The lockdown was the BEST thing that happened to People Who Stutter (PWS). EVER.
Why? Because it forced us to be more comfortable (or less uncomfortable) with virtual connection. Our world opened.
In 2017, a team was formed in the USA to lead the Adult Chapters (support groups) of a national stuttering support association. Within three years the number of groups increased 40% to 137. The number of people leading them doubled to over 200.
What caused this growth? Frequent engagement through a special FaceBook group. The creation of readily available resources to help them. Interactive sessions at annual conferences & regional events specifically designed to meet their needs. Although we saw the value of bringing PWS together virtually, several attempts to stimulate regular online meetings failed to gain traction.
Enter 2020. We had to conduct business or go to school online. Talking with families, friends . . . you name it–we now had to go virtual.
The above-mentioned team learned Zoom basics and began to share this information with those USA support group leaders. Within a couple months, most support groups began to meet online. People visited groups across the country. Former members of groups began to attend. Attendance numbers soared!
An idea began to form among this leadership team: Could an interactive forum be created worldwide, duplicating what worked in the USA? With the newfound familiarity of virtual connection, could a network be established for the world’s stuttering support group leaders? A group, not just for the leaders of world organizations, but rather, for the world’s support group leaders?
The World Stuttering Network (WSN) was created on August 8th, 2020. Within a few short months, the WSN became the world’s largest network of stuttering support group leaders and the premiere resource for leading stuttering support groups.
The founders of the WSN intended to be radically different than any other organization in existence by:
- No fund raising or membership dues. The only cost associated with stuttering support groups is time, belief, & passion.
- Bring people together from all stuttering support organization. Support group leaders remain affiliated with their current organization. Territorial boundaries and competition disintegrate.
- Openly sharing what works. Realizing that if one organization ‘wins,’ we all win.
- Advertising & supporting all events, organizations, & endeavors related to stuttering support, regardless of the source.
The WSN does not promote any narratives. We realize that there are 70 million unique ways to stutter in the world today. Each person has the right to determine how they want to live with stuttering.
We know one thing for sure: PWS meeting other PWS changes lives. There can never be enough opportunities to meet other PWS. With StutterFEST, World Friending Saturdays, Speed Friending interviews, and the upcoming ‘Communication Through Art’ on 11/6, the WSN adds to the list of opportunities for PWS to meet.
Board of Directors
The WSN Board of Directors is radically different from typical Boards:
- Passion creates the position. Rather than giving new Board members a list of preassigned duties, the new Board member determines their role & direction in the organization.
- Board appointments are by invitation or request, in lieu of an open call. The basis of which is observation of potential Board member’s level of activity. What are they doing NOW? Becoming a WSN gives people a broader platform to expand their current work.
- Meetings have a higher priority for connecting and getting to know each other, instead of rushing through an agenda.
- WSN Board members are passionate innovators.
- Busy people get more done. We want Board members who are highly active in life.
- When people or organizations approach us with an idea, instead of “No” they hear “Yes, how can we help?”
With the success of the 21-hour StutterFEST in the Spring of 2021, the WSN has learned that marathon online events work incredibly well. The Research Symposium, SEAtalks, all Spanish-session, comedy, live Podcasts . . . there was something for everyone. Regardless of time zone, everyone could attend.
We are planning In-person hybrid gatherings and conferences; creating support groups where none exist; assisting countries to form national stuttering organizations; and facilitating more opportunities for PWS to meet. The WSN will continue to adapt & expand with our ever-changing world.
To stuttering support leaders of large national organizations: Let’s share what works and make this world a better place for PWS.
To the leader with the only support group in their country or organization: Join us and become part of a vast network of leaders.
To the person interested in stuttering support leadership: We need you.
We are the World Stuttering Network (WSN). We are BETTER TOGETHER!
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