How to create events with lasting social impact?
The past couple of years have been tumultuous for the events industry. The silver lining — yes, there’s a silver lining — is that never before have we been in a better position to reinvent our industry.
While some businesses and organizations want to get “back to normal,” the most innovate ones are using this as the moment to move to the next level. But what is the next level? For many event professionals, this means reorientating around the idea of purposeful gathering. How do we host experiences — conferences, business meetings, sports competitions, even leisure travel — that limit environmental impact but have lasting social impact?
It’s a big, challenging question. But it’s an important one.
Smart tourism means harmony
Tourisme Montréal (that’s us) is exploring the idea of impact. The organization is moving towards a more proactive and strategic role in destination management, where the coexistence of residents and tourists is encouraged to harmoniously integrate tourist flows into local dynamics. Sustainable tourism aims to create smart tourism, a financially prosperous, diverse, and sustainable sector.
At the centre of concerns for Tourisme Montréal in the coming years is a strategy called Harmonious Destination.
“The future of tourism must now be part of a harmonious destination, where practices will adapt to bring together visitors and residents harmoniously,” says Yves Lalumière, President and CEO of Tourisme Montréal.
Getting the right support to create impact
Montréal-based non-profit #MEET4IMPACT is already on board with harmonious tourism. The collaborative project was designed with the vision of transforming the business events industry by creating positive social impact with its actors and their events. Launched in 2019 by Geneviève Leclerc (who has more than 25 years of experience in the business events sector) and Jacques Blanchet (expert in sustainable development and corporate social responsibility), #MEET4IMPACT aims to generate and optimize social value.
#MEET4IMPACT understands that event professionals want to learn how to develop an intentional approach to maximize their positive impact on society. That’s why the organization has developed its own methodology and analytical framework to measure, analyze, and communicate the social impacts of the activities undertaken by organizations, be they events, campaigns, investments, or others. The approach also allows organizations to do their part in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and thus contribute to achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda aimed at transforming our world.
Case study: The International AIDS Conference
The International AIDS Conference is the largest gathering on HIV and AIDS in the world. First convened during the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1985, it continues to provide a unique forum for the intersection of science, advocacy, and human rights. Each conference is an opportunity to strengthen policies and programmes that ensure evidence-based HIV response.
Next year, AIDS 2022 is taking place in Montréal.
The biannual conferences serve as watershed moments to advance tangible policy changes in the host country and beyond. For instance, at AIDS 2008 in Mexico City the president of Panama announced the repeal of the last remaining law in Latin America that criminalized homosexuality. In other words, a large event (and sometimes even a small event) has the potential to catalyze large-scale changes to improve citizen wellbeing.
What will be the social impact of AIDS 2022? Naturally, it’s too soon to tell. But it will be an opportunity for various levels of government to recommit to the fight against HIV and AIDS. This might mean actionable plans to help the most vulnerable groups impacted by the virus or further support to reduce stigma and discrimination.
As a destination, we are honoured to be the setting for events that can change the world.
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