Case study: welcome bags out, positive impact in

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Brighton Conference Anita, Emma, Lucinda and Howard. Photo Credit: James Ennis Photography. Image supplied.

Back in 2019, an event manager from PraxisAuril, an international association for knowledge exchange practitioners, wandered through The Meetings Show trade show, in its old home of London Olympia.

She chatted to Lucinda on the VisitBrighton stand about potentially holding their annual conference in Brighton. 

After a heady mix of familiarisation trips, a pandemic, multiple date changes, various site visits, meetings, phone calls, emails and sheer determination – the three-day event was confirmed at the Brighton Centre for June 2022.

Covid meant that PraxisAuril’s first in-person event for years would be in 2022, which also happened to be its 20th anniversary. When the event was confirmed, Maxine Ficarra, CEO of PraxisAuril said: “We were delighted to finally be bringing our PraxisAuril conference to Brighton. The pent-up demand from our knowledge exchange network - the professionals who help ensure university research results benefit society, think vaccines - for an in-person event meant that this was our biggest conference ever. We brought more than 450 delegates to the city-by-the-sea this year.”

That meant big celebrations and there was a lot to be happy about. But ‘throw away’ those visions of balloon-drops, confetti, and party blowers – we’re talking thoughtful, sustainable celebrations.

The conference took place at the Brighton Centre. The venue is accredited for the Soil Association’s ‘Food for life served here’ bronze award and is dedicated to constantly improving its sustainability credentials. These actions include:

  • Beef is Banned and ‘Meat-free Mondays’ introduced
  • Water in cans – not plastic. Delegates are encouraged to bring their own bottles and use the water fountains throughout the venue
  • Offering Bento Boxes to reduce waste
  • LED lighting and renewable energy
  • Provide clients with a sustainable supplier list
  • Staff organise beach cleans with the VisitBrighton team twice a year

Brighton Centre business and sales manager, Emma Thurlow said: “As a council-owned venue, I believe that community and sustainability should be at the heart of everything we do at The Brighton Centre. Having spent seven years with VisitBrighton prior to this role, I am fully aware of the huge multiplier effects that large conferences like PraxisAuril have on our economy and, in turn, the community.

“I am also very conscious that we are not just playing lip service to an idea of sustainability or greenwashing and that it simply becomes part of our business culture.”

 

Associate Director of the Knowledge Exchange at the University of Brighton and conference committee chair, Dr Shona Campbell, added: “Brighton, an acknowledged hub of the knowledge economy, with its vibrant SME community, was an ideal setting for PraxisAuril to bring together its membership of Knowledge Exchange professionals. I was delighted to chair the conference on behalf of the University of Brighton, and for colleagues to share some of the innovative ways the University shares knowledge with businesses and community groups in our region.”

PraxisAuril wanted to ensure the conference left a legacy in Brighton, so instead of spending money on welcome bags, the organisers redirected the money to social and charitable causes that would positively impact Brighton

PraxisAuril donated to Brighton & Hove Food Partnership - a non-profit organisation helping people learn to cook, eat a healthy diet, grow their own food and waste less food. The organisation also teaches cookery skills to people living with disabilities and those on low incomes.

Brighton & Hove Food Partnership senior manager, Jess Crocker, said: “The funding helps towards improvements ike higher raised beds or wheelchair matting to improve accessibility for our users.”

Brighton & Hove City Council head of tourism and venues, Howard Barden, added: “VisitBrighton Convention Bureau plays a vital role by supporting associations in bringing their conferences to the city. It is not just the venue finding for the conference and social events, or the accommodation, or even providing images & city maps. It is all about connecting people and businesses–demonstrated here by the introduction to Brighton & Hove Food Partnership which benefits us, the entire city.”

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