Bearing Responsibility – Events and the Community

ImageCommunity Projects have been a part and parcel of events for decades – that will never change. What will change is the sophistication of the various projects. Gone are the days when guests happily gather around a solitary tree planting ceremony, participating only through rapturous applause. Increasing awareness of wider sustainability issues and activism are driving bolder approaches to event community project planning and your guests want to get involved and create more of an impact.

It’s the usual innovators who are at the forefront of this; Ovation Bear, Ovation Global DMC’s honorary CEO, conducted an informal straw poll of his global offices and identified 5 Innovative stories of sophisticated community integration at Events:

1. More often than not, the integration of the local community comprises a one-off bolt-on activity designed to tick the CSR box. Conversely, Ovation is increasingly working with clients to be more strategic in approach. This involves looking at how local communities can be deeper integrated into the event planning process. A recent example of this approach is an Ovation Canada project where social enterprise suppliers are being given preference over less socially aware suppliers. With handmade delegate bags and sustainability conscious food suppliers, this conference will have a lower carbon footprint than many comparable.

2. Another leading light in the area is “The Connection Crew”, a winner of Deloitte’s 2012 “Social Innovation Pioneers” award. 25% of this London-based crewing & AV company are ex-homeless people who have been trained up as technicians and crew for events.

3. At a 10,000 pax conference our team supported in Asia, a marketplace was constructed at the conference centre for 40 local artisans and community groups to sell organic produce, handmade artefacts and gifts made from responsible materials on site. Co-ordinated by our ground team, this powerful tool, ensured both the organisers and delegates spend was supporting long term economic prosperity in a developing nation.

4. All our Ovation offices can offer clients a selection of charities to partner with but our caring team in Barcelona chose one charity to focus their energy on over last year.  Fundación Fátima is home to 32 children aged between 0 and 12 years without families. With Spain facing its biggest economic crisis ever and public funds being slashed to an absolute minimum, the orphanage was seriously struggling. By putting the Foundation at the centre of a engagement strategy, they organised a number of creative fundraising activities, personally took the children out on day trips to the zoo and FC Barcelona and partnered with Ovation client Symantec to support the shelter through their annual conference. After pitching for an event with Supermarket chain Lidl that included a CSR activity, Lidl decided not to run the event but still wanted to help Ovation’s chosen charity and donated Christmas presents to all the children.

5. Ovation’s Strategic Partner in Greece, Kipling Events, recently organised a community event to coincide with a company training academy. Using the same trainers who were in town to train the Ovation staff, Ovation invited 85 volunteers from Greek NGOs, foundations and associations to attend special sessions delivered by the Ovation experts. The results were transformational for those in attendance; by sharing management strategies from a high-growth global business the organisers were able to spark new thinking and energy in a sector really suffering the worst of the economic downturn.

The last example is potentially a game-changing CSR opportunity. Do you have the power to transform cities and countries where you hold events by using the intellectual capital held by those in attendance?

By thinking big, events have an opportunity to generate a stronger legacy in helping communities, supporting economic prosperity and protecting the environment.

Contact Ovation to find out how you can support and activate your corporate values through live events.

Fueling Success: MCI Community Academy

In support of our industry colleagues and the people of Greece, MCI decided to locate its annual training meeting in Athens, Greece. Despite the crisis, Greece remains a wonderful location for events and meetings, and as a leading global agency we were pleased to show our support.

In addition to our business commitment, we wanted to find a way to give back to the local community as part of our CSR program. Brainstorming the idea with our friends at Greek NGO Boroume, we researched various community action projects but came to the conclusion that one of the best ways we could help the local charities was to share some of our core business knowledge and expertise. The idea is that by sharing management strategies from a high growth global business we could spark some new thinking and enhanced collaboration in the local non-profit sector.IMG_2607

MCI Community Academy

So after 1 quick month of planning, yesterday we were very proud to have organised the first MCI Community Academy. We had 85 managers (paid and volunteer) from Greek NGOs, foundations and associations. This was the first time they had come together as a community. Our program was entitled FUELING SUCCESS, and it was  focused on four key pillars. I had the pleasure of moderating these sessions, delivered by MCI’s senior and very inspiring management.

  • Leadership: The Power of Full Engagement – Sebastian Tondeur, Chief Executive Officer
  • Building your brand: Suzanne Fellay, Strategic Communication Director
  • Building your team: Managing and motivating talent -    Avinash Chandarana, Group Learning & Development Director
  • From strategy to action: Jurriaen Sleijster Executive Vice President

Presentations:

As a result of the meeting the audience created the possibility of developing a collaborative NGO platform where they can share knowledge and resources.

Thank you to all the volunteers and to the event sponsors: the Athens Intercontinental Hotel, Kipling Events and of course Boroume

Simple steps that make a difference

This year I have had the pleasure of working with software giant Symantec, to help them on their journey to organize more responsible and better events. As a recognized leader in corporate responsibility, Symantec decided it was time to look deeper into how they run their Vision users conference, and so kicked of the sustainability initiative at this year’s event in Barcelona. One of the areas where they did a particularly good job was with the Social Responsibility projects. Reflecting on this, I was reminded how simple, yet how powerful the inclusion of a community project can be within an event. Not only can it demonstrate a corporations commitment to sustainability but it can serve to animate a conference plenary, connect delegates with the local community and enhance the entire event experience.

In Barcelona as part of their multilevel sustainable event strategy, Symantec supported the global children’s initiative Plant for the Planet, which aims to raise awareness of and respond to the issue of climate change. Symantec supported the organization of an educational training session held within the Vision conference for 50 children from 3 local schools. The Plant-for-the-Planet Academy is recognized as an official project of the UN-Decade “Education for Sustainable Development”, a concept which conveys sustainable thinking and behaviour to children and adults.

Felix Finkbeiner, the 15 year old founder of Plant for the Planet was the inspirational speaker during the opening keynote session.  Afterward this young superstar was joined by Symantec management to plant a symbolic tree in the grounds of the CCIB venue. In response to his plea, Planet for the Planet received 86 pledges to plant 36851 trees: 14 of these were made by Symantec employees, including a significant contribution from one employee who pledge to plant 14,000 trees. Symantec coorporation pledged to plant 10,000 trees, and I pledge to plant 1000.

Felix’s speech is brilliant. The young guy has helped build a movement that has planet over a billion trees. His goal is to plant a TRILLION. Now that’s what I call vision. Here you can watch his dynamic and inspiration performance, which earned the second highest speaker rating of the conference at 89%.

In addition Symantec donated $5,000 and left over conference materials (bags, pens, water bottles) to the Fundación Fatima foster home in Barcelona. This is one of MCI Barcelona`s projects and it was really satisfying to see that we were able to help them another little bit. With the austerity measures in Spain, these organization are increasing relying on donations to get them through these tough times. With the donation the center can now afford to insulate the area where the babies sleep.

In January Symantec will release the event sustainability report which will explain more about their strategy and progress. Watch this space.

 

Giving Back: MCI’s Power of Action 2011, Montreux

Here at MCI, we’ve been actively engaged in creating a community service action for our annual business meeting which this year will bring over 600 MCI staff and business partners to beautiful Montreux, Switzerland. Our approach, now a standard practice called The Power of Action, was first explained here.

How to integrate a social responsibility project in a wealthy community? As we learned with our 2010 event in Istanbul, partner with local leaders to increase the possibility of finding a great NGO. Collaborate with the NGO to understand their needs. Educate, then activate, the participants. Track and communicate learnings and successes.

So we decided to record for charity and convince Phil Collins production team to lend us a hand. Have a look at the results and let us know what you think.

May your own end of year efforts to give back to industry or community be well received and a springboard to a prosperous 2012! And please return to provide us your examples/photos/inspiring ideas to share for better events and a better 2012!

Sustainable Events: Holiday Season Medley

What better way to close out a busy 2011 than with rousing, inspiring, infectiously enthusiastic, innovative sustainable event initiatives?
We been busy elves of sustainability these last several months and wish to share a few of the events about which we are excited here. As always, we’d very much enjoy hearing about actions and ideas for sustainable events you’d like to share!

We draw attention to the collaboration underway in Denmark. In the lead up to the European Union presidency which will rotate to Denmark in January, 2012, the team that brought you the Copenhagen Sustainable Meetings Protocol comes Sustainable Events Denmark, a nationwide effort to elevate sustainability as a standard practice throughout the Danish meetings industry as a way to showcase Danish leadership, innovation and design.

Andreas Clausen Boor, Head of Logistics for Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, has been both the spark and, as the client representative, the patron of the initiative. Hear him explain it in his own terms in this great video.

Check out the new industry resource, the Sustainable Events Denmark portal, and share your suggestions, impressions and testimonials: here

The Power of Action: Giving thanks, sharing findings

Thank you! The Power of Action community service event  mentioned in our earlier post exceeded every possible goal we imagined.  The enthusiastic engagement and generosity of our team, partners and participants brought the following exciting results:

  • 171 people, including 125 kids, participated in a 4 hour long session to create 19 different figures of (mostly) waste materials
  • 108 graduation certificates were awarded to students graduating Young Guru Academy’s Read Think Share program
  • And, *drum roll* 6467 €uros were raised in support of the development of the 111th Read Think Share creative learning library in Turkey, this one in Istanbul

These small points can’t begin to tell the story, though.  We invite you to have a look at the fun videos and photos from the event.

What did we learn?

The integration of community action projects has become an important aspect of creating sustainable meetings and events. Without a ‘how to’ guide, many planners are left frustrated with the effort required to include a community action project.  Here are a few takeaways from our experience:

Purpose: Planners should give meaningful thought to their reason and intention for including a community action project.  It can be helpful to remember this: “It’s not about you”.   Start with a purpose to consider the needs of the people receiving your support.  That said, any project should be aligned with the central mission and values of the organization.

Selection: Non Government Organizations (NGOs) or charities are not event suppliers.  It’s possible the community partner is not (a) in need of the help you can provide or (b) able to respond to the needs of planners.  In this article, we’ve provided some thoughts of Do’s and Don’ts of working with NGOs.

Engagement: Increase participation through promotion in the weeks leading up to the meeting. Conference teasers, social media sites and individual emails can build a sense of excitement and increase the number of attendees. Reach out not only to potential participants but also the members of your network, including your supply chain.  MCI received school supplies and, from Parthen, we received real money needed to support the fund raising goal. Importantly, don’t forget to involve members of the community itself.  It’s important they have a stake in the organization and action.

Follow Up: Maintain contact with the NGO to stay apprised of their actions and provide updates to your stakeholders about the impact of their support.

What are some of the best ideas you’ve seen in the organization of meetings and events?  Please share your thoughts and examples!

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