Social responsibility as a tool against ignorance

Dispatch from the front line of the meetings industry:

Potential Client: “We have a great idea and need your help with making it happen”

Destination Management professional: “Great! Tell me more.”

Still Potential Client: “We’ll transport a group of 50 people from the venue to the hotel via local metro.  Here’s the good part..  we’d like you to help us find a black guy, dressed poorly, to wander through the train car..  but, instead of asking for money, he’ll give wallets and prizes to people.  Great, right!?”

Destination Management professional: “*stunned silence*” .. “(stammers) Wh.. what?  You mean, maybe a magician.. like a professional performer who entertains the group with magic tricks. .. something unexpected and fun.. right?  Because for a minute there, boy was I confused.”

no longer prospective client: “No. We want a homeless guy, not a performer..  and we want people to think he’ll ask them for money but, instead, he’ll give money. Get it?”

Destination Management professional: “I strongly advise you to re-think this and consider the shocking and horribly insensitive nature of what you’re proposing.  In no way would we, or anybody we know, help you with this.”

One that got away?  Or one that reinforces why this stuff..  all this discussion and focus and initiative for more socially responsible events matters now more than ever.

For those who feel that the meetings industry should focus on ‘green’ and get that right before confusing people with the complexities of social responsibility, I offer the above shocking actual conversation as example of the need for a meetings industry movement which includes training in social responsibility and in the organization of socially responsible events.

Please share your thoughts, even those that disagree with the above.

2 Comments

  1. Dunno Michael, I think this is less about any environmental or societal issues and more about stupidity. Who would ever think this was a funny or creative idea?
    First, it’s just plain weird.
    Second, in what way would this ever achieve a message of inspiration or positive action? I’m sure there are some bozo’s who would think it was funny/entertaining, but good grief.
    This is icky. Isn’t it such a relief to have a platform to share with your readers who will undoubtedly see the currents of racism and nastiness? Social media is more than just promotion or discussions. Sometimes it’s just a conversation with sympathetic friends.

    That being said, I don’t know if this has as much to do with social responsibility as it does extremely poor taste. And another side note – interesting that you differentiate “social responsibility” from “green”. In my gospel I structure the two as one and the same. Do you think that being “green” is not a fundamental aspect of our responsibility to society?
    Just curious to hear your brilliant thoughts, I hope that doesn’t sound argumentative :)
    Midori Connolly, AVGirl, @GreenA_V

    • Michael Luehrs says:

      Thank you for your candor, Midori.
      I must admit that I really struggled with this post and wondered if I should publish it. I think I was hoping for some validation to the ‘icky-ness’ and dismay/confusion I felt. Perhaps you have the right perspective here, that this is a bizarre and freak occurence and, as such, doesn’t illustrate much.

      Still, I felt the need to share this so as to underscore that our global community, for all its wonders, is not entirely enlightened or universally sensitive to issues of social inequities. This client was unaware that their idea was so offensive and wrong. The person taking the call, having a strong appreciation for social inequity, was able to see it for what it was. It’s an example of how our business is faced with issues of social responsibility all the time. By shining a light on such odious issues, perhaps we can more readily educate the ignorant.

      I do differentiate between ‘green’ (eco-efficiency, environmental stewardship) and social responsibility (fair wages, inclusion, anti-discrimination, human rights). The new ISO 20121, for example, was developed not to reinforce better practices for environmental responsibility (ISO 14001 already exists) but to integrate and balance the business approach to the triple bottom line (note the separation in terms): People (social responsibility, Planet (green, eco-efficiency) and profit.

      In a different forum (you’re amazingly prolific and see everything!) you shared an experience in which you provided a demonstration of the MPI Event Measurement Tool to a person who was bothered that it focused on green (if I remember that right). To me, this says that I’m not alone in seeing a differentiation as well as a need for education and action.

      Clearly, you’re among the strongest advocates for smarter, more responsible business practices. Our difference may simply be one of semantics/word choices. In recent discussions on different social media channels, though, I see comments from many who see folly in introducing an approach to social responsibility for fear that we’ll overwhelm people who are still grappling with green. My strong feeling, and the reason I opted to publish this post, was to try to illustrate the point that we mustn’t ignore the need to take action to elevate awareness of what it means to be socially responsible.
      Thank you for fighting the good fight and for taking a moment to share all that!
      have it good,
      michael

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