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Mice Net : February 2010
mice.net 11 substantially contribute to the costs of staging a Parliament, Melbourne was given the green light for 2009. And here is where the similarities between the staging of the Olympics and the Parliament end. The Olympics enjoys unlimited funding, has an organising team well into the thousands, has self generating publicity and a lead time of more than 10 years. The Melbourne Parliament had to produce a world class event on a shoe string, employ a handful of dedicated professionals, establish an organisation and model for a successful event and combat a world of sceptics, non believers and doom sayers. The challenges that faced Janetta Stones (appointed local director) from the outset were immense. First, she had to establish a company, and then define clear channels of communication between her local board, chaired by Professor Gary Bouma, the Chicago Council, Federal Government departments, State Government offices, the City of Melbourne and a network of religious communities across Australia and the world. She then set about recruiting a small staff complement to manage the tasks ahead while spearheading a selection process to appoint an Australian PCO capable of producing the event. "It was an exercise in eating an elephant... one bite at a time," Stones said. "We had a long list of issues that had to be addressed immediately and by tackling one major task at a time we became clear on our goals. First, we had to establish a board of management, which morphed out of the original bid team that understood and worked through the intricacies of the initial RFP, headed by Professor Des Cahill. "Then through a process of elimination and working with our Chicago counterparts we selected a PCO from the list that collaborated with the convention bureau in putting together the budget for the bid. We were fortunate that The Meeting Planners (later to become Arinex) understood our specific needs and could work closely with us over the next three years to produce the Parliament. Without them, I don't think we would have had nearly as good an outcome as we had. "Once we established the working model and defined the roles in our small team, which, by the way was only four people for the first 12 months, it was important for us to decide on a theme for the Parliament. The theme was always going to be largely determined by the most obvious issues facing people of faith in the world today, but expressing it in a few words was challenging. We wanted to tell the world that we were concerned about certain global aspects and follow that through with specific actions and modelling for the Parliament. Our theme -- Making a World of Difference -- Hearing Each Other, Healing the Earth -- says it all and is more than just a commercial tag line that may be attached to any conference or product. "We were committed to it and modelled all our activities on our theme." Ms Stones said the early stages of planning and development of the conference was the easy part. "Half way through our planning, when we'd reached a point of no return, we were hit, as everyone was, with the reality of the global financial crisis which affected us in many ways. First, our ability to raise the required funding was severely impacted -- the money just wasn't available. "Without sufficient funding we were forced to make adjustments to the staging of the event as we went along. One of the highlights of the Parliament in previous years was the staging of a sacred music concert. Initially we'd planned to hold this at the Myer Music Bowl, but we were forced to scale that back and use the plenary hall at the convention centre instead. "The closer we got to the Parliament the more obvious it became that the GFC was also going to have a negative impact on attendance too. Our forecast numbers were down. Regardless, we continued news