The History of Families in Global Transition

How it all began

A year before Ruth van Reken and David Pollock published Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds, Ruth invited three expat friends to her Indianapolis home to discuss the manuscript. Gathered around her kitchen table, the four women, Margie Becker, Christine Dowdeswell, and Janet Fischer, shared the needs of their own and other families crossing countries and cultures, and the idea of a grassroots conference was born. The year was 1997.

The first Families In Global Transition conference was held on May 16, 1998 at the Eli Lilly Corporate Center. David Pollock was a featured speaker. Of the 85 attendees, over half traveled from outside Indianapolis. In the three following years, the conference was held at a small hotel in Indiana, attracting attendees from around North America and across expatriate sectors. After its second year, Beverly Roman led FIGT to be formally recognized as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and to move the conference to Texas in 2004.

In Dallas, and then on Houston - home to corporate headquarters of several multinational companies, particularly in the petroleum industry - FIGT developed into a hub for individuals and organizations supporting employees, their spouses and children during international relocation. During this time, Joyce Blake became FIGT's first Executive Director and Barbara Schaetti launched the first Request for Proposals. In 2009, the first "local chapter" was formed in Boston, followed in 2010 by Seoul, Korea. In addition, trailblazing expat journalists, Jo Parfitt and Robin Pascoe, cultivated a cohort of writers who have single-handedly created a literary genre to help thousands get resources they need. Global family support had grown into a movement.

Between 2011 and 2014, FIGT contributed to the professionalization of the field by moving the conference into the heart of one of the world's centers for international commerce and diplomacy, Washington DC. Under the leadership of Peggy Love and Dottie Byers, FIGT contracted the management services of the Collie Gorg Group (CGG), and in 2012 redrafted its bylaws to become a membership organization with regional affiliates. With the community of researchers, practitioners and agencies drawn to the conference by program chair Anne Copeland and social media captain Judy Rickatson, the FIGT Affiliate program grew to include Switzerland, the U.K., the Netherlands, as well as an online community around the world.

The 2014 conference boldly asked its presenters and attendees to "redefine the global family" - understanding that expatriate and familial realities had changed dramatically since 1997. The thought-provoking findings of FIGT14 led us to return, in March 2015, to the foundational question that everyone crossing countries and cultures might - still - pause to answer: "Where is home when the world keeps changing?"

In 2016 FIGT took a big step forward by holding its annual conference outside of North America for the first time, in The Netherlands. Relocating to Europe attracted a wider audience, increased membership and proved so popular that the conference sold out several weeks before opening. 

In commemoration of its 20th Anniversary, the FIGT2018 program set out to capture the story of the past 20 years of growth in the understanding of globally mobile lives. With a conference theme of "Diverse voices celebrating the past, present, and future of globally mobile lives" it set the stage for the conference's relocation to Asia in 2019.

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