At its meeting in Tampere in June 2019, the WAIMH Executive Committee decided to engage in a direct consultation with a number of Affiliate organisation presidents. The goal of this consultation was to develop a better understanding of Affiliates’ local circumstances, activities and member needs, to inform the development of improved arrangements to better link WAIMH and local membership.
For WAIMH there have been concerns that some Affiliates do not have a minimum of ten members, which is a requirement to maintain WAIMH Affiliate status. In addition, many presidents or chairs of local affiliate associations are not active WAIMH members (i.e. have renewed their membership each year). WAIMH is concerned that this situation has left many Affiliate organisations without full participation, and also reduced WAIHMs capacity to have strong Affiliate involvement in decision-making.
As such, in order to get a better understanding of the local context and perspectives of WAIMH Affiliates, a number of executive members have collectively spent many hours conducting individual consultations with nearly 20 Affiliate chairs of organisations, some of whose membership connection to WAIMH has lessened since they became Affiliates. We learned a lot and were extremely grateful for the time each president gave, to share their perspectives and ideas.
We are now working to analyse the rich and diverse qualitative information we have collected as part of this consultation process. Once this process is finalized, and in response to Affiliate interest expressed at our ROME meeting, the WAIMH Board hopes to pilot a different membership arrangement, which combines local membership with WAIMH membership for Affiliates organisations.
In addition, with this greater understanding, there are many opportunities for WAIMH to better connect with, support and respond to, Affiliates’ needs and priorities.
Some of the issues raised by Affiliate presidents are summarized below. Please note that the issues summarized below are those of the interviewees, and do not necessarily reflect an accurate or objective representation of WAIMH.
Many Affiliates referred to local challenges including:
- Difficulties maintaining local member engagement and active members
- Volunteer presidents and board members lacking time due to busy day jobs
- Financial insecurity of local organisations, and the need to use resources available through other involvements e.g.- own workplaces, academic colleagues
- Challenging local economic circumstances e.g. low wages resulting in different approaches to member engagement including low member fee, no member fees, low fees for activities which bring membership, and student options
- Some small and recently formed local organisations struggling to grow and become sustainable
- Older organisations becoming inactive and hard to re-activate
Interviewees also talked about their relationship with WAIMH, highlighting a number of positive and negative aspects of this relationship. Positive aspects of the relation with WAIMH included the following:
- Advocacy – the value of an international voice to support local initiatives in IMH e.g. Infant rights statements; IMH Journal articles
- Articles and news through Perspectives in Infant Mental Health that can be used locally
- Potential to help reduce isolation for IMH professionals especially when local conditions for infants and their families require considerable work, and resources are limited
- The opportunity to build relationships with international colleagues through WAIMH congresses in addition to other benefits such as exposure to new ways of working
Challenges that were highlighted included:
- Language barriers to full engagement when Affiliates do not have English fluency
- Better communication from WAIMH at membership renewal time about Affiliate membership requirements
- While WAIMH has an online (Yourmembership) system for renewing membership, awareness of this system was patchy
- Cost of congress travel and participation prohibitive for many
- Change of local office bearers resulting in a loss of knowledge about WAIMH Affiliate requirements and loss of relationship to WAIMH people-
- Connections established with WAIMH people and actions undertaken at the local level (e.g. minimum 10 WAIMH members) to achieve Affiliate status by previous office bearers may not be known or maintained.
- Communication delays when issues have been raised with WAIMH office
- Local professionals needing to focus on dealing with their own issues feeling disconnected from/not interested in, a more international perspective, and seeing WAIMH as being remote from their concerns.
Ideas going forward include the need for better:
- Sharing of resources among Affiliates
- Ways to network with other Affiliate presidents
- A review of the ways that the outline automated Yourmembership renewal system is communicated with members
Overall, therefore we feel that that this exercise to strengthen the connections with WAIMH Affiliates has been useful, and we very much hope that this is the beginning of a more productive relationship going forward. To this end, we remind you also about the new Affiliates page on the WAIMH website.
WAIMH Affiliates Council
Anna Huber (Australia) WAIMH Affiliates Council Chair
Jane Barlow (UK) WAIMH Affiliates Council Representative