Ukraine Invites Associations to Leave a Lasting Legacy

Passing vehicles and walking people in front of brown concrete building under cloudy sky during daytime photo

Skift Take

The UNBROKEN Emergency Summit is a call to mobilize mission-based associations whose members can contribute to the construction of Lviv's rehabilitation center and the recovery of Ukraine.

If you assume that the Ukranian meetings industry lays dormant as the Russian invasion persists, you would be wrong. Despite ongoing threats, the western city of Lviv continues to have a small but active convention bureau that had its own stand at the IMEX trade show last May.

But it’s not just about continuing the promotional efforts. Events are happening daily. In 2022, Lviv hosted 593 events. In June, the Lviv Urban Forum attracted more than 700 urban planners, architects, and government officials who considered how to restore and rebuild Ukraine. The Lviv BookForum gathered 20,000 literary connoisseurs over four days, mostly national.

Earlier this month, around 3,500 participants, both national and international, gathered in the city for IT Arena. The event featured a hybrid format with 15 screens set up at underground venues throughout the city. The event used venues deemed as the safest locations possible. Organizers limited the number of attendees and made sure all attendees had immediate access to safe and reliable shelters.

Lviv, the Convention City

Lviv is a Ukrainian city more than 300 miles from the war in eastern and southern Ukraine. It is considered a rear city and has been mostly spared from Russian attacks. It has become a major point for dealing with displaced people and refugees. Around 5 million internally displaced people have come through the city, with some 150,000 of these now calling it home.

Lviv is in immediate need of expertise, equipment, training, and funding to expand its surgical and rehabilitative capacity at the UNBROKEN Rehabilitation Centre – the legacy project of the International Rehabilitation Forum held in Lviv at the outbreak of the war waged by Russia.

Unbroken Emergency Summit

Next week, Lviv will host the Unbroken Emergency Summit, an event focused on the recovery of Ukraine. This event aims to gather the support of mission-based associations, particularly in the medical, energy and construction, engineering, social and life sciences, energy, and education sectors. The summit enables association members to contribute to the recovery of Ukraine and its people meaningfully.

Video credit: The Iceberg

The concept started as a conversation between participants of the ICCA Congress 2022 in nearby Krakow. The Iceberg Founder, James Latham and Bettina Reventlow-Mourier, deputy director of conventions at Wonderful Copenhagen wondered if associations would be willing to prioritize hosting future events in Ukraine, once the war has ended. The two saw this as a way for association leaders to use their influence to benefit Ukraine directly. Tania Bauman, chief operating officer at World Energy Council, confirmed that this is something she would support.

Latham, was there in the summer to capture the story of the event with the help of local hosts Olena Pavlyuk and Yuliia Katynska from the Lviv Convention Bureau. He also met Ian Fothergill of the Medical Center for Orthotics and Prosthetics, who will play an important role in the summit.

“I’m the messenger. Our job [is to] collect the story that there is a need that could be met by the professional associations. And then to [use] my relationships […] to encourage the industry partners that we have. That’s exactly what they did and their response was just amazing,” said Latham

The Summit Program

An initial three-day summit became a half-day event, and the vast majority of participants will understandably be online rather than in person. “We are hoping that the local members of the international associations will be the in-person contingent, and the rest can be done virtually,” said Latham.

Video credit: The Iceberg

Despite the relative safety of Lviv, there are no guarantees. The registration page makes this clear and lists the security protocol. The protocol reminds participants of a mandatory curfew, lists the location of shelters, and explains the necessary actions to take in case participants hear air rapid alarms. Also, an important request not to film key infrastructure or government buildings, especially not posting online with geolocation coordinates.

There is no registration fee, but the organizers encourage donations to the UNBROKEN Kids Department.

Building a Legacy Roadmap

The roadmap for what this legacy looks like has not been fully defined. It will likely involve many more events. Still, this initial gathering is already doing something that has never been done before. It’s using the incredible power of the meetings industry and international associations to help rehabilitate an entire nation.

“[We] encourage all associations to be the partners with this new project. Medicine is very important for us because far away from the frontline we became this rehabilitation [center] for all Ukrainians who went to war and for us, [so it] is important to have this cooperation with medical experts,” said Yuliia Katynska, deputy director of the Lviv Convention Bureau.

Legacy is a hot topic among destination marketing organizations, so it should be. Many projects revolve around helping event organizers leave a positive social and environmental legacy. All of these are commendable but pale compared to what the Unbroken Emergency Summit is trying to do.

The Lviv Convention Bureau is leaving a hugely valuable legacy, well beyond bringing convention business to the city. It has played an instrumental role in creating and attracting events that help Ukraine’s recovery, and that is commendable. Thinking beyond the short term is not possible due to the destruction and loss of human life that continues in Ukraine. Still

People right now are very motivated. They are inspired by UNBROKEN,” said Kayynska. “We just have no other chance but to move forward and do what we can to help them.”