Stronger Together

30th November 2023

Sven Bossu, CEO of AIPC, the international association of convention centres, contends that strategic partnerships enable organizations, even if they’re small,  to ‘punch above their weight’.

We just had our first ever local AIPC Academy at the MTCC in Toronto, organized in close collaboration with the Convention Centers of Canada (CCoC). It is the result of a partnership which started in 2020, following a conversation with Barry Smith – executive director of the CCoC and a friend since many years. Since then, many other partnerships have been created between AIPC and various organizations, all with the same ambition: to become stronger together. 

For those who know Belgium just a bit, it might come as a surprise that its national motto is “stronger together”. Split into regions and sub-regions, each with their own government and parliament, it is sometimes hard to see how that actually works.

Fortunately, it is a lot easier to see the advantages of partnerships at the level of AIPC and to make them work. AIPC – though truly global – is a relatively small organization. As a result, partnerships are not a nice-to-have but a key success factor. This becomes especially clear when industry-wide challenges need to be addressed. For example: from the start of the pandemic, UFI, ICCA and AIPC joined forces in creating resources – such as the guides for dealing with the different phases – which we made available to the entire event industry, independently from membership to our respective associations.

The same was done when it comes to sustainability. Kathleen Warden from the Scottish Event Campus pushed the start button for UFI, ICCA and AIPC to work together on a climate pledge (under the supervision of the United Nations), which was presented at COP26 in Glasgow two years ago. Since then, the initiative has continued to grow and has been lifted at the level of the Joint Meeting Industry Council (JMIC), managed by the recently appointed director Alex Alles. The initiative – known as the Net Zero Carbon Event initiative – has over 600 supporters in 60 countries.

But partnerships can also result in smaller, though not less important, outcomes. The strategic alliance AIPC has with the Convention Centres of Canada is a nice example. AIPC has a number of educational flagship events, such as the Academy, which is a one-week intense management course touching upon all the different aspects of convention centre management. While well attended, its location in Belgium does create a threshold for certain venues to participate. So, Barry Smith and I decided to perform a test and co-created an Academy specifically for the Canadian convention centres, which took place in Toronto. The overall concept was kept, but tweaks were done on the format (slightly shorter) and also on the target audience (which was broadened to convention centres and service suppliers). The outcome was double: CCoC was able to offer a new educational service to its members and AIPC was able to increase engagement with the Canadian community of convention centres. As a result, we are now analyzing whether this model could be rolled out into other regions, such as Africa or Asia. 

Next to jointly addressing industry challenges or co-creating professional education with other associations, we also cherish close collaboration with AIPC’s Business Partners. These global companies serve the convention centre community in different capacities, from architecture to technology. Their insights and network allow us to continuously enhance our offering when it comes to education and research and very often they are actively involved in developing and implementing this offering.

These three types of partnerships allow AIPC to ‘punch above its weight’ and increase the value delivered not only to our community but also to the communities of the partners involved, making us stronger together.

AIPC represents a global network of over 190 leading centres in 64 countries with the active involvement of more than 1000 management-level professionals worldwide. 

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