President's Blog, May 2024

Posted: 3 May 2024 by Rachael Kelsey

Thanks to those of you who have already completed the environmental impact survey. If you have not yet done so, you have another two weeks, and we would be really grateful if you would give us your views. Some of you have asked about the rationale behind the move from three to four meetings a year and I thought it might be helpful and useful to give you some history.

2017: The birth of the Asia Pacific Chapter and unbridled enthusiasm

The decision to move from three to four meetings a year was taken by the Executive Committee in Nashville, Tennessee in May 2017. That decision followed the creation of the Asia Pacific Chapter in Lisbon in March that same year. The champions of what was to become the Asia Pacific Chapter had been keen to organise stand-alone Chapter meetings, rather than simply piggy backing onto the Annual Meeting or other Chapters’ meetings (at that time there was the Annual Meeting, the European and the joint USA/Canadian Chapter meetings). A schedule of four meetings was thus approved by the Executive Committee in Nashville, with the new timetable to begin in 2020, with the inaugural Asia Pacific Chapter meeting scheduled for late February 2020.

2019: Four meetings a year wobble

The basic premise of the move to four meetings was to allow greater opportunities for fellows to meet, share and participate at meetings that were closer to home and, equally important, to provide education that was more tailored to the region. But as the reality of organising four meetings started to sink in, there were doubts, wobbles and continued discussions …. Were four meetings a year too much? Would fellows feel that they had to come to all four? Would it, in reality, mean that there might actually be fewer opportunities for fellows to meet their international colleagues? Was it a bad example for us to be setting from an environmental perspective? Would fellows be unable to travel because of increasingly demands from their firms to justify their travel footprint?

At the Executive Committee meeting in May 2019 in San Francisco, we had a full discussion in relation to the environmental issues. Some - including me - had come to the meeting to advocate for a pause and to stick with three meetings a year, but were persuaded that the most environmentally friendly approach was actually to transition to four meetings, precisely because that was likely to lead to people travelling less, and travelling closer to home. The Executive Committee started thinking about how we could mitigate the risks of there being less interaction between fellows and we were feeling our way on that.

2020 and 2021: well, that planning was all worth it….

Multiple re-arrangements, postponements and abandonments to Bangkok, Oslo, Edinburgh, Prague, Kentucky, New Orleans (I think that is all, but I have blanked large parts of those years out, so I may be wrong), and the uncertainty that we all felt then focused our minds. As we came out of COVID, facing restrictions on travel, higher costs, fellows’ anxieties about travel and concerns about protecting the financial reserves of the Academy (which like many other organisations had taken a hit during the pandemic), we took a new look at the schedule that had been previously agreed  in 2017.

2022: we have a plan

The first post-COVID, in-person meeting was the USA-Canadian Chapter meeting that took place in New Orleans in February 2022. There were spirited discussions at the Executive Committee meeting (which met in-person with those still unable to travel joining remotely) about whether we should be changing course and re-visiting four meetings a year, and what we could do to maximise opportunities for fellows to be together, in what was still an uncertain time. The Executive Committee unanimously decided that step one was to go back to fixing the AGM in September each year. That would give a fixed point for the fellowship as a whole to pivot around, and a time for us to be together (those who are longer in the IAFL tooth than me will tell you that we are coming full circle on that!). The decision to move to four meetings was considered anew, with the majority position carrying the day - that we should stick on that path.

It was underlined, that the messaging to fellows must be that it wasn’t expected that fellows should feel that they had to go to all four meetings. The vision was to give fellows options - they could come to the AGM and be sure to meet their international colleagues and friends and attend just their local Chapter meeting (and minimise travel) if they wanted to*.

2024: onwards!

Seven years later, we are finally here - the first year of four meetings! I hope many of you will be able to come to meetings this year and enjoy being with your friends and colleagues. As I said in Brisbane, Geoff Wilson and the Asia Pacific Chapter team set a ludicrously high bar for those of us with meetings to organise in 2024, but the Boston, Seattle and Paris teams have their danders up, and a wonderful 2024 awaits whichever meetings you choose to attend.

*Shout out to our Non-Chapter fellows - we are not forgetting you! The Executive Committee is committed to making sure that the AGM does come to Non-Chapter locations, like Marrakech, Santiago and Nairobi, and watch this space in the coming years….


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