The WBFN knows that the ongoing contribution to the organization of its former presidents is an invaluable asset. At least once year, the WBFN holds a meeting with as many ex-presidents as are available to attend, some making it a priority to come from overseas. This December, six former presidents met with the WBFN's current presidents and the coordinator to discuss challenging areas of strategy.
Sitting in a room with six former presidents of the WBFN is nothing short of intimidating. The qualities that made them successful presidents are apparent today. They are confident, perceptive, and direct. They can look at a problem and see it from many angles, and they bring institutional knowledge—what has been tried before, and why it succeeded or not.
All presidents of the WBFN have been volunteers. The time commitment is huge (virtually full-time), with a wide range of responsibility, including all the programs, events and activities, relations with the WBG and other partners, and the task of growing and improving the organization. Currently, this workload is divided up between a president and a president operations—and both put in a similar amount of hours. The dedication and skills needed for the position means former presidents can be an asset to the organization well beyond their tenure.
The topic of the meeting was "rethinking family support for an evolving membership", an issue that the WBFN is placing at the center of its strategy review this year. The alumni presidents divided into three groups to discuss aspects of this topic: optimizing communication of the WBFN's services to new staff, creating awareness of domestic abuse, and promoting healthy relationships under the stress of relocation.
The former presidents had no trouble relating to the concept of an "evolving membership". The needs of WBG families have been evolving constantly, and a good president is one who is able to turn the WBFN in new directions based on emerging needs. For example, former presidents were instrumental in establishing the domestic abuse program at the WBG, which envisioned a client base primarily among female spouses. In time, as more female staff have been hired, men are more frequently victims of abuse, while the abuse itself among this population is less physical and more emotional/psychological.
Another change has been the WBFN's response to the stress that accompanies relocation. The stress that comes from moving to a strange country, leaving one's job and community behind, and learning a new language, has always been recognized, but there are new approaches for dealing with it, such as life coaching and a stronger outreach, both of which can be integrated into a new strategy for the WBFN. The WBFN must also continue to respond to the increased need for professional development among newcomers, and the changing membership demographics, where men now represent almost half of all members.
The alumni presidents' meeting stretched to over five hours (including a pleasant lunch to allow old friends to socialize), which will give the current WBFN administration a lot of invaluable material to incorporate into their strategy to "rethink family support for an evolving membership".
Former presidents at the December 2016 alumni meeting and their major contributions
Caroline Berney (President 1991/1994)
Major contribution: Committee on Pension Rights on Divorce
Elizabeth Medina-Tata (President 2001-2002)
Major contribution: First report on domestic abuse at the WBG
Lois Khairallah (President 2003-2004)
Major contribution: Launch of financial literacy classes
Chantale Holtzmann (President 2002-2003; 2007-2008)
Major contribution: Launch of career task force; new member of management system
Anne Folliet (President 2009-2010)
Major contribution: first participation at Families in Global Transition Conference
Hada Zaidan (President 1996-1999/2012-2013)
Major contribution: Booklet on legal, financial and bereavement issues; branding, marketing and communications revisited
Shaheen Khan (President 2014-2016)
Major contribution: Professional and Worldwide Programs