IACAPAP 2020: A New Membership Model and a Step Forward for our Organization

By: Christina Schwenck, IACAPAP Secretary General, Professor for Special Needs Educational and Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, Justus-Liebig-University Gießen

Two years of our term of office have passed quickly, two years of vision, inspiration, hard work and challenges we had to confront, especially with the pandemic. The journey began with a retreat where we settled and discussed our ideas, identified opportunities and established priorities. The upmost aim, we all agreed on, was strengthening the professional character of our organization.

Originally, IACAPAP was an organization with a clear number of members, at these times the virtual world did not exist. Throughout the years we have grown considerably with a widening outreach to many parts of the world. Therefore, it is time to think about new structures, facilities and utilizing options that our times offer. One is the new membership model which was recently approved by the IACAPAP General Assembly in November 2020.

Why a new membership model?

According to § 2 of our constitution, IACAPAP is an “international association” for the purpose of “the promotion of mental health and development of children and adolescents…through collaboration among the professions of child and adolescent psychiatry, psychology, social work, pediatrics, public health, nursing, education, social sciences and other relevant disciplines”.

The emphasis of international outreach on the one hand and collaboration between different CAMH professions on the other hand was chosen wisely by the founders of the constitution: Taking a look at the world map and the origin of our members, we must conclude that IACAPAP still does not adequately cover many regions of the world, and especially those regions where the majority of children live, are underrepresented. Here, IACAPAP can take over the role of connecting individual professionals and support them in the creation of new national organizations and advocate for children and adolescents with mental health issues. Furthermore, according to the Mental Health Atlas of the WHO (2017), mental health workforce consists of a variety of professions, including nurses, psychologists, speech and language therapists and others beyond child and adolescent psychiatrists. In order to promote mental health capacity building especially for children and adolescents in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC), it is extremely important to include the whole range of mental health workforce and provide them with IACAPAP´s educational materials and trainings since especially in LMIC, such options are rarely available. Also, so far, the distribution of information and activities of IACAPAP is highly depended on the involvement of national organizations. While we very much appreciate the very active collaboration and engagement of the majority of our members, we also noticed that there are some that do not respond or disseminate the information and activities of IACAPAP, although their members could benefit from it. Lastly, our outreach is not only limited with respect to professionals in LMIC  and allied professions but also to professionals in training who frequently do not have access to their national organizations. Hence, it is them who represent the future of our professions and who could benefit from many of IACAPAP´s programs the most.

Taken together, we felt the need for a new membership model in order to (a) include more members of allied professions into our organization, (b) promote capacity building particularly in underrepresented regions of the world where the majority of children and adolescents live, (c) disseminate our programs and activities more effectively for anyone interested in them, and (d) encourage professionals in training to become part of the IACAPAP family. We hope to include professionals and professionals in training into our organization that will bring in their ideas and spirits, and will stand for IACAPAP´s mission all over the globe.

Challenges and opportunities for the new membership model

Once the decision was taken to develop a new membership model, many questions had to be answered. Which structure should the new model have? What infrastructure is required to manage the new structure? What would be the benefits of membership for different kind of membership categories? What changes in our constitution would be required to install the new model? After intensive investigation, consideration of advantages and disadvantages of different options and many fruitful discussions within the bureau, we were able to come up with an elaborate proposal.

(a) Hybrid membership model
The new structure of our membership model displays a hybrid of the former structure with national CAP organizations as full members, other regional and international organizations as affiliate members, and the new option for individual membership. As before, the full members are the political units of the organization that vote in all its business at the General Assembly. However, individuals can now become members of IACAPAP regardless of whether an organization in their country exists or not. The requirements for individual membership are:
– Mental health professional or professional in training
– Membership application form
– Letter of intent
– CV
– Letter of recommendation from a IACAPAP member
– If applicable student certification

As before, review and approval of full and affiliate membership application is conducted by the Executive Committee, while a membership committee led by the Secretary General provides this service for individual membership applications.

(b) Infrastructure
So far, IACAPAP had less than 100 members to administer. If the new membership model is successful, this number will be exceeded by far and a new infrastructure is necessary to handle membership matters. The bureau and admin are currently developing an online membership platform which will contain options such as an online application, maintenance and renewal of membership, dissemination of activities and information, subscription and payment as well as subgroup activities and discussions. The platform will be embedded into the homepage of IACAPAP and will be a tool to automatize and professionalize the workflow of membership matters and keep information, such as changing presidents of the full members updated.

(c) Benefits of membership
With respect to benefits of membership, a careful balance of incentives for membership and IACAPAP´s philosophy to make educational resources available free of charge and to as many people in the world as possible was aspired. Without any doubt, many resources such as the JM Rey IACAPAP e-Textbook are the only available materials for many CAMH professionals in the world and therefore the access should not be restricted. Nevertheless, the new model gives space for certain benefits which are linked to membership category. Full members are eligible to send a delegate to the General Assembly, vote in all business with one vote per member organization and to nominate officers. Furthermore, they will be provided with full access to the full member section on our website which contains different opportunities such as promoting national conferences, events and educational materials, participate and promote surveys and scientific projects, and advertise vacancies. Full members will be listed on our website and receive a certificate of membership. Affiliate members are eligible to send a delegate to the Assembly that may speak but not vote, they are listed on our website and will have access to the respective section of our website. Individual members will have access to all programming, resources and networking including a new mentorship program for early career professionals and professionals in training, receive a discount for IACAPAP conferences and events and are eligible for awards and honors of the organization. They will have access to the respective section on the website and receive a certificate of membership.

Currently, the membership due structure is being revised in order to achieve a transparent and fair fee structure according to the number of members of our full member organizations and the classification regarding the income of their countries. The fee structure specifically aims to encourage individual professionals from LMIC to become a member of IACAPAP and allows for the chance to take over social responsibility for members from high-income countries.

Besides these benefits, belonging to IACAPAP offers many more advantages: Connecting globally with other scientists and clinicians, providing and receiving education and information and building on a network that aims at promoting the rights and wellbeing of children and adolescents with mental health problems.

What do you think?

Work is still in progress, and the bureau is highly interested in your opinion: What do you think we should consider to optimize membership benefits? Any ideas are highly appreciated and will be considered in this phase of planning and inspiration. You can send any comments through this link.

Thank you!

We would like to thank our members for their support and trust in our work by having supported the necessary changes of our constitution at the General Assembly held in November 2020. We strongly believe that these changes are an important step for the future for our organization and the important work all of our members provide for children and adolescents in need all over the world.


IACAPAP Bulletin, Issue 60