Conventions are becoming increasingly savvy when it comes to CSR initiatives, and MPI’s 2018 World Education Congress (WEC), held June 2-5, 2018, in Indianapolis, was no exception.

Visit Indy and MPI incorporated a wealth of unique initiatives into the program to support local charities and help create a model and methodology by which future meetings all over the world can emulate.

“From the items we collected from attendees, including children’s books for the Julian Center, conference supplies for Teachers’ Treasures and women’s accessories for Dress for Success, to the food and floral arrangements we donated for Second Helpings and Random Acts of Flowers, we have been deliberate in the ways we can leave a positive footprint in Indianapolis,” said Jessie States, manager of professional development for MPI. “We also hosted Cheeriodicals gift box-making workshops and the Foundation for Hospital Art murals, both of which benefitted patients in local care.”

MPI will be measuring the success of these and other initiatives and creating a case study to share its process.

Cheer for Children

Cheeriodicals Gift Box-Making Session

The Cheeriodicals initiative was one of the most impressive CSR programs at WEC.

In the teambuilding workshops, attendees assembled beautiful gift boxes for patients at the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital and the Riley Children’s Hospital.

The boxes were chock-full of age-appropriate items such as stuffed animals, crafts, toys, puzzles and children’s magazines, all of which were supplied on-site by Cheeriodicals, a national corporate teambuilding company that conducts philanthropic events benefiting children’s hospitals, Ronald McDonald Houses, veterans hospitals and other charities across the country.

Attendees created more than 500 of the big green boxes of cheer for every child that was in a hospital in Indianapolis on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. At the end of each workshop, 10 lucky attendees were chosen from a drawing to accompany the Cheeriodicals team and Child Life Specialists and hand-deliver the boxes to the kids room to room at the two hospitals.

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The experience was captured on video and shared with WEC 2018 attendees after the conference.

“We were excited to work with MPI to deliver cheer to hospitalized children in two different hospitals in Indianapolis,” said Gary Parisher, president of Cheeriodicals.

“It was an honor to be selected by MPI to deliver an experiential CSR program like never before and share with attendees the magic of a Cheeriodicals event and delivery,” he added.

Parisher, who has worked in marketing and creative positions during his career and is a military veteran, was inspired to start Cheeriodicals after attending a teambuilding event with one of his former employers.

“It was an outdoor adventure outing, and I thought, ‘There must be something more meaningful than that, a way to really contribute to a local community and help those in need.”

He started Cheeriodicals, hired a high-end branding company to design the packaging of the boxes, and the concept took off.

“We work with hundreds of companies and events now, assembling thousands of Cheeriodicals boxes annually,” he said, citing entities such as Dell, Mastercard and Google.

“It was wonderful for MPI attendees to experience firsthand how impactful the program can be and how much of a difference planners can make during their own events,” he added.

Julian Center Children's Book Donation

In another initiative aimed at helping kids in Indianapolis, WEC 2018 attendees were invited to bring children’s books, which were donated to the Julian Center. Located in downtown Indianapolis, the shelter, founded in 1975, helps thousands of families affected by domestic abuse and other life crises.

Creative Alternatives

Five other programs at WEC 2018 also enabled MPI and attendees to give back to the local community through everything from unique donations to participatory experiences.

WEC 2018 attendees supported the Foundation for Hospital Art by painting panels of murals that will be displayed at local Indianapolis hospitals. Since 1984, the organization has been committed to brightening the walls of healthcare facilities around the world.

Painting Murals for the Foundation for Hospital Art

A food drive for Second Helpings was another initiative. Second Helpings takes unserved food from hotels and other entities and distributes it through 85 organizations in the local community, serving some 4,000 meals per day. The unserved food from WEC 2018 went directly from the convention center caterer to Second Helpings, so it was one food drive in which there was no need for attendees to bring canned goods or other food items.

Helping teachers was the focus of another CSR program at WEC 2018.

Attendees were able to donate supplies from previous conferences and events to help local students and teachers in Indianapolis through Teacher’s Treasures. The organization assists more than 2,400 teaches from 250 schools each year with getting the school supplies their students need.

Even the flowers used at off-site events and throughout the convention were part of the CSR efforts at WEC 2018. Whether it was a flower arrangement on tables at meal functions or floral decor used on tables throughout the WEC Villages, all floral was transported to local nursing homes to brighten the environment for its residents.

Meanwhile, helping women was another popular CSR program this year, facilitated through Dress for Success Indianapolis. The organization works with women seeking to get back on their feet and rejoin the workforce by putting together professional-looking wardrobes that will help them gain employment.

Donations for Dress for Success

WEC 2018 attendees were encouraged to bring accessories such as mascara, knee-high hosiery, inexpensive jewelry, small purses and cell phone cases that were new or gently used.

WEC 2018’s CSR aspect was designed using the ISO 20121 Event Sustainability Management System as a guide and framework. MPI firmly committed to following International Organization for Standardization (ISO) sustainable event standards.

The adherence to ISO sustainable events standards is a hallmark of a program that seeks to be in the top echelon of green events, according to Julia Spangler, MPI Indiana Chapter, an independent sustainability consultant who is a member of the WEC 2018 host committee’s CSR subcommittee.

“I have never worked with an event before that was committed to meeting the ISO standards, and working with MPI has been inspiring,” she said.

The key to WEC 2018 being a model for sustainability is that in addition to a massive and thorough effort that went into the planning of WEC and will continue through the execution, there will also be an equally massive and extremely detailed documentation effort that will produce quantitative numbers on just how sustainable the Indianapolis conference turned out to be.

“We are going to have about 40 different standards of measurement in addition to how much waste we kept from going to the landfill,” Spangler said.

Check out Meetings Today's Making a Difference profiles for more on those who do good.