FIGT2020 Online Meetup: Reflections & Transitions

10 Apr 2020 11:46 PM | FIGT Blog Editor (Administrator)

In these tumultuous times, the FIGT community virtually connected on 14 March 2020 while wishing we could have been together in Bangkok. FIGT President Dawn Bryan challenged us all to step out of our physical and mental confines to think: How do we help others flourish in this difficult time?


In early February, faced with the growing severity of the COVID-19 crisis, the Board determined that it was neither safe nor logistically feasible to continue with the FIGT 2020 Conference as planned and made the difficult decision to cancel.

As a way to connect as a community, FIGT convened an online meetup on 14 March 2020, a day when — under normal circumstances — we would have been together at the 2020 Conference in Bangkok.

While nothing can match the joy of gathering in person, we were happy to be joined by more than 40 people located in at least 18 countries on four continents (a special kudos to those who were up at 4 AM in Southeast Asia and Australia, as well as those joining in at 5 AM from East Asia!).

Among the participants were David C Pollock Scholars, FIGT Board members and volunteers, FIGT members, and those who had planned to attend or been scheduled to present at FIGT2020.

A call to help others flourish

In opening the hour-long video conference, FIGT President Dawn Bryan reflected how in our global lives we may be physically distant but we have figured out a number of ways to be together in life, work, and spirit. 

Even though many of us are confined to our homes, Dawn reminded us of the late Caleb Meakins’s FIGT2019 call to ‘change the world’ and challenged us all to step out of our physical and mental confines to think outwards and forwards: How do we help others flourish in this time?

The elicited responses are too many to be shared in their entirety, but here are some broad ideas:

  • Take responsibility, socially distance oneself and stay at home

  • Dispel myths circulating on social media and messaging app groups; instead, spread correct information

  • Help out those who are most vulnerable: Check in on the elderly, those who are immune-compromised, alone, or parenting alone; grocery shop for them; help out in other ways

  • Stay in touch: Regularly call and connect with family, friends, and colleagues, no matter their location; organize virtual meetups for people stuck at home (e.g., a book club for kids)

  • Share resources and expertise online, translate useful information into different languages

  • Share fun and positivity — a meme, a video, a joke

  • Be mindful, practice compassion, be grateful

  • Recognize and respect other people’s grief, even if it doesn’t seem like a ‘worst-case’ situation

  • Take the time to reassure one’s children and help them adjust to the new normal

As for the FIGT team, we aim to continue providing our community with valuable resources and information for these times!

Plans for the future

FIGT Programs Director Valérie Besanceney and Vice President Jodi Harris both thanked the FIGT sponsors and community for their understanding and support following the decision to cancel FIGT2020.

A virtual conference for 2020 was seriously considered as an alternative, but the FIGT board sadly concluded that there were no feasible, sustainable solutions that could reach our entire FIGT community in a cost-effective manner at this time. For the full announcement, please visit the 2020 conference page.

FIGT is planning to hold its annual conference next year, however, and all FIGT2020 presenters who wish to present will be automatically accepted.

We’ll be sharing the latest updates on all these and more through our enewsletter and media channels, so please sign up if you haven’t already.

Building a RAFT and other resources

The FIGT community has plenty of experience adapting to change, but transitions are never easy, especially when accompanied by uncertainty and fear.

Linda Janssen, FIGT Sponsorship Director, explained how the RAFT model—originally introduced by David C. Pollock and Ruth Van Reken in Third Culture Kids—can help us through changes of all kinds, including transitions induced by the current pandemic. You can read her presentation and handout here.

FIGT members are providing fantastic resources and sharing their insights, expertise, and support on our social media channels. You are invited to join us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to see the latest video interviews on managing a globally mobile life, connect with others, and share resources and support.

Members can also log in to the FIGT website to access the archives (the series of presentations on Coping with Difficult Times may be especially of interest; you need to be logged in to open this page) and join the Facebook FIGT Members group (please send a request via FB to join).

If you would like to get access to these resources and more deeply engage with this wonderful community, please join us at FIGT! We offer various membership options to suit your needs and interests (also see the FAQ).

Grateful thanks

FIGT is most grateful for the continued support from its wonderful sponsors who keep us going through thick and thin. Our deep thanks go to:

Without you, FIGT would not be able to fulfill its mission to support the growth, success, and well-being of people crossing cultures around the world.

FIGT also acknowledges all the Board members and its nearly 80 volunteers who keep the organization running. A special thanks to FIGT Administrator Judy Rickatson and of course to Ruth Van Reken, the founder of FIGT.

Most of all, FIGT thanks all of you members who make this the wonderful, supportive community that it is.

Take care of yourselves and keep changing the world!


Watch the recording


There are several ways to engage with FIGT. We look forward to connecting with you!

Members: Log in to the FIGT website to access the archives (including the videos on Coping with Difficult Times) and join the Facebook FIGT Members group (please send a request via FB to join).

If you're not yet a member: To get access to these resources and engage with this wonderful community, please join us at FIGT!

Everyone: Sign up for our enewsletter to get FIGT news updates and follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to see the latest resources.

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