In response to the questions and concerns raised around the selection process for the 2018 IBC site, we (the BWI Board of Directors) would like to share briefly how this decision was reached.
There are many aspects to planning a conference the size of IBC and we have learned a lot from the past several conferences, which has allowed us to improve the process each time.
IBC 2016 had a final attendance of nearly 800 people, more than twice that of IBC 2014, which was itself substantially larger than any previous conference. Given the growth of the babywearing community, we anticipate that IBC 2018 will be at least as large as this year’s conference if not larger. Going into the IBC 2018 selection process, it was clear that it would be important to have a strong team comprised of local and national volunteers and that it would be imperative to identify and book an appropriate venue space during summer 2016.
The IBC 2018 selection process drew heavily on experiences learned during the selection and planning of IBC 2016. We are listening to the comments, suggestions, and concerns that have been raised and we will be incorporating them into the site selection process for 2020.
The Board of Directors created the IBC 2018 bidding process. We consulted past IBC chairs with the knowledge that their experience could inform improvements in our process.
The IBC 2018 selection committee was comprised of the BWI Board of Directors, the members of the BWI Chapter Support Committee, and chairs from prior IBC committees. This was the group that had been tasked with the decision in the past. The selection team members represented BWI’s governance and logistics branches and were already bound by a Non Disclosure Agreement thus ensuring confidentiality.
One flaw in the bid process for IBC 2016 was that we did not require bidders to include specifics that would be needed to book an appropriate venue immediately upon selection. Because of this and other delays in the planning process, we didn’t secure a site until well after the 2016 city was announced. It was extremely difficult to find a venue in the greater Atlanta area that could accommodate the size of the conference, was within our budget, and was easily accessible by public transportation. The late start meant having to accept a venue that was not as easily accessible for public and air transit as the committee would have liked. The deadline for the IBC 2018 process was set so that the winning bid would have two years out from the date of IBC 2018 to secure the venue.
The IBC 2018 bid process was announced via email to all BWI chapters and promoted via Facebook. The bidding process required that interested cities submit a preliminary form with information on their city, the babywearing groups nearby, transportation options, and more. Once that was received we asked for additional information for each city including a specific proposal from a venue they would recommend, conference team résumés, and a detailed budget. The package was intentionally detailed both to give the selections committee enough information to make an informed decision and to reflect the amount of work and attention to detail required to successfully manage the local ground team for the conference.
Of the six cities that submitted preliminary forms, two submitted nothing further and did not respond to requests for additional information. Two cities, Des Moines and Boston, submitted complete bids. Two more cities, Bay Area and Minneapolis/St. Paul, submitted incomplete bids and were asked to submit additional information.
Ultimately Minneapolis/St. Paul did submit a completed bid and was included in the group of three finalists. In response to concerns raised during the discussion process they also submitted a second possible venue for consideration.
Bay Area was contacted to complete their bid and was aware of what was needed but did not submit the requested information. The selection committee discussed providing additional time and assistance in order to have a bid to consider from the west coast but there were several factors that led the committee to decide that even a revised bid would not have been viable including a Food and Beverage minimum of nearly $200,000 (about 3 times what was spent at Atlanta) and 90% attrition rate on hotel rooms (10% more than Atlanta and a substantial financial liability). Because we were unable to get additional information with which to review this bid and all of the available information was sufficient to indicate that the conference could not afford, financially, to select Bay Area, the bid was eliminated before the final voting.
All three groups who submitted complete bids had representatives included in the final rounds of discussion to answer questions raised by the selection committee; however, representatives from the bidding chapters were excluded from voting and from the final portions of the discussion.
Among the remaining finalists, (Des Moines, Boston, and Minneapolis/St. Paul) all bids had positives and negatives. We considered a broad range of factors including the proposed venue and its suitability to our needs, overall travel costs (flying or driving), the number of potential attendees within driving distance, city walkability scores, available public transit, local restaurant capacity, things to do within walking distance, distance to/from the airport, the diversity of the city’s population, the city’s interest as a vacation destination and options to extend the trip into a full family vacation. We considered the résumés of the planning team and the leadership capacity of the local group submitting the bid knowing from previous experience how hosting IBC can put a strain on a local chapter. Above all, we considered each of these elements as it related to the accessibility of the conference with the goal to make IBC 2018 as inclusive as possible. Ultimately Des Moines was selected as having the best combination of these factors together with a strong and enthusiastic local planning team.
Selecting a conference site is a delicate balancing act. There was no “perfect” option, but the 2018 IBC Committee will work to make the conference an enjoyable, inclusive, and safe experience for all attendees. We learn more from each conference, and by moving to a national leadership structure, we are better able to retain that institutional knowledge and build on it year over year.
A contract has been signed with the Iowa Events Center and we look forward to welcoming the babywearing community to come together once again in Des Moines for IBC 2018. Valid concerns have been raised and we will work to address as many of them as possible over the course of the next two years. If you have anything you specifically want to share with the IBC 2018 committee please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. The IBC Committee is currently taking a much-needed break to rest and to wrap up loose ends from the 2016 IBC but the 2018 Planning Committee will be open to new members in September and we hope many of those who enjoyed IBC 2016 or who have thoughts on how to improve the event will consider applying!