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Best practices in supporting young people to attend conferences

In-person conferences are back. Are you sponsoring young people to attend? Here are the Do and Don’ts from We Trust You(th)!


Why follow these dos and don'ts? What has happened? These are REAL examples of what harm is done when these aren’t followed:

  • A sponsor didn’t provide per diem in advance or immediately upon arrival so a young woman from Indonesia skipped eating dinner and breakfast

  • A sponsor wouldn’t pay for a young woman from rural Malawi to arrive early, despite the long journey, so she took an overnight bus by herself across the country risking her safety.

  • A sponsor had a reimbursement-only policy, so a young woman from Nigeria drained all of her savings from her bank account to pay for a flight. She had to ask friends and family members to help her make ends meet until her reimbursement arrived (much later than promised!)

  • A sponsor had a reimbursement-only policy, but this time the young woman had no savings or credit card, so she had to ask the only person she knew who would lend her money - an older man who had been pressuring her for sex. Leaving her in an even more questionable situation.

Dos:

  1. Provide Clear and Detailed Financial Guidelines: Clearly communicate the financial guidelines and expectations to young attendees before the conference. Outline what expenses will be covered, reimbursement procedures, and any necessary documentation or receipts they need to provide.

  2. Consult Young People on Travel Timing: Prioritize the input and preferences of young attendees when determining travel timing for the conference. Seek their feedback through surveys or consultations to understand their availability, preferred travel dates, and any constraints they may have.

  3. Offer Prepaid Travel and Accommodation: Whenever possible, arrange prepaid travel and accommodation options for young attendees. This eliminates the need for them to pay upfront and wait for reimbursements, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free experience.

  4. Assist with Visa Application Costs: If young attendees require visas to attend the conference, offer assistance in covering the costs associated with visa applications, such as application fees or appointment charges. This reduces financial barriers and ensures their participation is not hindered due to visa-related expenses.

  5. Offer Travel Insurance: Provide comprehensive travel insurance coverage for young attendees to protect them against unforeseen circumstances such as trip cancellations, medical emergencies, or lost baggage. This helps ensure their peace of mind and reduces potential financial burdens.

  6. Offer Stipends or Per Diem in advance or upon arrival: Provide stipends or allowances in advance or immediately upon arrival to cover daily expenses such as meals, transportation, and incidentals during the conference. This financial support ensures that young attendees can focus on their participation without worrying about personal expenses. Be clear about how much they can expect to allow for planning.

  7. Allow Time for Jet Lag Recovery: Recognize the impact of long-distance travel on young attendees and their need to recover from jet lag. Encourage conference organizers and participants to allow for a buffer period before the conference starts, providing a few days for attendees to rest and adjust to the new time zone.

  8. Facilitate Language Support: Provide language support, including interpretation services or translated materials, to ensure effective communication and inclusion of young attendees from diverse linguistic backgrounds.

  9. Establish Emergency Fund: Set up an emergency fund specifically designed to support young attendees in case of unexpected financial emergencies. This fund can be used to assist participants facing sudden financial difficulties during the conference, ensuring their continued participation and well-being.

  10. Offer Financial Guidance and Support: Designate a point of contact or resource person who can provide guidance and support to young attendees regarding financial matters. This can include assistance with expense management, reimbursement processes, or addressing any financial concerns or queries they may have.

  11. Seek Partnerships for Cost-Sharing: If you can’t cover all of this, collaborate with partner organizations or sponsors to share the financial responsibilities of supporting young attendees. Pooling resources allows for increased financial support and enables a greater number of young people to participate in the conference.

Don'ts:

  1. Limit Financial Support to Established Organizations: Avoid solely focusing financial support on established organizations or institutions associated with young attendees. Recognize that individual young changemakers or grassroots initiatives may also require financial assistance and provide avenues for support at the individual level.

  2. Overburden Young Attendees with Fundraising Obligations: Do not place excessive fundraising obligations on young attendees as a condition for participation. While encouraging their active involvement in securing funding, ensure that the primary responsibility for financial support lies with the organizing entity or sponsors.

  3. Overlook Currency Exchange Considerations and Bank Fees: Take into account currency exchange considerations when providing financial support to international young attendees. Ensure that exchange rates and any associated fees are taken into account when determining stipends or per diem allowances to provide fair and equitable support.

  4. Burden Attendees with Extra Expenses or Hidden Fees: Avoid asking young people to pay for additional conference-related expenses out of their own pockets. This includes registration fees, workshop fees, or costs associated with social events. Ensure that attending the conference remains financially accessible for all participants.

  5. Delay Reimbursement Processes: Minimize administrative burdens and promptly reimburse any out-of-pocket expenses incurred by young attendees during the conference. Efficient reimbursement processes prevent financial strain and allow participants to focus on fully engaging in the conference activities.

  6. Neglect Support for Special Needs: Take into account the diverse needs of young attendees, including individuals with disabilities or specific dietary requirements. Provide accessibility measures, such as wheelchair accessibility, sign language interpreters, or dietary accommodations, to ensure an inclusive and welcoming environment.

  7. Limit Financial Support to Conference Duration: Avoid restricting financial support solely to the duration of the conference. Recognize that young attendees may require financial assistance before and after the event, such as for pre-conference preparations or follow-up activities. Extend support accordingly.

  8. Overload the Schedule: Be mindful of conference schedules and avoid cramming too many sessions, activities, or social events into a limited timeframe. Allow sufficient breaks and downtime for young attendees to process information, network, and recharge.

  9. Neglect Digital Inclusion: Recognize the importance of digital inclusion, especially for young people who may face barriers to attending physical conferences. Incorporate virtual or hybrid conference options that enable remote participation and ensure equal access to conference content and opportunities.

  10. Underestimate the Value of Feedback: Create mechanisms to collect feedback from young attendees throughout the conference. Actively seek their input on session relevance, format effectiveness, and overall conference experience. This feedback will help improve future conferences and enhance the participant experience.


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