This weekend I again found myself wrting in to the media, and with little prospect of my thoughts being covered it is nice to be able to at least commit my thought to print, albeit online, via my trusty blog.
It was prompted by the following question/opinion in a waste industry magazine:
Every day in the news there are more and more stories about the impact global of climate change. As businesses we are constantly reminded that we need to embrace new environmental legislation - but the information is confusing and difficult to access - even for those of us in the waste management and recycling industry!
Why isn't the UK government taking the lead and offering conferences and events free of charge to encourage businesses to act now on measures that can help? Because - if we do manage to retard climate change it will be the best investment in the future that the government has made in a long time!
To which I replied:
"Although I could not agree with [this] more, and to be fair there are some worthy freebies about, the answer I fear may be that the money such support would require is unlikely to appear, possibly by not easily being put against a ticked tonnage box. And as a lot of other chaps seem to have it all in hand, why get in the way?
It would be great if such backing came to pass. Recently I was flattered to be approached, I thought, to be a speaker at a major event in an area we are involved in. But somehow it moved pretty quickly to me not speaking so much as attending... to the tune of a grand. Most of which was the fee. Even our editorial function was deemed insufficient for us to attend as a medium and share it with our public... unless we paid.
I'll spare the time. I'll sleep on a mate's floor. I'll try and get an advance super-saver train ticket. But my little organisation just can't afford several hundred quid for such an affair, no matter how much we'd benefit from being there, and others may possibly also gain by our opinions being shared.
Maybe that's why a lot of these events end up being dominated by the views and actions of major corporates, government departments, councils and all others who can afford to 'invest' their shareholders' and tax/ratepayers' money to keep meeting only with those who can afford to interact with or lobby them. And such financially-secured exclusivity does keep things in the peer group comfort zone.
Being even more fair, there is no doubt these things do cost a lot to put on (but one imagines the number of them springing up also indicate that they are a nice little earner, and it would be interesting to see just how cheap they could be brought if it was all at cost - which is a lot different to not-for-profit), and the question still remains as to who should foot the bill. And if it is subsidised such that it is free, then with the consequent upsurge in those now able to attend, who conducts the vetting process? There will be space limits, so who gets to come? Money at least avoids any hint of agenda bias in the selection process. So it does get argued that a charge ensures only those most committed attend, but that has certain... flaws in the world of the jolly.
I would have suggested sponsorship as a route, but many conferences do seem to have a fair amount already, and having also been 'invited' to have a stand in reception, those shell scheme/goody bag packages do add up to a lot. Which makes you wonder just how much the cost of the hall, A/V, coffee and speakers' expenses (and a lot don't get any) is not actually covered, and how affordable these things could be made to encourage/allow attendance by those who care enough to spare the time, but may not have the cash.
I'm dreaming up a way to do this. And here's a draft (daft?) notion: RE:idol!
All interested potential attendees could submit a paragraph with their application about who they are, what they'd like to learn, who they'd like to meet, why, and... most importantly, what they feel they could contribute.
Then once we've all signed up to attend, we get to tick those we think would be worth listening to and/or meeting. Those with the most ticks get invited to speak. Or better yet moderate at topic tables (I usually find sitting and listening to a speech, or worse pitch, the least useful, most time consuming part of such events). Networking and idea-sharing is where the real value of getting together lies, so maximise this aspect. The rest of the list get to come, with a cut-off based on the hall space limit.
How democratic would that be? The people coming decide who they'd like most to listen to and interact with. And maybe some poor guy with two bob to their name is the one deemed most worth meeting, and the bankrolled lobbyist or consultant deemed not worth it. Less movers and shakers and more doers vs. talkers.
Maybe then our elected representatives would see merit in funding the hopefully modest costs of staging?
I'm holding my breath."
You know, having slept on it that's not such a daft idea at all. In fact it would be a good model for conferences for all industries (and public service departments) that seem to place protective layers between themselves and the those, including the genral public, who do deserve access to and a voice in the discussions that get held supposedly in our interest.
Maybe I'll have a stab! It's not like I have got much on at the moment.