The Geneva International Association Forum was launched by the ASSOCIATIONWORLD Foundation, in collaboration with the Geneva Convention Bureau and Congrex Switzerland, earlier this year. Slated to take place June 22-23, 2020, the event will bring together representatives of international and European associations, non-profits, federations, professional societies, NGOs and universities based in Geneva. The goal for GIAF: establish an international leading platform for knowledge sharing in one of the world’s flagship host destinations for associations.
“Let’s be honest— by the time this article gets to be read, the Forum could be postponed. So, why are we thinking at this very minute that GIAF could still take place as a face-to-face meeting?” asks Kai Troll, president of the ASSOCIATIONWORLD Foundation.
The ASSOCIATIONWORLD Foundation and partners have been carefully monitoring developments around the world, government decisions across Europe, and, specifically, the regulations imposed by the Swiss government on a regular basis. They are also discussing new developments at weekly calls with stakeholders to “ensure that we are all aligned in regard to proper decision-making,” Troll explains. “All of us involved in GIAF want to see even the tiniest light at the end of the tunnel. We remain committed more than ever to putting GIAF on the map in times of crisis, and, with a bit of luck, the Swiss government will have lifted bans by early June, and GIAF could be one of the first—if not the first—face-to-face association gathering. Since Covid-19, GIAF becomes even more relevant.”
Creating an Association Community
According to Troll, the goal is, in the long run, to establish an association community where a lot of European and international associations are based – something that has been missing until now, one finds. The organizers foresee attendance will mostly come from Geneva and Switzerland anyway – hence the decision to keep GIAF in the running, since most participants won’t have to fly in.
Known globally as the UN’s European headquarters and the head office of the WHO, Geneva attracts thousands of people each year for conferences, conventions and meetings. The international city is also considered a prime location for global companies: over 140 multinational companies are established in and around the city. Geneva is also home to 36 international organizations (IOs), over 300 non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and 200 diplomatic missions.
“Geneva is an institutional and scientific hub like no other in the world, and a central location for international diplomacy, scientific research and innovation, and professional expertise gathering,” says Didier Allaz, former director of Geneva Convention Bureau. “The city’s unique ecosystem of public, private, non-profit and academic players provides a fertile ground for fostering an impactful dialogue and expertise sharing. Building more of a community amongst our Geneva-based international and European associations and non-profit organizations and supporting them to achieve their mission is the essence of the Geneva Convention Bureau’s mission. And with GIAF, we want to open this community to associations that are based in Switzerland, Europe and beyond.”
The Forum is currently being designed as a platform for peer-to-peer exchange, for associations, by associations. GIAF wants to offer high-quality information and educational opportunities for all kinds of organizations, no matter where they are based, and no matter the size. Whether it’s offline or online, face-to-face or rather visual, association professionals will be able to share their professional knowledge and learn from various case studies.
“The world is changing fast, and most destinations and communities are facing challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Anna Bueno, association meetings manager at Barcelona Convention Bureau, GIAF’s European destination partner. “As a destination fully committed to the wellness of international and European associations, who have tremendous positive impact on the world we live in, we aim for close cooperation with GIAF’s stakeholders. Now, more than ever, we are ready to offer a high-quality, face-to-face program to help associations to learn, engage and share expertise.”
Designing joint initiatives to tackle common challenges and achieve better results is the essence of GIAF. “We want to bring people together again, whether now or later,” says Troll. “Establishing cross-industry collaboration and partnerships between a wide range of stakeholders will be key for associations to be more impactful, become more sustainable and resilient. This is especially true during these unprecedented circumstances.”