Perspectives: You can make a difference too

Source: TTG Asia, posted 9 January 2019

Businesses and associations are increasingly incorporating a corporate social responsibility (CSR) element in their meetings and events programmes.

One of my favourite examples is by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), which has for years substituted speakers’ gifts at its annual congress and General Assembly with a financial donation to a charitable organisation selected by the Local Host Committee.

At its last two congresses in Prague and Dubai, a Fun Walk N Run was also organised for delegates who wanted to explore the city in a quick and fun way while taking the opportunity to offer a small financial donation to a local NGO. It was a great way to connect with other like-minded ICCA delegates and to start the day on an energetic note.

It is amazing how fast friendships can form this way.

Simultaneously, a grassroots project, ICCA Members Gift of Love (ICCA Members GOL), encourages delegates to bring a small gift with them to the congress. Since 2013, ICCA delegates have contributed wheelchairs, books, puzzles, children’s shoes, toys and spectacle frames to various NGOs around the world.

Past ICCA Members GOL partners include Local Host Committees and their selected charities – the Shanghai International Communication Center for The Disabled, China (2013); Losev Foundation for Children with Leukemia, Turkey (2014); Haciendo Camino, Argentina (2015); Malaysian Librarians Association Sarawak Chapter, Malaysia (2016); SOS Children’s Village, Czech Republic (2017); and Noor Dubai Foundation, the UAE (2018).

While everyone enjoys receiving gifts, even more people enjoy giving. I have seen how enthusiastically and carefully my fellow ICCA delegates have selected their gifts. Co-workers, mothers and neighbours have been recruited to expand the gift collection network as much as last-minute purchases at airports; with some even lovingly packed with a gift card and the warmest wishes.

Recently I participated in MICECON 2018, organised by the Tourism Promotions Board Philippines (TPB) in the city of Bacolod. Participants at this biennial national conference on business events – the sixth edition in 2018 – were encouraged to bring with them a small essential item in their suitcase. It could be a towel, blanket, children’s book or notebook with pen. These items were for the Holy Infant Nursery Foundation and the Bacolod Girls’ Home Foundation.

In addition, TPB worked with city officials – mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia and his team – and two food manufacturers which produce Bacolod’s famous delicacy, piaya (an unleavened flatbread). Tapping into the Philippines’ pasalubong culture or the practice of bringing home a food gift, the two food manufacturers Merczi and BongBong’s offered a percentage of their sales to the above-mentioned charities when any MICECON delegate produced his/her badge during purchase.

This was done not only at the factory outlets which were part of the pre-conference tour, but also at selected outlets around the city.

I was struck by the simple ingenuity of the organiser and its partners, and had no doubt that the two charities enjoyed a small boost in funding with the help of MICECON delegates who brought back their pasalubong to their families and work colleagues.

We do not need to try to save the whole world. If our conscious actions as an events organiser or a delegate can make a difference to just one individual, this is as good a start as any.

As part of the business events industry, we are a privileged community. Our work includes travel to exotic locations for learning, networking and business or partnership opportunities, and where the host communities welcome us so warmly and with such great hospitality. Doing good and giving back to the locals are just small ways of saying thank you and paying it forward.

We can make a difference.


Jane Vong Holmes is senior manager – Asia of GainingEdge, a consultancy specialising in the business events industry. She has co-authored two UNWTO publications on the Asian meetings industry and various destination market studies. She is an ardent advocate for giving back to communities through conventions and events. Most recently, she recently released a joint-report on universal accessibility in the meetings industry.