What's Worked So Far? Considerations from Existing Chapters at the 2010 Conference

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At the World Conference VIII in Reno 2010, there was an informal Chapter meeting. We had representatives from the Spanish Chapter, the Italian Chapter (ACT-Italia), the Washington State Chapter, the Colorado Chapter, the Chicago Chapter, and Austrialia/New Zealand (ANZ) as well as other individuals interested in starting a chapter. 

It appears that the main function for most Chapters are the following:

1) Training

2) Peer Consultation

3) Staying true to ACT principles in clinical work and research over time

4) Dissemination of ACT into different settings


Suggestions from this year's meeting:

1) The Board. Consider a long-term strategy for developing a new Chapter. One-year terms for anyone on the board are NOT recommended to maintain a healthy and vibrant Chapter. Instead, we recommend finding ways to increase the board members' involvement over a longer period of time to promote continuity and to provide momentum as the Chapter develops. A few ideas for board member terms include:

a) asking that board members move up through the ranks each year (e.g., from Secretary or member-at-large all the way up to President) to facilitate as much institutional memory as possible each year.

b) including some combination of President-Elect, President, and Past-President roles -- so that the same person remains on the board for at least the first 3 years of the Chapter's development. 

c) existing chapters unanimously saw the need for at least one person (e.g., the president) to sit on the board for at least 2 to 5 years at a time (in the early years) whether that be as President/past or elect, or changing roles.

One way to avoid unbalancing the board with such long terms may be to have a former president or board member continue to sit on the board for another period of time (e.g., a year or two) as a Consulting but Non-Voting member. This may preserve some institutional memory without unbalancing the board.

2) Trainings and Activities. Consider a balance between local activities (e.g., trainings) and bringing in 'big-time' ACT trainers from outside the chapter community. Some chapters found that bringing in a big-name trainer, while expensive, is still the only way to afford to pay a trainer for the training because the turn-out balances the cost. Other chapters have found much more success in having more smaller activities. If there are folks within your community who have a wide-spread appeal, this could make the trainings more affordable. Most chapters still recommend finding a way to do local trainings and events frequently -- even if only some of the members can attend. Perhaps there could be an event in each of the major cities or major regions in the Chapter throughout the year, etc. 

3) Realistic Expectations. Consider that a volunteer board may take longer to get things done, no matter how excited or well-intentioned. This can be true also for any large activity organizing. One chapter discussed how the development of a website for the chapter had taken about a year, even though the amount of work needed for it was minimal. Managing expectations and timelines should be flexible, inspired, but also realistic.

4) Clarifying Chapter member/Board member roles. This is an important discussion to continue throughout the first years of the Chapter who will be responsible for what -- and writing it down! We recommend an email list, formal or informal (e.g., YahooGroups or just within your own email) to keep in good touch. Also, quarterly or monthly meetings -- in person or over video/phone conferencing -- can facilitate the effective functioning of your Chapter and each individual's role within it. It may also be a good idea to parse out who will be the contact person (on the ACBS website for your chapter as well as any external site you develop) for different activities or roles. For example, perhaps the Secretary could be the contact person if someone wants to join the Chapter, or you could identify someone who is a VA contact, an MD contact, a social work contact, a contact in a particular field of study, etc. 

5) Language Communities vs. Countries. It became clear that while chapters in different countries are functioning very vitally, that there is a need to consider how the Chapter in a particular country could also meet the needs of folks in the same language community but different location. Also, a main function of any non-English-speaking Chapter could be translating the existing ACBS site into another language, as well as posting any translated or original materials in that language to the site. 

6) Stay connected to each other! Please visit the Officer's Listserv in Yahoo Groups. This listserv will allow all of the existing Chapters to share their ideas, support each other in developing programs and events. All Chapter officers are invited to join and Chapter Presidents are particularly encouraged to join. Simply email the moderator (acbschapterofficers-subscribe@yahoogroups.com) to join!