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How Should Associations Build Legacy Through Their Meetings?

A new white paper based on input from more than 80 association professionals provides guidance. One hint: It’s probably not through community-refurbishment projects.

The Hague & Partners Convention Bureau released a white paper at the start of May’s IMEX Frankfurt industry show that explores the meaning of legacy as it relates to association and not-for-profit events. Among the key findings from the research is that any legacy project must be driven strategically by the event organizers rather than by host destinations.

The research project began with a focus group of 11 association-event organizers from Europe and the United States, followed by a survey of 70 more event organizers, most of whom work in house at associations. Thirty percent of the survey respondents were from the United Kingdom, 54 percent were from other E.U. nations, and 16 percent were from the United States.

First, 56 percent of respondents said their association actively aims to achieve event legacy, while another 31 percent said they consider event legacy but don’t actively coordinate actions to achieve it. From the focus group, though, the idea emerged that associations are already legacy operations in that “they exist to provide long-term value to their members and the communities served by their members.” Based on this perspective, “the research found that for event legacy to be best achieved, it must lie at the heart of an association’s mission and strategy, rather than be limited to a specific event.”

What’s more, the paper finds that although destinations facilitate many elements of conferences and events through local suppliers as well as volunteers, “destinations cannot drive the achievement of event legacy. Instead, it is up to the associations coming in to define their own goals, needs, and desires.”

According to Bas Schot, director of The Hague & Partners Convention Bureau, tapping into the expertise of an association’s members to share their specialized skills, knowledge, and wisdom with the local population would create a legacy that continues in the most beneficial way for both the destination and the association. “These organizations exist to find the cure for diseases, to resolve global social issues, to improve education for millions, and far, far more,” he said. “The achievement of those goals [within the meeting] and incremental progress towards them [within a host destination] are how associations properly measure their legacy.”

And while this perspective might not seem to bode well for community-focused projects that many associations take on during their events—such as school, park, or neighborhood refurbishments, food-bank operational support, and others—having a revised view of legacy does not mean that the association cannot or should not still coordinate those activities.

“It was clear to us from the start that any legacy project driven by a destination risks being selfish,” Schot adds. “If [destinations and their bureaus] are to support our association clients, we must instead see legacy from their point of view and support their goals, not our own.”

The research concludes by demonstrating that the destination's role is to facilitate the event-legacy process by providing the necessary tools and resources, and perhaps even financial support. “Ultimately, our industry should be focused on supporting legacy discussions within associations and providing them with whatever they need to make their own decisions,” said Schot. “It is up to the organizers to create a legacy program that aligns with their mission and strategy.”

The full white paper can be found here.


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