A new Constitution for the Critical Physiotherapy Network

group photoOver the last 12 months we have been working on a Constitution that will help define the work of the Critical Physiotherapy Network in the coming years.

Because we aspire to be ‘a positive force for an otherwise physiotherapy,’ there is a degree to which we have tried to think outside conventional ways of thinking and doing.  Some of the language in our Constitution reflects that.

Words like ‘alterity’ and ‘otherness’ are used, and there are phrases that talk about ‘thinking against the grain.’  Some of these words and phrases are provocative and are used deliberately to prompt us to think and practice differently.  In each case, though, they are used to open a space to think differently, and so are meant as positive statements of disruption rather than negative statements of cynicism.

Early drafts of the text were worked on by Exec members in November last year and were debated by the wider network in February.  The extensive feedback we received was discussion at an Exec meeting in March. An overarching ‘purpose’ statement was then added, and a final version was signed off by the Exec in June.

This is what it says:

The CPN is an international collaborative network of critically-informed academics, clinicians and researchers who draw on the health sciences, social sciences and the humanities to explore, challenge and develop physiotherapy theory and practice

The ‘objects’ of the Network are as follows:

The Critical Physiotherapy Network will strive to challenge contemporary physiotherapy theory and practice by:

  1. Actively exploring the world beyond the current boundaries of physiotherapy practice and thought
  2. Challenging physiotherapy to critically examine its position on alterity and otherness, abnormality, deviance, difference and disability
  3. Recognising and problematising power asymmetries inherent in physiotherapy practice, particularly where they marginalize some groups at the expense of others
  4. Developing a culture and appreciation for the exploration of all views that deviate from conventional thought and practice in physiotherapy
  5. Actively embracing ideas that promote thinking against the grain/challenging in physiotherapy
  6. Being open to a plurality of ideas, practices, objects, systems and structures that challenge contemporary physiotherapy practice and thought
  7. Promoting critically-informed thinking, encouraging ideas from diverse disciplines uncommon in mainstream physiotherapy, including anthropology, the arts, cultural studies, critical theory, education, geography, historiography, humanities, linguistics, philosophy, politics, sociology and others
  8. Providing a space for ideas that promote a more positive, diverse and inclusive future for the profession

studyThe Critical Physiotherapy Network was formed from a desire to challenge and reform physiotherapy practice and thinking. The Network is founded on the belief that the physical therapies can make a much more valuable and significant contribution to the lives of people today than the historically and socially self-imposed limits on the profession currently allow. The Network has been made possible by a growing sense that a critical mass of physiotherapists are eager to challenge contemporary physiotherapy theory and practice and work towards a more positive, inclusive, critical future for the profession.
The group will appeal to people with an interest in the practice of physiotherapy, including people who are not practising physiotherapists.  We seek to encourage contributions from academics, clinicians, educators, researchers and students, and anyone who can help us achieve the objects set out above.


  • The Critical Physiotherapy Network (the Network) is a membership-based organisation created to develop and promote a positive critique of physiotherapy practice.
  • The Network is for physiotherapists and others who have an interest in the reform of the profession.
  • The constitution seeks to acknowledge the profession’s heritage but attempts to define a space in which it is possible for members to develop, critically examine, and share new opportunities for the profession in the future.
  • We believe that the future of the profession lies in a diversity of approaches and with a variety of different communities of need.
  • Rather than being afraid of change, difference, or ‘otherness,’ we look to these things for inspiration and ways to respond to the many challenges of contemporary healthcare.
  • Our critical approach embraces a wide variety of philosophies, methodologies and theoretical approaches.
  • We embrace constructivist, interpretivist, critical and postmodern philosophies and have members with interests in anthropology, the arts, cultural studies, economics, education, history, politics and sociology.
  • Our starting point is a critical approach to physiotherapy’s longstanding affinity with biomechanical, biomedical and positivist thinking.
  • We believe that creativity involves thinking against the conventional wisdom – deliberately asking why do we think this way, practice these things in these ways.
  • We believe in creating a safe, supportive community where people can develop, explore and share ideas that may be controversial or unsettling to mainstream and orthodox practice.

Because we are an organisation of members from 28 countries, we did not want to have our constitution written only for English speakers, and so, with the help of a host of Network members, we translated the Constitution into 10 other languages (Afrikaans, Danish, Finnish, French, German, Māori, Portuguese, Spanish, Xhosa and Zulu), with more hopefully to follow.

A huge thank you goes out to Ricky Bell, Carmen Caeiro, Simon Kirkegaard, Petro van der Merwe, Veronika Mezzanotte, Jens Olesen, Anna Rajala, Michael Rowe and Jenny Setchell for their hard work translating these for us.

Full pdf versions of the Constitution in all 11 languages will be available from the new website in the next few days.

Notes from 2nd meeting of the Critical Physiotherapy Network Executive Committee

MuffinsWhat used to be called the CPN Organising Committee had planned to meet two weeks ago but technology let us down, so we reconvened in hyperspace earlier today for a much more successful video conference.  Here is an abridged version of the minutes.

Attending: Dave Nicholls (Chair), Barbara Gibson, Simon Kirkegaard, Gwyn Owen and Jenny Setchell

Apologies: Nicky Wilson

Video conferencing

We’re using video conferencing software provided by AUT University which works well now, but hasn’t been easy to set up.  We really want to find a convenient, intuitive way to bring people together so will persist with this and use Skype, telephones, email and the website as other ways to keep in touch with each other.

Draft constitution

We discussed some of the wording in the draft constitution which will go out to the full membership when we’ve had a chance to refine it.  Finding words that best express the Network’s point of difference and our aspirations for the group is not easy, but we’re near to finalising our objectives and will use the next meeting at the end of January to finalise the text.

Committee name

We agreed some time ago that we didn’t really like being called an Organising Committee and looked at a range of alternatives, settling on Executive Committee as our best option.  We’re conscious of not wanting to sound too elitist, but also reflecting the important governance role that the committee will increasingly take on.

Connectivity paper

We’re making good progress with the paper.  We have our eight-person writing team, we have our plan for the paper and each person has their sections to write.  Individual sections will be compiled at the end of January and we’re planning on a final draft to be sent to Physiotherapy Theory & Practice by the end of February.

Moving to a new website

We talked about developing a new website to replace http://www.criticalphysio.com and looked at discussion forums like http://www.somasimple.com as alternatives.  We resolved to keep the critical physiotherapy website as our ‘landing page’ for the group but to look at incorporating a discussion forum and links to other social networks behind the front page.

Sharing out roles

We looked at sharing out roles among the Exec members and will do more work on this in the coming weeks.

Marketing strategy

We discussed preliminary plans to formally ‘launch’ the Network to the broader profession (through things like notices in national newsletters) and agreed that we want to have more time to consolidate our constitution, website, resources and infrastructure before we make the group open to the big-wide-world.  Our goal is to be ready to do this by mid-2015.

Other business

  1. ISIH conference – At least four of the committee will hopefully be in Majorca mid-year for the ISIH conference and we’ll try to find out who else in the Network is going and organise our own meeting there.  Getting the Exec together face-to-face will also be something to aim for.
  2. Communication between Exec members.  We’re looking at ways to communicate between us other than email threads and video conferences.  A Facebook group may be an option.

Date and time of next meeting

Friday 30 Jan 2014, 9am Auckland time