World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) World Conference, July 2011
The Conference was a great success and we asked organiser Sally McMath about the challenges and the legacy.
How did the conference come about?
Girlguiding UK (G.UK), as the UK's Member Organisation of the World Association of Girl Guiding chose to bid for this conference back in 2008. The conference had previously been to Dublin, Jordan, Philippines and was in South Africa the year that we bid for it - we were bidding against Malaysia.
A great deal of work went into the bid presentation including filming at Edinburgh Castle featuring a Brownie, a Rainbow, a Guide and a Ranger. We also organised a Piper to pipe the delegation onto the stage - it was a very 'girl - led' bid which won the hearts of the decision makers.
What was your set up and support during the organisation of the conference?
There was a planning team of 55, of which 53 were volunteers and two were full time employees from G.UK. I worked with a core planning team of eight.
The Convention Bureau funded a G.UK staff member to travel to South Africa to support the bid and to see how the conference was run - the information gained from this was invaluable and helped enormously in the planning of our event.
We held our first meeting March 2009 then held a full team 24 hour event in February 2011 and hit the ground running.
What were the key highlights of your conference?
For me it was leading a team that had a large youth component - 70% of the team were under 30 years old. The Guiding movement is all about empowering young people to achieve so this was the ideal opportunity for young women to gain new skills and engage in an experience that in some cases has shaped their future careers.
What were your biggest challenges?
Obtaining information from delegates was our biggest challenge. We had agreed to provide transport to delegates from their point of entry, mainly the airport, to the Edinburgh Conference Centre at Heriot-Watt University. Delegates did not appreciate the urgency in providing their arrival and departure details and accommodation requirements as we were also handling the accommodation bookings and needed to know how many rooms were required.
We arranged for a welcome desk at the airport on the Saturday and Sunday - this provided a very useful focal point for overseas delegates.
Did you consider at any point taking on a PCO?
Not really - the conference was all about giving young people experience and was an opportunity for guiders to develop further skills and could be seen almost as another activity that we add to our programme. The conference enabled us to give 53 volunteer leaders this exceptional international experience.
Were you able to raise any sponsorship for the conference?
No, it was more or less impossible. We did manage to get support from Victoria League Scotland to fund young delegates from overseas to attend the conference. Tunnocks Teacakes did provide us with wafers and teacakes for breaks!
Alex Salmond, the First Minister, welcomed delegates and opened the Conference at the Opening Ceremony - his mother was a Guider and so he understands the guiding movement.
The City of Edinburgh funded the reception at the Closing Dinner at Dynamic Earth and the Lord Provost was in attendance.
How did you select your venues for your Social Programme?
The Edinburgh International Climbing Arena (EICA) was our venue for the Opening Ceremony. The conference is an opportunity for the host country to present and the EICA was ideal as it could accommodate the 800 delegate numbers, offered modern open space, embraces the outdoors and welcomes young people. During our Centenary, the EICA had hosted the City of Edinburgh Guide Day so they understood the Guiding Movement and could not have been more helpful.
Dynamic Earth was a perfect fit for the Closing Dinner- it represents the evolution of the world and has a unique location beside the modern Scottish Parliament and the historical Palace of Holyroodhouse with an impressive view of Arthur's Seat - an extinct volcano!
We sold the bid on the Edinburgh Conference Centre as the venue for the main conference. It offered a destination where everyone would be together -accommodation and conference rooms. When on site the conference team were always around, very helpful and flexible.
Edinburgh is seen as a popular destination for conferences - what feedback did you get from your delegates?
The host country has traditionally provided local excursions and we offered five half day excursions and one full day. The half day excursions included Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile, the Georgian New Town, Royal Yacht Britannia and a full day Borders tour visited Rosslyn Chapel, Melrose and ended at Netherurd, Girlguiding Scotland centre near Biggar. 177 delegates took up the options - out of 342 members from 113 countries that is testament to the attraction of Edinburgh. Also 64 delegates extended their stay in Scotland by experiencing home hospitality after the conference.
How supportive was Marketing Edinburgh, Convention Bureau?
Very helpful, especially in the beginning. It saved us a lot of time in sourcing venues by directing us to the ones that could accommodate our requirements and setting up site visits. We were helped with video footage, images for our bid presentations which promoted Edinburgh and Scotland well. Later we were provided with leaflets and maps for the delegate bags.
What is the lasting legacy from hosting this event in Edinburgh?
The conference undoubtedly increased the awareness and the appreciation of Guiding. It provided a unique international experience that added to skill sets of the volunteers. Many have added this to their CV's and one volunteer is including the experience in her dissertation. The opportunity enabled volunteers to increase their confidence, their social skills and independence - they became team players.
Did your event generate a lot of press coverage for the movement?
We had a Joint Communications Plan with WAGGGS and Girlguiding UK. A service team of six produced a daily newsletter which was published on the website and they made use of Social Media with tweets and blogs about the conference as it happened. The team managed to get the Scottish Chief Commissioner and one of the young women in the Media Team on the Kaye Adams Show on BBC Scotland.
In hindsight, would you have done anything different?
No. We had a fantastic team, the structure we set up worked well. We might not have started so soon in our planning - we perhaps got too involved in the finer details too soon.