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Lasting impressions: Understanding legacy

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This article was originally featured in the August edition of Association Meetings International (AMI) Magazine. It has been republished here with the author's full permission.

International associations are abuzz with talk of legacy. But, as James Lancaster discovers, it means different things to different people…

When we talk about the legacy of a meeting what do we mean, exactly?

Applied to major sporting events like the Olympics, the word is often used as a bargaining chip, something to help justify the enormous public expense and disruption they involve.

Although major-event legacy programmes can be expensive to administer, their job is to ensure the destination gets something – or is seen to get something - when the show leaves town.

These programmes are often extracurricular. Lip-service might be given to sport’s capacity to ‘inspire,’ but inspiration is hard to measure. Easier to set up an adult literacy programme, or a public health initiative: something you can put in a PDF and share with your stakeholders.

Away from major sporting events – and the glare of the world’s media – legacy has become a buzzword in the international association sector, with various different approaches emerging.

The meeting suppliers' association ICCA and destination marketing alliance BestCities run the Incredible Impacts Programme* to reward, with a $7,500 grant, associations who demonstrate the societal benefits of their meetings – through awareness-raising, outreach, or knowledge transfer etc.

Here legacy can refer to a specific programme attached to a meeting or the lasting benefits of the meeting itself. Or it might even refer to a longer campaign or initiative lasting months or even years.

Legacy does not have to be an adjunct to a meeting. In fact, it doesn’t have to be tied to a meeting at all.  Last year’s grant winners included the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis for its World Thrombosis Day - a year-long international awareness-raising project, held every year on October 13 (the birthday of Rudolf Virchow, pioneer in the pathophysiology of thrombosis).

Legacy does not have to have its own subcommittee. It might simply flow naturally from a meeting. This might not be a photogenic legacy, or something with immediate and obvious returns, but it will be there in the shape of white papers and new R&D, for example, academic or commercial collaborations, or just the chance for local institutions to raise their international profile.


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