Sorrel Bunting, Engagement Manager, British Pharmacological Society

In these times of social distancing and the challenges that this brings, many membership organisations are looking for innovative ways to bring their communities together digitally. The British Pharmacological Society has recently launched a new online Community for our members. Here we share our experiences of the process and the opportunities it has already provided.
Supporting our members

In 2018, we started to review how we could help our members around the world to talk to one other and stay connected. For many years this was facilitated through our Affinity Groups; special interest groups that brought together members with a shared research interest. However, it was time for an update and we were keen to look for a new approach that represented the best way to support our members, both now and in the future.
Through a thorough period of discovery in early 2019, including interviews with staff and members, focus groups, workshops, meetings, member surveys and conversations with other societies, we began exploring the opportunity to create a digital platform for our members. This was something entirely new to the Society, but it seemed an exciting solution that could grow and adapt to reflect our membership’s needs in the years to come. 

Our new online Community
The new British Pharmacological Society Online Community is a digital platform for our members to share ideas, build networks, develop research collaborations, and access support from the pharmacology community around the world. All members can access the platform. There is a live feed providing dynamic updates, dedicated Networks (focussed spaces for members with shared interests or research areas), forums, events information and more. The Community complements our usual engagement and communication channels and provides a better opportunity than ever before for our members to come together.


Meeting unexpected challenges
The current pandemic demonstrates how this new tool has allowed us to provide additional support for the work and wellbeing of our membership when they need it most. As the impact of COVID-19 was felt around the world and lockdown began, we recognised that the online Community provided an important opportunity for us to bring our membership together when they otherwise would be separated. From forums discussing distance learning, to dedicated spaces for members to share and seek support, the online Community has provided our membership with the tools to come together and support each other in a new way. 


It has also been brilliant for the Society to see and hear how our pharmacology community has united and adapted to the challenges posed by COVID-19. We have heard from our clinical members about working on the frontline, our educators providing crucial support for students to continue their education, and our lab-based teams offering equipment and expertise to support efforts worldwide. The true spirit of the pharmacology community has been showcased at its very best!

Crucially, our members can access the online tool at anytime and anywhere. It is accessible on desktop, laptop, and mobile devices (via our Android and iOS apps). It has been especially exciting to see interactions grow between our many international members. The map displayed in the ‘Members’ area of the platform (shown below) gives a real picture of how geographically diverse we are as a Society. It is also fascinating to search for members by areas of research interest, which shows the incredible range of expertise and knowledge across our membership.

It has also been positive to see the wider staff team getting to know different members. All staff are part of the platform, so those who previously may not have worked directly with members are now able to join in conversations, learn about the important work our members are doing around the world, and feel a deeper sense of pride in supporting pharmacology.
Sharing what we have learned


Whilst it is still early days for our online Community, this project has been many months in the making. Tests with our early users, both members and staff, have been extremely positive. As the world adapts and changes in the coming months, we look forward to offering new opportunities and resources to our members via our Community platform, from inviting them to our events programme to sharing other online activities that they can get involved in.

We are going to continue to innovate through our Community and find the best ways to support our members now and in the future. Our aim is to facilitate scientific exchange and collaboration between all of our members, whether they are based in industry, academia, or the clinic. If you would be interested in hearing more about the project so far, or if you have experiences, questions or thoughts you’d like to share, please get in touch with our team. We would love to chat to you!

So far, we have seen some brilliant engagement with the platform, with our staff team, and between our members. We’re already seeing the benefits of bringing everyone together in a new and innovative way and are excited to see the Community continue to grow in the months to come.

Associations Week 2020 ©. All rights reserved


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