From the President: June 2022

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Solid Change 

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The entire field of medicine is experiencing a period of massive change, triggered in part by the COVID pandemic. Our priorities, our clinical work, our working methods are all being impacted.

Even so, a unique opportunity lies hidden in all this upheaval, instability, and uncertainty – a chance for us to envision and shape WONCA’S future. We can reflect on where our organization is today, how we want it to develop, how best to help make that happen, and how to recognize it when WONCA has succeeded in achieving its aims. 

In other words: This is a golden moment for us to build a solid, realistic, strategic plan.

The last strategic planning WONCA engaged in began in 2008, when GROW (the Group to Redesign the Operations of WONCA) was tasked with developing a plan to restructure WONCA, to increase its operational capacity, and to improve its financial standing. In 2010, in Cancun, Mexico, the GROW Report was approved by Council. Some of its recommendations have indeed borne fruit, while others proved unworkable. (That is the nature of all planning processes.) 

And now, I am pleased to report that a process of formulating a new strategic plan was launched by the Executive Board, in March, 2022.

A quick snapshot of our starting point: 

•WONCA is growing. New member organizations continue to enrol. Each of our regions has it own Young Doctor Network. Working Party and Special Interest Group activities are flourishing. While the ‘intensive training ’ in digitalization that we are all going through can be quite challenging, it’s also exciting, connecting us to more of our colleagues and communities. In fact, the global perspective on preparedness and medical care is now at the forefront.

•WONCA has also been changing. The Secretariat has moved from Bangkok to Brussels. Relocating created the need for a new WONCA Association legal structure, which has altered how we govern our organization. The pandemic required us to re-sequence our biannual World Conferences and Councils. In 2021, for the first time ever, we held these events virtually.

•And: WONCA is celebrating. This year marks WONCA’s 50th anniversary!

Dr. Richard Roberts, who became WONCA’s President the year the GROW Report was adopted, has warned that, “Our biggest risk is to think too small.” We’ll take those words to heart as we begin our strategic planning process. An organization with as solid a foundation as WONCA’s can safely plan to have an even more profound impact in the future.

A closer look at the strategic planning process:

The first stage of formulating our plan involves evaluating the organization's current status via the well-known SWOT analyses (‘Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats’). For a strategic planning process to be successful, members need to have a stake in it, and it must be inclusive. That’s why SWOT analyses are being conducted this very minute in eight different focus groups, involving such main contributors to WONCA as the current and former Regional Presidents, young doctors, members-at-large on various Executive Boards, Past Presidents and CEOs, Chairs of Working Parties and Special Interest Groups.

We’ll also need to spell out our organization's mission, vision, purpose, and objectives. To this end, we’ll invite delegates to Council on June 28th to join the workshop session to give their structured input. 

A central aspect of WONCA`s vision is the set of core values on which the Specialty of Family Medicine is based. These help define what we have in common. I’m looking forward to far-reaching discussions within our global community, brainstorming how we can operationalize our shared values in the midst of so much change.

Our main purpose in creating a strategic plan is to determine, realistically, where we want WONCA to be 5 to 7 years from today. Strategic goals and intentions have to be both broad and specific if they’re to be useful; that is, they need to lay out our main objectives and also detail what activities might help us to reach each one. For that, budgetary implications must be thought through. In other words, we’ll need to be as SMART as we can possibly be – to make our objectives ‘Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timely.‘

And, regarding that Measurable part of SMART – we’ll need to develop performance measures so that we can monitor the progress we’re making toward implementing our objectives.

Thus, our completed strategic process ought to include: 

a mission statement and an overview of our objectives, including some ideas for future enhancements; 
an outline of strategic goals, broken down into main objectives, each with proposed activities; 
an assessment of the resources required to fund those activities. 

That is indeed a complex process, and we hope to have a progress report ready to present to our members, in person and virtually, when we meet for Council at the end of this June.

It is a privilege for me, as President, to hold the baton during this leg of the relay, “Making WONCA Stronger.” I’m grateful for the support I’m already receiving and I look forward to engaging with you in this on-going strategic planning process.

To the rank and file, let me say this: Please share your views – with the leadership of your own member organization, the Chair of your Working Party or Special Interest Group – so that they can funnel your insights back to those of us who are leading the process.

Dr Anna Stavdal
WONCA President