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December 17, 2008

Conferences are not for local people

Conferences, seminars, dinners etc aimed at the Third Sector are too expensive and too fond of jargon. Events should be more attuned to the needs of the real community sector – thousands of small local groups who simply don’t have that kind of money or use that kind of language. Here’s a letter from an LPL supporter

Judy Wilkinson

Comment on growth of Conferences as big business

I feel that there is a gap opening up between the professionals who can afford to go to the increasing number of expensive seminars and conferences that are now on offer like and community groups or small organisations like mine who simply cannot afford these fees.

Can LPL help local organisations have more accessible conferences?. I realise that everyone needs to generate income so probably have to charge for their conferences but on the other hand the local community groups and planners, community workers etc need a common ground to meet and engage views. It may be this can be done through bursaries and other support mechanisms.

A possible community model is our Annual Scottish Allotments Conference in Dunblane each year. This is completely free with a request for a £5 donation for lunch. Admittedly the Hall (with three break-out spaces) is a community resource and very inexpensive. We send out all information via email apart from to those who request snail mail. We only offer expenses to our speakers if they come from outwith Scotland – Richard Wiltshire the English allotments guru came last year and we paid for his travel but put him up in a committee members house. We usually have two MSPs (chairing morning and afternoon sessions), and really good speakers including government officers, local authority officers, SNH and environmental organisations representatives all of whom give their time and input as part of their responsibility to the community. Our members run the rest of the proceedings with a session to update us on latest developments across Scotland and a variety of workshops. In this way we spread information across our membership, inform other interested bodies and enable professionals to meet the grass roots.

It works well and is most enjoyable.

Judy Wilkinson
Committee member Scottish Allotments and Gardens Society