force on FIG and the SDGs.

Maintaining the significance of our profession remains an important target for FIG. Council will continue to keep and strengthen our partnership with UN agencies, the World Bank, other international agencies, and sister organisations..

Rudolf Staiger is the president of FIG (

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