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Associations face future head-on at Brussels summit

The European Association Summit (EAS), in Brussels, was designed to focus the 160 delegates’ attention on new trends in the association sector.

It did this and more, whetting the creative juices of the participants as they faced what the future has in store for associations and their events and how they can help shape it.

Held, Feb 28-March 1, it was the seventh edition of the EAS which is held annually in Brussels because, home to over 2,000 international associations, it’s dubbed the ‘world capital of international associations’.

Recognising this special status, visit.brussels had the initiative to form the Association Bureau to support these associations and offer information and guidance to those wishing to set up their headquarters in the city.

Manager Jan Lichota and his team organise the Summit in partnership with the European Society of Association Executives (ESAE), the Federation of European & International Associations based in Belgium (FAIB) and the Union of International Associations (UIA), all based in Brussels, of course.

Delegates attend year after year because they enjoy meeting peers in the same business and networking with them. Many said that in their offices they feel isolated and as though they’re the only ones facing difficult challenges. The EAS reassures them they are not.

This year’s theme, ‘Share and co-create’, was spot-on as they discussed how changes are occurring very rapidly, influenced by a myriad of factors affecting both the management of their associations and their events. Among them, new technologies, digitalisation, the attitudes and ambitions of millennials, social media, environmental issues, cultural diversity, crisis management, cyber security and the need for increased security measures. In some 20 interactive sessions, speakers described how they are tackling these issues and participants shared their experiences and came up with creative new ideas and solutions.

Sustainability was a recurring topic throughout the programme and the organisers deliberately focused on making the Summit eco-friendly. The venue, Square Convention Centre, is hoping to achieve ISO 20121 event sustainability management certification by this summer, Martin’s Hotel EU, where participants from outside Brussels stayed, holds a Green Key for progressive environmental management, participants flying or driving to Brussels were invited to offset their carbon footprints, hybrid eco buses were used for transfers, walking tours to the venue for the evening networking event in the Ateliers des Tanneurs were offered and food waste was avoided as much as possible.

Nik Claesen, chairman of EAS 2019, said, “Thanks to co-creation, our associations are becoming important and relevant. We have lots to share with the world. The EAS is a fantastic forum in which to exchange ideas and make new contacts.”