Ask the Experts: Tracy Bury, Deputy Chief Executive of World Confederation for Physical Therapy, on ‘Community Building’

Can you create a cohesive community in a global economy? And how can businesses go about starting? Tracy Bury, Deputy Chief Executive of WCPT, explains.

As Deputy Chief Executive of WCPT, Tracy Bury has 25 years’ experience in the professional association sector and in ‘community building’. Her responsibilities include the WCPT Congress, advocacy, policy, communities of practice, and external relations. Starting as a physiotherapist, Tracy moved into research and policy, working for WCPT’s member organisation in the UK, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in 1994 before moving to join WCPT in 2002. Tracy is also the President-Elect of the Association Conference Forum.

Can you explain what your association does?

Founded in 1951, the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT), is the sole international voice for physical therapy, representing more than 450,000 physical therapists worldwide through its 109 member organisations. WCPT operates as a non-profit organisation and is registered as a charity in the UK. WCPT’s vision is to move physical therapy forward so the profession is recognised globally for its significant role in improving health and wellbeing.

How does the theme of ‘Community Building’ reflect what WCPT does?

It is at the heart of who we are and what we do. As a confederation of member organisations, we bring together diverse international perspectives and diverse needs to have an impact that is greater than what can be achieved alone. It is made very clear in our strategic plan “A global community of physical therapists, where everyone feels connected and engaged, and is free to contribute to WCPT and draw on its benefits.”

We strive for people to feel connected to a global profession and one that is diverse and inclusive, and we are very intentional about networking at our Congress. We have over 30 networking sessions with a defined topic and a chair and beyond that not too much to govern the time in each session so that discussions can flow from the interests and connections people want to make and explore. There is of course the informal networking spaces but by providing programme space dedicated to networking we find that we are facilitating important community development.

What trends have you observed with ‘Community Building’ and do you anticipate any upcoming trends?

People want meaningful engagement. They want to connect at a personal and professional level.

They want to feel part of something bigger; that they can contribute and that their contribution is valued. They want accessible, approachable leadership. People are keen to explore partnerships and mentoring/coaching opportunities.

Face-to-face is still highly valued despite the technological connectivity that is available. However, the technological connectivity is making it much easier to sustain and build upon face-to-face encounters.

How can associations implement this to create their own impact work?

Associations can implement this by always keeping the members and end users in mind, thinking about your strategic plan and how this is aligned to the wider community. They should think of themselves as facilitators and hubs of the community but recognise there will be many sub-communities and that you can’t control everything.

Also, they should focus on what they can control and where they can add value, exploiting your unique position for community benefits, and developing partnerships to explore what can be done with others to create wider impact.

Do you have any examples of excellent impact/legacy work you’ve observed either within your association or out with, in relation to this theme?

Some of WCPT’s congress bursary recipients have written reports demonstrating how investing in one individual has a ripple effect into their professional community, their personal lives and the wider communities they serve. These are compelling stories and it is important if you are investing in people and giving them opportunities that you follow this over time to look for the impact. Read here:

As a judge for last year’s Incredible Impacts applications I can see there were many examples of excellent work around legacy and impact and the three winners were all very deserving. At the heart of all of them was partnership building – it’s what we can all do when we work together.