An Open Future for the AC Forum

5th February 2020

The Associations and Conference Forum (AC Forum) held a very successful meeting in Helsinki in January. This included a Leadership Forum for Chief Executives and Directors from its member organizations, its governance meeting – the General Assembly – and the two–day educational annual meeting. The theme for the 2020 event was Transformation and Change, something that will resonate with anyone working in the associations and meetings sectors.

Tracy Bury, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy, was elected President of AC Forum at the General Assembly. Tracy is obviously looking forward to her term of office that runs to 2022 and to working with the new Board to take forward the mandate they have from the members.

During 2019 AC Forum undertook a complete review of its By-Laws and the changes were approved by the General Assembly in Helsinki. The big change? Membership will now be open to international associations who are not headquartered in Europe. They will still need to meet all other membership criteria, namely have in-house staff who organize a regular conference with over 2,000 participants. The primary focus on healthcare was also removed from the By-Laws, reflecting that AC Forum already has members from outside the healthcare field. Where there are sector-specific issues they will continue to be address through focused activities. As Tracy notes, “there is much to be gained from being more diverse and inclusive, as the issues we are facing are common across associations and across sectors.”

The association has grown from ten members, when it began in 1999, to 37 (including two provisional members) following the General Assembly in Helsinki. With the change in the By-Laws further growth is anticipated. As Tracy points out, growth is important, but staying relevant, advancing knowledge in the field, having an engaged membership and delivering member value are critical for success and the signs of a strong association. Further, with new permanent secretariat support, AC Forum will be better able to sustain and support the growth of the association, its activities and ambitions. 

Over the last year or so, AC Forum has developed a number of strategic partnerships for both collaborative learning and thought leadership activities with organizations such as PCMA and the Leading Centres of Europe – and Boardroom of course, which helps the association get its messages out. These will continue to be built on in 2020, along with new partnerships including IMEX Frankfurt. 

Many associations struggle with member engagement, but as the annual meeting finished in Helsinki there was a real sense of optimism and a commitment to engage and contribute, energized by the quality of peer-to-peer learning, knowledge sharing and networking that had taken place. “As a Board we are committed to reviewing our strategic plan, working with our members to continue to transform and change the association, building on all that has gone before as we shape and prepare for the future, not just responding, but anticipating and influencing,” concludes Tracy.

To learn more about joining the AC Forum, visit

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