Ottawa: A Pioneer in Innovative Immigration Integration 

November 7, 2018

Ottawa: A Pioneer in Innovative Immigration Integration 

Ottawa, a capital at the crossroads of government, education and advocacy, stands apart from all other international hubs for its integrated and holistic approach to immigration.

The Canadian metropolitan is continually ranked one of the best places to live worldwide and an archetype in innovation, economy, and transportation, making it not only a case study for progressive immigration but also for innovative city planning, job creation and top quality of life.

As Canada’s Capital, Ottawa puts conventions on a national stage close to decision-makers and international news media. If gaining their attention can help move an organization forward, Ottawa is the best place to get noticed.

Metropolis Project

It is no surprise that the International Metropolis Project – an international network of researches, policy makers, and community groups concentrated on improving migration and diversity – chose this capital hub for its 2019 event. The 2019 International Metropolis Conference will be held June 24 – 28, 2019 at the award-winning Shaw Centre with more than 1,500 delegates expected to join.

“Not only does Ottawa have several major universities, but all the federal departments and many NGOs also deal with immigration. We have two mayors who are very, very interested in migration issues and a plethora of organizations that look after immigration,” explains Enrico W. del Castello, the director of the 2019 International Metropolis Conference Project.

Del Castello himself could be considered an immigrant to Ottawa. Originally from Rome, del Castello has worked on immigration integration and reform in Ottawa for more than a decade — first as the Metropolis’ director of international outreach and then as the director of knowledge, mobilization and partnerships.

Not only does Ottawa’s status as a G7 capital provide an international stage to share these paramount conversations, its plethora of government departments, agencies and research institutions that del Castello refers to also provide a ready supply of subject matter experts to speak to and expand the discussion.

Hosting the International Metropolis Conference is a huge honor for Ottawa. We’re excited to be working with the Government of Canada to bring a large international conference here,” explains Mikayla Palladino, meetings researcher at Ottawa Tourism.

The conference will take place during Ottawa’s WOW Week, which is the welcome week for newcomers giving delegates from around the world will have an opportunity to see what Ottawa does for new arrivals. “It’s a really fantastic opportunity,” exclaims del Castello.This year’s conference will actually be a homecoming for the organization, which was constituted in Ottawa in 1996. It has since grown into the largest network in migration models in the world representing more than 70 countries. The conference itself is a platform for more than 130 concurrent workshops with up to 2,000 delegates.

The full version of this article written by Boardroom editor Samantha Shankman is available in the November issue of Boardroom. More information on Ottawa:

November 6, 2018

Rimini & Vicenza:
2 Cities, 1 Strong Link

Italy is no stranger to innovation and efficiency when it comes to dealing with international associations, may that be following new trends or covering specific needs when organising conferences, and Rimini (pictured above) and Vicenza (pictured below) are quite representative exemplars of that. Both situated in northern Italy, the two cities are immersed in history and architecture comprising of UNESCO World Heritage structures, hospitality and environmental awareness. Rimini is a dynamic and welcoming city at the edge of the Adriatic Sea and Vicenza is situated in a strategic position in the heart of Veneto, one of the most productive region.

In order to represent the two cities in the international scene, Rimini and Vicenza joined forces creating the Italian Exhibition Group (IEG) as a leading trade fair and conference-convention organizer for expo portfolio. Its Event & Conference Division provides associations with the necessary tools to hold successful conferences in the two cities.

Go with the flow

Keeping up-to-date means far more than just being technologically advanced or facilities-adequate. Both cities have embraced the idea of following new tourism tendencies in order to remain competitive in regards to the meetings industry. Industry Vision Travel&Hospitality, IEG’s survey that monitors consumer trends, is proposing a list of such trends that will influence the international market in the future. Implementing strategies based on this data helps Rimini and Vicenza to build further innovative strategies for their clients.

One of the five trends mentioned in the survey, ‘Wonderland’, wants the public to take a strong interest in the fiction created by immersive technologies, as the need to be surprised is increasing and the line between the real and the virtual is growing thinner. Virtual Reality is key in the second trend, ‘Playing the Game’, where adults are turning into children as they seek more playful and fun experiences.

With change, curiosity and inspiration playing a central role in a third trend called ‘Chance to Change’, delegates will be looking for services and activities that promote transformation and self-awareness, whereas the ‘In Private’ trend finds them opting for exclusivity whether that is in the form of reserving private space or creating small, ‘exclusive’ communities. Last, but not least, ‘Switch Off’ takes tourism to the next level where people are eager to be temporarily detached not only from technology but also from their everyday life obligations.

Venues Adopt the Trends

A clear sign that Rimini and Vicenza have deep understanding of these trends can be found in the two cities’ convention centres. Rimini Palacongressi, the country’s largest convention centre, is a uniquely designed and elegant structure full of light. It manages to combine state-of-the-art technology with smart and flexible architectural elements providing privacy and exclusivity as requested in the in private trend. 39 rooms, seating capacity for 9,000 and a main room that can host 4,700 guests: the Palacongressi is in line with what the consumers want: a total connectivity with the possibility to escape and switch off when needed.

On the other hand, the Vicenza Convention Centre (ViCC) provides the space for 9,000 persons and 15 meeting rooms, all of which are multifunctional and innovative, making Vicenza the ideal new business destination. In agreement with the city’s architecture and today’s needs, the diverse yet simple structure can cater for associations in every detail.

With the two cities joining forces, associations will have the opportunity to offer their delegates new ways to network and do business.

This article was written by Boardroom editor Vicky Koffa. For more information on Rimini and Vicenza: /





November 5, 2018

A Breath of Conference Air in Paris

What more can be said about Paris, the most visited city in the world? Apart from old favourites like the Eiffel Tower or Le Louvre, there are always countless things to do, and you can return over and over and every time you will be in awe of the abundance of history, culture, and of course art de vivre. Paris is renewing itself all the time, and this is true when it comes to meetings. After all, the economic dynamism of Paris and its surrounding region has always relied on research and innovation – this is actually one of the reasons why the International Congress of the European Respiratory Society took place there in September.

While Paris accounts for 20% of the total Ile-de-France population, Paris Region’s multi-faceted economy is unparalleled in Europe, packed with high-tech clusters – there are eight national and global competitiveness clusters – and research centres that rank among the global and European leaders. Paris Region’s sectors of excellence range from aeronautics, cosmetics, health and biotechnologies to logistics and financial services, just to name a few.

Major draw

The city is a major attraction as a destination for association meetings, and many attendees of course opt to tag some leisure time onto their trip. Because attendance is so high in Paris, it is a not-to-be-missed opportunity for associations to broadcast their work to a larger audience and attract more sponsorship.

The International Congress of the European Respiratory Society (ERS) took place in Paris Convention Centre (Viparis)in September 2018. Serving as a platform to share the latest knowledge in the fields of respiratory medicine and science, the event is continuing the standards of previous years and retaining the position as the world’s largest meeting for respiratory physicians, scientists and allied health professionals, with around 420 scientific and educational sessions and a wide range of activities.

Pippa Powell, Director of the European Lung Foundation (ELF), the public and patient arm of the European Respiratory Society, explains: “With more than 20,000 participants from over 130 countries, the ERS is the largest congress in its field and therefore has a restricted number of cities as potential destinations that have the congress centre and infrastructure to support the ERS International Congress. Recent developments in this area in Paris meant that the destination became a possibility for the ERS. We have a broad membership and we also move around European cities to honour our members and make the congress accessible. We have many members in France and the members of SPLF, who are joint members of our Society, feel at home in France.”

In Paris, all stakeholders work hand in hand in order to provide an unmatched level of service to planners and delegates alike who, then, can make the most of the city. In this context, public authorities, suppliers, hotels, the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau constantly unify their efforts to promote, market and sell the destination to event organisers.

Testing the lungs

“Paris is of course a globally renowned city with much to offer. It has fantastic travel links and a wealth of culture,” says Pippa Powell. “As a congress destination however there are many challenges – not least the sheer size and expense. The Paris Convention Bureau provided support to the ELF in the run up to the ERS Congress to try and improve communication with the city of Paris. ELF runs all of the public outreach and legacy activities for the ERS, including lung function testing for the inhabitants of Paris. The Convention Bureau acted as an intermediate between ELF and city officials and were able to help us gain support of the city for our activities, advertising space in the city and a wonderful location for our public event. They also ensured the presence of some key city officials at our activities.”

The full version of this article, written by Boardroom Chief Editor Rémi Dévé, is available in the November issue of Boardroom, out soon. For more information on Paris:


October 26, 2018

International Coach Federation – Growing With a Local Presence

Globalisation can bring your association many benefits, the first and most obvious being getting access to a much larger base of members and partipants for your events. If your services are proven added values, you can enjoy increased revenues while at the same time helping an exponentially greater number of people find the answers to the questions or challenges your association helps solve, this way improving your reputation. Thanks to our special partnership with the Global Association Hubs Partnership (GAHP), Boardroom talked to Magdalena N. Mook, CEO of the International Coach Federation (ICF), who explained all about the organisation’s growth strategy. 

Can you introduce ICF to our readers? What are its mission and vision? 

As a federation gathering professional coaches, ICF helps people and organizations truly reach their full potential so they can contribute to a thriving society. We are changing lives, day after day, person by person, organisation by organisation. Our mission is to advance the art and science of professional coaching. And our mission is to see coaching being integral part of the society, and – naturally – ICF coaches representing the highest quality in professional coaching. Established in 1995, ICF is now a proud home to over 32,000 professional coaches around the globe.

What are your growth objectives and how are your plans to achieve them?

We are very happy that we have members in over 140 countries right now! We started small and then big – but just in North America at the very beginning. The growth in all other areas of the world has been phenomenal. Our ultimate goal is to help everybody gain access to a professional coach or to somebody who can offer coaching skills. The sky is the limit, really: we keep adding close to a thousand of new members every month.

To sum it up, we do two things. Externally, we promote coaching to general public and also do some targeted outreach to organisations and institutions. Internally, we offer education, tools, practice, credentials and community to our professional coach members so they can be well prepared and very confident in offering their services to their clients. These two dimensions seem to be working well.

You’re an international organisation and your reach is global. Were there any obstacles as you expanded?

Becoming global does not happen overnight. Even when you have members in multiple countries, it does not mean your organisation is global. It took us several conscious steps to “get there”. First, we made sure that our board of directors reflects our global make-up. Then, we evaluated our products and services to ensure that they are equally accessible around the globe. And then, we reviewed our language policies so we could access our members in their native tongues – coaching is such a personal relationship, after all. We conduct lots of research about coaching marketplace around the world. It helps us to adjust our messages and services, depending on the market.

There is no question that we are part of a larger global community and every day associations are looking for ways to take advantage of this globalization to grow.Getting global means having a better visibility towards your community and enhancing your presence in geographical area that you might have never thought about before. This way, you can assert your position as a leader in your field.

As an international federation, you have a lot of chapters. What are the challenges and opportunities for growing internationally? What are the synergies between the chapters and the ‘mother organisation’?

Chapters are truly our blood-line in the organisation. For so many of our members, the chapter is the lens that they perceive ICF – that’s their reality. So chapters are crucially important to our system. They play a significant role in retaining members and recruiting them. We put a lot of effort to support initiatives to create a chapter, our staff is working with members on the ground to see this happen.

And then we invest heavily in equipping our leaders with tools to make them successful in running a chapter – that being an education about association management; financial management; governance or even how to best access everything we, as the headquarters, have to offer. Four years ago our Board made a brilliant decision to support an annual gathering of all of our chapter leaders. This amazing event, typically lasting three days, brings us together to remind all of us about the “why” of ICF and coaching and then to help improve the “how” of the execution.

This interview was conducted by Boardroom Chief Editor Rémi Dévé. The full version of this article is available in the November 2018 issue of Boardroom available here.

October 24, 2018

Knowledge in the Sunshine of Marseille

Known as France’s second biggest city, rich in 300 days of sun a year, Marseille stands proud as the country’s largest city on the Mediterranean coast and largest commercial port. Building on the legacy of its European Capital of Culture title and thanks to a whole-of-the city approach promoting Marseille’s excellence in key industry sectors, the number of conferences it attracts has steadily been growing– the recent World Conservation Congress win says a lot about the city’s presence on the international meetings scene.

Marseille’s growth is due not only to the presence of conference venues you would expect in big destinations but also to constant investment in tourism infrastructure. In Marseille, there are cultural edifices designed by internationally acclaimed architects, like the MuCEM, as well as facilities that improve the daily life of Marseille locals and benefit visitors. The Mayor of Marseille, Jean-Claude Gaudin, has long had an ambitious strategic vision: the development of the city must come from the development of its tourism industry.

Six key sectors

In terms of association conferences, that means identifying those events that are aligned with the city and its surrounding region’s key economic, academic and scientific fields. Marseille has a wealth of expertise in six fields, the first one being healthcare. The city is the first cancer research centre after Paris, while its Immunopole cluster is the first French cluster in immunology, spearheading R&D in infectiology and neurology as well – in this regard, the GIPTIS Institute is the largest research centre for rare disease.

It comes hardly as a surprise the European group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) chose Marseille for its 2017 Annual Congress, which attracted more than 5,000 participants. Professor Christian Chabannon, President of the Local Organising Committee, said that on this occasion Marseille demonstrated that it can combine scientific and medical excellence with friendliness and a high sense of hospitality. “But beyond the quantitative success of the congress, the attractiveness of the city itself and the quality of the scientific programme were clearly a draw, as evidenced by the messages circulating on social networks. I believe all stakeholders benefitted from the coming of the event to the city. Congresses such as the EBMT one clearly position Marseille as a major business tourism destination in Europe,” he added.

Marseille is a major player in the digital and creative industries. Accreditated ‘French Tech’ – a label awarded to French cities recognised for theirstartup ecosystem– it boasts a fast-growing startup network and 8,300 businesses are active in what has become a leading digital territory. Shipping, Maritime and Logistics, on another hand, make up for no less than 61 000 jobs, and Marseille, home to CMA CGM, the third world biggest ship owners, is the first French centre for heavy ship and yacht repair. The city’s excellence in aerospace and mechanical research has also attracted the attention of associations –the World Congress of Space Operations recently took place at the Palais du Pharo.

The full version of this article, written by Boardroom Chief Editor Rémi Dévé, is available in the November issue of Boardroom. For more information on Marseille: /


October 22, 2018

The Drive of Excellence of Nice

An active modern capital that has preserved its art of living over the centuries, Nice is the 5th largest city in France. Nested between the sea and the mountains around Baie des Anges, it cultivates its modernity and dynamism with a policy of constantly improved services when it comes to hosting associations.

With a beautiful backdrop that has proved a great inspiration for Matisse, Picasso and Chagall, Nice has been enjoying a genuine economic and architectural revolution in recent years. Boasting cutting-edge infrastructure (with Nice Acropolis Congress & Exhibition Center leading the way right in the city centre), from its international airport to its 200 hotels and 10,000 rooms, and the ability to facilitate the planning of events like Cardiostim (5,200 delegates) or the 2018 European Congress of Psychiatry (3,000 delegates), it is the sixth most popular European destination for meetings organisers according to the 2015 American Express’s Global Meetings Forecast.

After all, Nice is a knowledge hub and has been attracting the attention of associations for this reason. With internationally recognised healthcare facilities including 9 hospitals, 26 clinics, seven specialist centres, an ICT expertise in the service of e-health, it’s aleading centre of scientific and medical research, spearheaded by Sophia-Antipolis Technology Park. The University Hospital of Nice is also very active in research and innovation, thanks to its involvement in IT and communication technology initiatives for the health sector and to ambitious projects such as Pasteur 2, the largest hospital construction project in France, opened in 2015.

Smart City

Ranked the 13th smartest city in the world in the 2017 Juniper Research Survey, Nice is also dedicated to sustainability, finding its energy in numerous projects such as the Smart City Innovation Center. There, the so-called Eco Valley, one of the largest Operations of National Interest in France devoted to sustainable development, extends over about 10,000 hectares. Focusing on the preservation of natural heritage, it will become a major employment area with state-of-the-art innovations, and will impact the life of its inhabitants socially as well as economically by improving the way they live.

The ultimate aim is to make Nice the ‘Green City of the Mediterranean’, an example of an environmentally friendly region on a European scale. In this regard, Eco-Valley, located west of the city on the Var plain, will be home to enterprises active in the sustainability field and a research cluster dedicated to ecological development. A 65,000 sqm exhibition and convention centre and big brands acquiring environment-friendly infrastructures will also join along with housing facilities to make it a true community.

Last but not least The Metropolis Nice Côte d’Azur supports six of the ten regional competitiveness clusters: Secured Communicating Solutions, PASS (for perfumes, aromas, scents, and flavours), Eurobiomed, dedicated to health and bio-engineering, Capénergie, a cluster focusing on energy generation with no greenhouse effects, SAFE, all about security and aerospace, and Mer PACA, devoted to marine resources.


October 19, 2018

Tasty Health in Lyon

The second largest urban area in France and second largest contributor to the French economy, Lyon is nestled into the country’s southeast. This capital of the Rhône-Alpes region is a hard-working city, with a rich architectural heritage than spans 2,000 years. Here lies the capital of French gastronomy, with the largest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in France. Lyon is also a leader in the life science field, and is for this reason attracting a lot of association events recognising the city and its Metropole’s expertise.

Lyon has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998, thanks to a feast of beautiful renaissance architecture. Nicknamed the ‘City of Light’ – every evening, more than 100 sites across the city light up – Lyon has a forward-thinking spirit that makes it both very French and very international.

The largest health cluster in France, Lyon and its surrounding region provide an internationally recognised scientific, technical and university environment to scientists, researchers and students alike. Lyonbiopôle, for instance, was accredited as a competitiveness cluster by the government in 2005. Its aim? To carry out research in infectious human and animal diseases on a global scale. It has, in this regard, become a world-centre of excellence in diagnostics and vaccines – one billion doses are produced there every year, making it one of the top vaccine production centres in the world.

Located at the south entrance to the city, the Lyon-Gerland Biodistrict, where Lyonbiopôle is located, is attracting an increasing number of innovative businesses, people and services. With its heart entirely dedicated to health and biotechnologies, it brings together world leaders like Sanofi and Genzyme, smaller companies like Aguettant and Fab’entech, and higher learning and research institutes such as the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). As a whole, the district provides more than 5,000 jobs and accommodates 2,750 academicians and technicians from the public and private sectors.

But if Lyon has become a can’t-miss destination, it has also a lot to do with its status as the capital of gastronomy which hosts – and rightly so – SIRHA, the world’s biggest hospitality and food service event, every year.

As France’s second city for conferences (20th in Europe), Lyon offers a unique combination of business and culinary pleasure that makes congress participants enjoy a truly French experience. The epitome of this? The Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie, which will open late summer 2019 and be located in the Grand Hôtel-Dieu, a former hospital part of Lyon’s architectural wealth (pictured).

Created in the wake of UNESCO’s inclusion of the ‘gastronomic meal of the French’ on the list of intangible cultural heritage, La Cité will examine how gastronomy plays an integral part in the world today and will in the future, with food and health as the guiding thread. The site will host exhibitions, cultural events, venues for discovery and demonstrations, an Intercontinental Hotel, restaurants and shops, conveying a ‘modern vision of gastronomy’… as well as a conference centre.






October 15, 2018

Creativity & Brainpower in Nancy

If Nancy might not be the first name that comes to mind when considering a meeting in France, the city that some consider as the most Italian town of eastern France has a few assets up its sleeve. Known as the cradle of Art Nouveau, classified by UNESCO for its 18th century centre, it’s also a destination that gets a lot of attention thanks to its all-round sense of innovation and intelligence.

The capital of the Duchy of Lorraine, Nancy is known the world over for its famous Place Stanislas, one of the most beautiful royal squares in Europe, with its famous gilded wrought-iron gates. But beyond the old town, beyond its many museums, entertainment venues, hip bars and boutique restaurants, Nancy quietly cultivates a certain art de vivre that is best explored on foot given its human size. At times, its 45,000 students also make the city quite lively – the University of Lorraine is ranked in the Top 300 World Universities Shanghai ranking. Additionally, Nancy Regional University Hospital boasts innovating structures such as the Virtual Hospital, which federates and promotes initiatives in terms of e-pedagogy and simulated learning.

First economic hub of Lorraine

In fact, Nancy is synonymous with creativity and brainpower. The presence of large national research institutions, like CNRS, INSERM or INRA just to name a few, and technology companies on the territory are testament to the city and region’s dynamism. As the first economic hub of Lorraine, Nancy has four high-yield industries:  life sciences and health, banking and finance, information technology and the digital economy, and eco-construction.

In this context, three competitive clusters are internationally recognized: established in 2015, Fibre is dedicated to eco-materials for the construction industry; Hydreos deals with issues related to access to drinking water, water savings and water conservation by supporting collaborative research projects, and studies the quality of inland waters and their impact on the health of populations and ecosystems; Materalia is all about innovative materials and processing techniques.

All of this has long fuelled the need for holding conferences and meetings of all sizes and formats. Recent successes include the 2017 Hopipharm, the French-speaking congress for hospital pharmacy, attended by 1,500 delegates, or the 8th International Conference on Innovations in the Thin Film Processing and Characterzation that took place at the ARTEM campus. In the near future, Nancy will also host Euro-Pharmat and the 21st International Conference on Knowledge Engineering and Knowledge Management (EKAW 2018).

In terms of infrastructure, Nancy has nothing to blush about when compared its competitors. From the intimate premises of the Museum of Fine Arts to the 20,000 sqm of the Prouvé Convention Center, for up to 2,400 people, right in the heart of the city, or the 30,000 sqm at Nancy Exhibition Centre (maximum capacity: 6,000), the city might well be your next event destination – both its business and regional airports are connected to the major European capitals.

Contact /

October 12, 2018

Taichung, Taiwan, in the Spotlight

One of the Taiwan’s bright examples when it comes to meetings industry development is Taichung, the island’s second-largest city. Located in the west coast, Taichung – literally meaning centre of Taiwan – enjoys easy access having its own international airport while it is a two-hour drive from the capital Taipei and only one hour via Taiwan High Speed Rail (THSR).

Taichung City joined ICCA in 2016, and both meeting hardware and software are ready for international events. The traditional and cultural scene,represented proudly by the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, is part of the reason why the city is an up-and-coming conference destination. Large-scale events such as the 2017 annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC) have already been successfully organised in the region.

Taichung also offers a number of meetings facilities, starting from the Greater Taichung International Expo Centre, with an exhibition area of 12,377 sqm, and the World Trade Centre Taichung, with a 700-person capacity. The Shuinan International and Exhibition Centre, accommodating up to 4,600 delegates, is expected to start operations in 2021.

The sound of blooming

This year, the annual World Flora Exposition (pictured) is set to take place in Taichung from November until April of next year and will transform the city into a flower zone where visitors are invited to reconnect with nature and listen to the sound of blooming.Themed ‘Discover GNP: Rediscover Green, Nature and People’, the exposition is promoting the redefinition of Gross National Product (GNP) to the harmonious development of green production, ecosystem and humanity. The hope is that technological advancements can become more sustainable, giving nature a more central role in our lives.

The concept of ‘No Destruction, Just Optimization’ is depicted in the three locations of the exposition, according to Kun-Ming, Kuo, CEO of 2018 Taichung World Flora Expo.The main exhibition venue of “Waipu Expo Site” showcases smart agriculture technology and products, as part of Taichung’s ‘New Five Agricultural Policy’, for the benefit of both the people and the environment, whereas the “Fengyuan Huluduan Park Area” portrays the relationship between water and humanity.

After the Expo is finished, all three locations will be used as environmentally-friendly places, such as an international agricultural and creative park, a horse-riding arena and even a pastry museum.

The flower city also recently won the 2018 World Festival & Event City Award, granted by the International Festivals & Events Association, acknowledging the city’s year-round representative events such as its famous flower carpet festival. And, of course, the infrastructure of the city follows this festive way. Taichung is incorporating design into city management and people’s everyday lives in an attempt to be designated the 2022 World Design Capital.

The road leading up to the World Flora Exposition and the notions it is attempting to promote have triggered an international interest towards Taiwan. The city is no longer seen as a solely industrial area, where development takes the lead, but also as an environmentally conscious and creative region.

This article was written by Vicky Koffa, Boardroom digital editor ( More information on Taiwan as a conference destination: / Article powered by Bureau of Foreign Trade, MOEA / Taiwan External Trade Development Council / Ad. by Bureau of Foreign Trade, MOEA




October 8, 2018

The Secretary General’s Voice
– How to Stay Humble

A member of Boardroom Advisory board, Mohamed Mezghani has been appointed Secretary General of the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) in January. Boardroom has asked him to contribute a monthly column in which he explains all about the challenges of holding such a position. This is Mohamed’s eighth contribution, in which he reflects on how to stay humble

Over the last weeks I had the opportunity to visit many of our members and establish formal cooperation agreements with sister associations. It is so exciting and encouraging to see how much these members value their belonging to UITP. I am received with the honours and feel the importance they see in these visits and the attention we bring to them. The same goes for partner associations: they are so eagerly willing to join forces with us, which is obviously reciprocal. It also indicates high expectations that we’ll have to answer to. This had made me reflect on the reasons of such treatment and the desire to get close to us.

First, I think our diversity and global dimension which make us a credible representative of our industry has everything to do with it. We represent all stakeholders in all continents. How many trade associations represent the whole eco-system with a multiplicity of member profiles who may sometimes have opposite interests and must go beyond their corporatist positions? How many of them have offices spread all over the world? Though we are in the era of digitalisation and online communication, geographical proximity is still an asset. In many regions, members want easy access to our team, to call us up instead of emailing us, so we can meet them when needed and develop informal relationships with them…

Face-to-face meetings are the only way to gain trust in many situations and this is made possible by a large network of offices and by visiting members as often as possible. Members also see an acknowledgement of their achievements in these visits, and a strong support by a global organisation. The challenge is to express this support while avoiding interference in local affairs, in particular when the political dimension is so important especially in public transport.

Then there is the credibility we inspire by the quality of our services, the relevance of our policy positions, and the continuous focus on monitoring trends and the integration of them into our work programme. Being rooted in the current reality of the sector and, at the same time, a forward-looking organisation is a strong objective that drives our work. We are not a research institute nor a prospective consultancy but we must answer the short-term business concerns of the members while increasing their awareness on the longer term trends impacting the sector.

It’s also about caring about members whatever their request and their expectation. It’s about adopting a service-minded approach in our daily relationship with them. We shouldn’t forget that belonging to an association is not their core activity, and they don’t usually have time to understand all our services and benefits. They expect us to guide them and help them navigate through our service packages, to anticipate their needs, to advise them, to make their involvement easy and smooth. We have our own jargon and our own ways of organising work within the secretariat, we shouldn’t bother them with those but speak their language and look at our services from their perspective. And we do that for all members regardless of their annual subscription. At UITP we are proud to have a ‘one member, one vote’ policy.

Being diverse, credible, and equitable and remaining available for our members strengthen the association and make it more relevant. But whatever the honours we are received with, we shouldn’t forget that the association is first and foremost made up from our members, and operates thanks to them. Our role is a facilitator. So let’s stay humble.

Picture: Alinur Aktas, Mayor of the City of Bursa and Councilor of Marmara Municipalities Union (Turkey) and Mohamed Mezghani signing a collaboration agreement to launch a UITP Training Centre in Istanbul