The last IFA Membership Meeting was held at the wonderful IFA World Congress in Lisbon in July 2015. The intervening year has been filled with mostly behind-the-scenes activity on the part of many IFA committees and individuals. I will attempt to summarise here some of these accomplishments.
Feedback from participants at the Congress was unreservedly positive and focused on the excellent quality of the presentations. This quality has been captured thanks to the activity of Rod Gabel and his Research and Publications Committee, who have processed all the papers for the Proceedings. These are now published on the website for members to view. We are delighted that the learning from the Congress can be shared with the membership, irrespective of their ability to attend the Congress.
Kirsten Howells, Jenny Packer and their Meetings and Conferences Committee have been extremely busy overseeing the process for the selection of the venue for the 2018 World Congress, as well as forming and meeting as a new committee to plan the event. The next IFA World Congress will be held in Hiroshima, Japan. I know the committee will draw on their valuable experience of so expertly organising the Lisbon conference, and I also know this is a phenomenal amount of work for the committee and we are truly indebted to them all.
A between-congress year is typically one when membership numbers decline and Shelley Brundage has been working hard to review membership charges and remind members to renew. We were pleased to be able to reduce fees for this year, as well as to introduce the auto renew option for members. Shelley has served as chair of the Membership Committee for many years and we are grateful to her for using her wisdom and experience to ensure that we do all we can to attract and retain members.
David Shapiro was my predecessor as IFA President and he worked tirelessly to ensure that the IFA had robust systems. One output was the Strategic Plan, a comprehensive document outlining the organisation’s targets and the activity of the various committees and individuals in achieving our objectives. This year we have begun to review our progress against the targets with the invaluable help of Tom Weidig who developed and freely shared a tool ‘Mindool’. Members have been invited to view the Strategic Plan on Mindool and ‘like’ those targets which they feel to be a priority for the IFA. Our next steps will be to review our achievement of the most important objectives and consider what further efforts will be needed by whom to deliver any outstanding activity related to the targets.
IFA is by its nature a collaborative organisation, integrating people who stutter or clutter, therapists and academics in the field. We were delighted to hold our Lisbon Congress in collaboration with the International Cluttering Association and are pleased that they are repeating the experience with us in Japan in 2018. This year we have been in discussion with the International Stuttering Association about joining the IFA and the ICA for the next World Congress and we are very excited that they have agreed to do so. So our conference in Japan will be two types of first – the first in Asia and the first as a joint IFA/ICA/ISA conference.
In the current international financial climate the IFA is pleased to maintain a healthy bank balance, due to our predecessors’ good governance and to careful delivery of the on-budget Lisbon conference. Rachel Everard and her Finance Committee have worked diligently to maintain this, and the IFA is exploring ways to support our international friends and colleagues in our joint aims. One example of this was a donation to an initiative to make resources about stuttering available to schools in Africa – read about this on our website.
Another fantastic development this year has been our brand new website, developed by Live Oak Web Design. The improved functionality means that membership processes are streamlined and the website is easily navigated. Members who log in are able to access privileged information and resources. The website also functions well on mobile devices and has translation facilities, making it more accessible internationally. We continue to be grateful to James Au Yeung for all his technical support and to Jayne Bulbeck who has taken on the social media role for the IFA.
We were also pleased to fund the first IFA Global Workshop in Poland in August. Jane Harley of the Michael Palin Centre delivered a one-day workshop on working with school-aged children who stutter. This was translated into Polish and attended by over forty therapists. We are planning further Global Workshops, targeting countries where access to conferences and meetings is more challenging. We would be very pleased to hear from any members who might be willing to host a workshop – please see the website for more information.
So, a busy year for the International Fluency Association and a great deal of activity which builds foundations for what is to come. I am so grateful to the members of our Executive Board – Nan Ratner, Kurt Eggers, Shoko Myamoto, Rachel Everard, Pascal van Lieshout and Shelley Brundage for their time and commitment to the IFA and for their support to me personally. I also thank the Directors of the committees for their tireless efforts throughout the year. And I thank you all - our members who both support and benefit from this truly international and collaborative group and who have many differences but a common aim: devoted to the scientific understanding of fluency disorders, and to the attainment of optimal quality of life for people who stutter or clutter, through research, therapy and advocacy.