Sina Bünte is an award-winning event designer focusing on hybrid and digital events. Starting her career working for ICCA in 2013, she founded her own company eight years later with the aim of helping associations with the digital and hybrid challenges they faced during the pandemic.
Since July 2022, she has been part of the global convening team of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), where she creates hybrid and digital experiences and digital strategies. She passionately believes that bringing members, stakeholders and other participants for an association together can help drive societal and political change and transformation.
What inspired you to work in the international association sector? Would you recommend this career to others?
Associations are representative groups of different sectors (health, science etc.) and all employees, volunteers and board members work hard to find solutions to problems that affect us all. It inspires me to know that, with my work, I can help with this process and contribute to change, innovation, transformation while helping people.
It is very common that within an association you have people from different cultural and educational backgrounds. At my current workplace, the European Office of IUCN in Bonn, I’m the only German person among eight different nationalities and we all work in different teams on different projects. Through this impressive diversity, I learn a lot about my colleagues but also about their work on climate change, biodiversity and conservation and how different people want to learn and engage. This inspires me greatly when it comes to planning my events.
To have contact with so many inspiring and energetic young people who want to promote and bring about change is encouraging and we must ask how we can involve these people in associations, benefit from their different perspectives and harness their power.
I would definitely recommend a career in the association industry as it widens everyone’s horizons, reduces prejudices and increases social skills. Given that the governance structure of many associations can be complex, I would advise anyone who follows this path to learn how to be patient and adaptable.
How do you/ your association #EmbraceEquity? Does giving a voice and a space to diverse groups make for better results?
When I was living in Amsterdam until 2021, I co-founded an association for women and non-binary people to give them a voice and community to have a career in the tech industry. I was in charge of organizing the meetups. At the beginning, we got comments from men (they were always welcome at our events), who didn’t understand our mission and why it was necessary to create this community. By attending our events, they saw the problems our members face and began to see things from their perspective. Everyone could then agree that diversity is a must-have for every team and that different backgrounds can bring immense value to teams.
As well as supporting this community through events, we offered monetary scholarships to women or non-binary people to pay for courses or educational material. Equity, for me, also means supporting those with fewer resources or means to achieve their goals and dreams.
One way I’m doing this is by being a big supporter of digital and hybrid events to give people who can’t travel to an in-person event access to networking and education. The pandemic put an emphasis on streaming and virtual events, which I had seen as a growing and advantageous option for some time before. Opening the virtual doors to participants gives associations access to new countries, people, knowledge, and opportunities.
How important are diversity, equity, and inclusion for the future success of associations? What initiatives, projects and ideas can you share that help others understand the real value of DEI?
Associations often represent groups and serve as a role-model. Therefore it is essential that associations are an example also in terms of DEI. The association industry is all about its people and we can all be part of the solution instead of the problem, also in regards to DEI.
To attract new members and to survive, associations have to diversify to include the younger generation. For this, a change in mindset is necessary:
- One way to include the next generation is to implement a shadow board to provide the viewpoint of young members to the board of directors and to be closer to the membership of this generation. Furthermore, it is necessary to allocate budget for scholarship to give underrepresented groups the possibility to attend events.
- Additionally, I would urge every association to include a digital component for in-person events, to give more people the possibility to attend. The fees for all types of participation for events should depend on the nationality and age of the participant, giving a wider range of people from different backgrounds and cultures access.
- To make events more inclusive and diverse, it is important to pay attention to a diverse panel and speaker lineup but also to include translation and closed caption options for the online audience to eliminate any barriers from the event for people with disabilities. All of this leads to satisfied and participants that feel welcomed as well as higher attendance. More and more sponsors pay attention to DEI and hence associations can increase sponsorships.
- Lastly, appointing a dedicated person within the association can ensure that DEI aspects can be implemented and followed. This person can be part of the HR team but also someone that looks after projects to make sure DEI is integrated.