The Future of Community at WONCA

Community is what makes up the beating heart of WONCA. From our Working Parties and Young Doctors’ Movements to the links between individuals, our members have successfully championed connection and collaboration. A deep sense of belonging has been fostered on a global scale, based around a common set of values including empathy, equity, and delivering high quality family medicine, and fulfilled through shared activities such as education and research. The general spirit of our members wanting to volunteer their time and effort to contribute to ‘big picture’ issues in family medicine is alive and well, and examples of this abound.

What is already happening in our community?

One of the key priorities for WONCA is a drive to increase diversity. This means going beyond simply paying lip service to the concept and is a crucial area for our development of the organisation. We are dedicated to exploring how we can ensure our membership not only accurately reflects the global community we represent, but also provides genuinely safe and inclusive spaces which recognise and celebrate different needs and perspectives across the board. 

Our Young Doctors have been creating spaces of support, guidance, and mentorship, bringing groups together through conferences, webinars, professional exchanges and more. While operating under the umbrella of WONCA, and with its assistance when required, these movements have acted with autonomy, great creativity, and ambition across all seven of our represented regions. 

WONCA has more than 25 Working Parties & Special Interest Groups which have also been exploring new and innovative ways to engage with wider themes, from sharing best practice to offering advice to relevant institutions and policymakers, to embarking on specific projects. The Working Party on Mental Health has successfully obtained a grant for a project focused on enhancing the quality of care for major depressive disorders delivered by family doctors. The Working Party on Rural Practice has organised and run their own global conference. The Working Party on the Environment has embarked on a ‘train the trainers’ project around air pollution & climate health. This is to name but a few great examples of the exceptional work of our members.

What does the future hold?

With the drive for diversity as a North Star, we have many paths to continue exploring and new avenues to seek out. Opportunities can be created to make a meaningful impact whatever the passions, interests or ambitions of our members may be. All that has been achieved so far gives us more than enough reason to be excited for what’s to come.

We want to encourage our Working Parties, Groups, Movements and Regions to be seeking new ways to include more members from diverse groups in meaningful ways. At every turn, we aim to consider any inadvertent barriers which may be in place in the organisation, from language, to policy, to when and where meetings or conferences take place, to which interests are being represented. Our vision is a truly inclusive environment.

One of WONCA’s greatest strengths lies in collaboration, and we are excited to see what more becomes possible as we focus on growing these connections, both internally and externally. Within the membership, there are many opportunities for individuals to build networks and exchange ideas, and to join Working Parties or Special Interest Groups which best represent their interests. There is so much potential not only for these groups to work on their own key priorities, but also for collaboration between groups on wider themes, to further boost growth and impact by sharing best practice, insight and resources. 

What are the practical ways we can achieve this?

Conferences & Projects

There are many possibilities for how collaboration can flourish in our community. One option is for Working Parties to build on the existing format of theme-based summits or conferences, delivering more of these to their members, or even working with other Parties on shared themes and areas of interest. Thematic conferences are tried and tested in other non-profit organisations, and effective at sharing best practice and exchanging ideas among members. Technology also provides us with the opportunity to hold such conferences virtually or in a blended way.

Another option is for groups to embark on projects. These can take any format, from developing guidelines, to education, from undertaking research, to carrying out activities directly in the community. They can be intended to produce content, to inform policy, to explore innovative solutions to problems, to exchange professional knowledge or any other aim which feels significant to the group. 

Increasing Visibility

We also want to encourage members and groups to increase their visibility to new and more diverse audiences, both within and outside of the WONCA community. Great work is already being done, and sharing it more widely will allow it to ripple out and have a greater impact. It also encourages new members to join, which helps continuously grow the scale of our work. 

One way of increasing visibility would be for potential ambassadors to come forward; key people of influence within communities, countries, or regions, who can convey messages and share the work and impact of the group through their networks or through social media. This has the potential to not only engage the wider community and perhaps encourage new membership, but also to build capacity and even lead to new local guidelines or policy changes.

Sharing Expertise

Another possibility is that our Working Parties & Special Interest Groups can become points of reference in their own right. The sheer level of expertise in our membership is quite astounding, and other organisations, institutions and policymakers can benefit from the insight these groups can provide. It has been inspiring to see this starting to happen already, and hopefully we will see this flourish.

External Partnerships

Beyond the membership there is also opportunity for partnership on specific projects. The successful collaborations of the Special Interest Group on Family Violence in the “Improving Opportunities For Primary Care And Advocacy For Family Violence” (IMOCAFV) project demonstrates what is possible when we go further afield. Stepping outside the WONCA family gives members and groups the opportunity to hear new voices and access expertise which might bring fresh insight. 

Support from WONCA Leadership and the Secretariat

We are working behind the scenes to help facilitate connections between members and build stronger networks. We are dedicated to building capacity which can enable us to offer more practical support to our members.

We have already developed our Membership Portal; an online space for Working Parties and Special Interest Groups to come together. This allows groups to offer ideas through blogs and forums, to share key documents, and to manage their membership more effectively. Our focus now is on deploying the Portal within our groups and exploring opportunities for more networking, such as ‘matchmaking’. We are looking at how we can clarify individual or group needs and priorities and increase visibility of areas of expertise in a multitude of ways.

Furthermore, we are working towards ways of offering more practical support to our members, such as supporting in the day-to-day project management needs of groups, offering advice and co-ordinating efforts. We are also exploring ways to assist groups in accessing resources beyond WONCA, including grant funding and consortia participation.

Ultimately, the future of our WONCA community rests in the creativity and passion of the community itself, and we are full of optimism for, and ready to wholeheartedly support, what is next.

Dr Harris Lygidakis,