The Big Challenge is not about Practical Matters – It is about Values


2nd Apr, 2024

As a global association, AIPC faces a number of practical challenges – ranging from time zone troubles to stretched resources. But as the late Queen Elisabeth used to say, we just need to get on with it. Values however are a different matter altogether, especially in a non-aligned world. Defining and respecting a value framework will be a very different type of challenge for any global association.

AIPC CEO, Sven Bossu, writes about the values and common bond that runs through its members and its convention centre market.

Being a global association comes with a lot of benefits. You get to work with interesting people across the globe, each with their own views, embedded in their own reality, enriching the conversations held at the level of the association. You find out that the likelihood that a challenge faced by one member at one side of the world has already been addressed by another member at the other side of the world is very high, demonstrating the value of an association as a platform to exchange knowledge. And you get to work with business partners who have – similar to the association – a global reach.

There are some challenges as well, especially for smaller associations such as AIPC. Resources get stretched, because you’re serving a global audience (time-zones can indeed be a hassle). A second challenge is related to cultural and language barriers. Fortunately, the very nature of the business our members are in – international exhibitions & conferences – makes this perhaps easier than for other associations. Nevertheless, it remains an important point of attention when organising events, especially when it comes to interactive formats such as workshops or discussion groups. Additionally, there are the financial constraints at the level of the members and of the association. Our summits and flagship educational activity – the Academy – all take place in Europe. For the summits, this is related to the fact that we organise them just before major industry events (IMEX Europe and IBTM), leveraging the presence of our members at those events. However, a number of our members do not attend these events and/or do not have the budget to attend. This has resulted in the roll-out of a set of regional summits (Africa, APAC and South- America), having a positive impact on engagement levels but stretching our resources (both human and fi nancial). Nonetheless, all these hurdles can be addressed.

The big challenge global associations are now facing is not about practical matters – it is about values. And it is impacting associations on multiple levels. First of all, having a clear value framework in place is a “minimum service level” if an association wants to attract members belonging to any generation younger than millennials. For them, before joining any organisation – for work or for leisure – it is very important to know what the organisation stands for in terms of values. Secondly, having a value framework in place is one thing, defining the impact for the association and its members is another one. For example: if one of the values is DEI, does that mean that any member organisation needs to sign up to a charter ensuring that it has a DEI policy? Do you need to check this? Will there be sanctions – also if the member organisation was already a member long before the value framework was put in place? And thirdly: is it limited to the level of the member organisation or do we consider the country in which the member is located also as a criterium – which might lead to excluding quite a number of countries?

For AIPC and its members – and this is the case for many other associations – the rise of the importance of values is a complex question to address, as it is often beyond the control of our members. Let’s take the case of DEI. At member level, we find that a growing number of countries and/or states are questioning DEI and therefore associations decide not to take their events to those countries/states anymore, independently of the efforts done by our members in the country/state concerned to be fully compliant with the DEI principles. Does this mean we have to do the same at association level and expel members due to political circumstances?

AIPC has always been a non-political association, but in a world which – as Foreign Affairs puts it – is non-aligned, this is a position that needs to be redefined. To be frank, I do not have the answers… yet. But it is clear that it will be necessary to define a response, clarifying what our values are, what the impact is for the association and for its members.

About AIPC:

AIPC is a global network of more than 190 convention centres across 64 countries. Their goal is to promote the best in convention centre management by providing education, research and networking opportunities to management-level events professionals worldwide.

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