Moving Bravely (and Cautiously) Ahead Into 2022

Diane L. Cushman, NCFR Executive Director, [email protected]
/ NCFR Report, Winter 2021

Sometimes it’s a good thing that we don’t know what lies ahead. Had we known in March 2020 that we were about to face two years of a pandemic, we might have been challenged to keep on keeping on. But thanks to our many great leaders at NCFR, including 2020 Conference Program Chair Brad van Eeden-Moorefield and Board President Leigh Leslie, we have kept on.

I want to thank all of you who submitted one or more proposals to the 2021 NCFR Annual Conference. Our attendance figures are historically driven by your submissions, so our conference success lies in your willingness to continue to present your research at NCFR, even when we’re virtual. We are incredibly grateful for the steady leadership of our 2021 conference program chair, Dr. Tammy Henderson, whose flexibility was put to the test at every turn. Dr. Henderson’s vision responded not only to the health concerns of the pandemic but also to the tragic death of George Floyd and the resulting global outcry for racial justice. Thank you, also, to the conference planning committee, whose members who orchestrated the review and decision process for over 600 proposals.

Now we move on to NCFR 2022, scheduled for Nov. 16–19 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Our program chair, Dr. Debra Berke, has been busy securing plenary speakers to bring to life the theme, “Light and Shadow: Shifting Perspectives and Families” (see At this time, we are planning to host the conference in person in Minneapolis, where we expect to follow industry standards and health recommendations, which may include masking and vaccinations. It’s far too early to make any sort of predications other than to commit to hosting a safe conference.

In addition to health concerns, there are the realities of the global financial impact of the pandemic and where academia is in the recovery process. The meetings industry has experimented with several hybrid models of conference design—including simultaneous virtual and in-person programming—but in the end, it is far more costly to do a hybrid conference than either an in-person or an online-only conference. We’ll remain open to creative solutions, although at this time we envision an in-person conference for 2022.

For many years, NCFR has offered livestreaming of featured sessions for a worldwide audience. We will continue to offer a livestream in some capacity once we return to in-person events. And while we may be able to invite a virtual audience to some of the business meetings, it will simply not be possible to offer both formats for every conference session.

As we resume our search for future conference sites, we find challenges everywhere: state laws that run counter to NCFR’s diversity values, the rising cost of travel and of hotel facilities, and increasing violence in cities across the United States. For the first time in many years, we are pursuing a multiyear, multicity opportunity with a large hotel chain. NCFR’s conference is relatively small in terms of income-generating potential for hotels that are large enough to provide the space we need for our sessions, so a multiyear commitment can open up opportunities that otherwise might not be available to us. Stay tuned.

One outcome of the pandemic was the lightning speed with which the world embraced online learning. NCFR’s webinar programs have been able to expand in number and variety of content. Attendance and engagement in NCFR webinars have remained high, and classroom license purchases have increased. The ability to expand our webinar program has enabled more NCFR members to showcase their knowledge and expertise in areas where there is a large appetite for learning. Recent highlights have been several webinars on racial justice and the launch of a 3-year series on quantitative research methods (see

Another silver lining in this pandemic cloud was the first-ever NCFR Family Life Education Summit (see With one virtual conference under their belts, NCFR staff felt confident that they could produce a second virtual conference. Thus, with the tested tools and experience, we saw the fulfillment of a long-held dream to host a conference for practitioners, on June 25. The conference was well attended, received high marks from participants, and will return in 2022.

As we turn the page on 2021, we look forward to a new year filled with grace, humility, health, and opportunities for families to learn and thrive. Thank you all for your contributions to the welfare of families around the world.