SIS Restructure Pilot to Enhance Engagement and Flexibility

November 16, 2017 

After more than 2 years of discussion and dialogue, the AOTA Board of Directors accepted the recommendations of the Special Interest Sections Council (SISC) for a restructuring framework and pilot of the Special Interest Sections (SISs), to begin on November 27. The changes were designed to recognize the evolution over the past 20 years in practice, and to explore a new, more flexible model for expanding SIS leadership opportunities and reinvigorating member participation.

To determine how best to achieve these objectives, the pilot structure has three areas of focus: (1) reorganizing the current SISs, (2) expanding the SIS committee structure, and (3) exploring ways to develop and support new “Communities of Practice” (CoPs). The plan is to report back to the AOTA Board of Directors in a year.

“The new structure will explore opportunities for more input and engagement,” says SISC Chairperson Andrew (Andy) Persch, PhD, OTR/L, BCP. “We believe this structure will broaden and enhance communication within and among the SISs, leading to better collaboration among all members, and helping to identify better ways to respond to our members’ needs for support in their daily practice.”

Discussions about the new structure began at the April 2015 Annual Conference at a meeting of the SISC, which is composed of the Chairpersons of each of the SISs and the elected SISC Chairperson.

Discussions continued last year when the SISC met in person to craft options to make the SIS structure more flexible to address emerging or critical issues, facilitate connections and collaboration, and provide more opportunities for members to serve as volunteer leaders. The SISC considered the question, “Is there a different way for us to conduct our business that will engage more members and achieve better outcomes?” and subsequently created the following statement to clarify the purpose of the changes:

AOTA’s Special Interest Sections enable members to develop, utilize, and connect with resources and colleagues that enhance their practice knowledge and skills.

This statement further solidified the goals to foster collaboration, cultivate leaders, and develop and disseminate resources that advance the profession.

The SISC members also expressed concern that the SISs and their Standing Committee members felt disconnected from AOTA’s strategic priorities for improving practice. Therefore, ongoing collaboration with designated AOTA staff became one of the revised roles for SIS Standing Committee members. The SISC agreed to endorse piloting a revised structure of the SISs, and to report back to the Board of Directors after a year.

New SIS Structure

During this trial period, the total number of Special Interest Sections will be reduced from 11 to 9.

As of November 27th, the Administration & Management SIS (AMSIS) and Technology SIS (TSIS) will no longer exist as stand-alone SISs. To reflect how integral these areas are to all aspects of practice, the remaining 9 SIS Standing Committees will include new positions for Leadership & Management, and Technology, among others.

“When AMSIS and TSIS were created, these were distinct specialty areas,” notes AOTA President Amy Lamb, OTD, BS, OT/L, FAOTA. “Today, administration and technology are integrated into virtually all aspects of professional practice. In looking at our membership in these two groups, we observed that the majority had more than one SIS affiliation. The new structure is designed to facilitate engagement that is better targeted to specific issues within a member’s area of practice.”

The other new positions in each SIS will focus on Advocacy & Policy, Research, and Young Professionals. The positions for Chairperson, Quarterly Editor, Professional Development (formerly called Education/Research Coordinator), and Communication (formerly called Forum Coordinator) will remain in place.

New SIS Structure

Several of the SISs will also be renamed to better reflect and clarify their focus and scope.

Old Versus New SIS Structure

The Administration & Management, and Technology member forums on OT Connections will not change. The names of other forums will be changed to reflect the new structure. The AMSIS and TSIS articles and other resources will remain available on AOTA’s website, and we also will still have programming dedicated to Administration/Management (including Private Practice) and Technology at the Annual Conference & Expo. All members will still be able to select up to three SISs for which they have voting rights.

Communities of Practice

The revised structure also includes testing new Communities of Practice (CoPs). CoPs are intended to be organic, easily formed, and easily dissolved groups convened for targeted, in-depth conversations, study, and resource sharing on specific topics. The Networks and Subsections that were part of the former SIS structure (e.g., Private Practice and Entrepreneurs, Home Modification) will be re-designated as CoPs. The SISC will be providing more details on how to establish CoPs. The plan is to create and evaluate only a few new CoPs during this first year, then report back to the Board what worked, and what needs modification to support these groups.

AOTA has a list of FAQs on our website that we will update as necessary. If you have feedback or additional questions, please email