The 5th World Social Marketing Conference assembled 500 scholars, practitioners and policy makers in Washington to explore, discuss and debate social marketing challenges and solutions to the world’s most complex dilemmas, including, but not limited to, sustainability, health and well-being, poverty, violence against women, injustice, and other societal concerns. Participants were invited to submit competitive papers, working papers, or proposals for workshops and special sessions.
The Conference was intense showcasing fascinating applications of social marketing and multiple perspectives on behaviour and social change. The programme included 6 keynote sessions, 12 panels, 10 workshops/interactive sessions, 106 papers presentations and 39 posters displayed. As a participant, it was at times difficult to choose which session to attend as there were so many exciting presentations and workshops happening at the same time.
As always, the conference provided a lot of food for thought and generated reflection on ways forward for the field. Unlike other conferences where often we had found ourselves drawn into discussing the identity of the field, at this event conversations focused more on accepting the interdisciplinary nature of social marketing and seeking to learn from other disciplines such as neuroscience, systems thinking, sociology, anthropology etc. This is a sign that the field is maturing and advancing.
A Conference highlight was the Gala dinner where a number of lifetime achievement awards were presented to those who have made significant contributions to the social marketing discipline. Each regional social marketing association awarded social marketing contributors. Win Morgan and Nancy Lee received awards from the International Social Marketing Association (iSMA) whilst Jay Kassirer, Craig Lefebvre, Carol Bryant, Mike Newton-Ward and Doug McKenzie-Mohr were awarded by the Social Marketing Association of North America (SMANA). The Australian Association of Social Marketing presented a lifetime award to Tom Carrol and the European Social Marketing Association celebrated Jeff French, Alan Andreasen, Sue Peattie (posthumous) and Gerrard Hastings for their contributions to social marketing. The mentoring session was welcomed equally by early career and more experienced social marketers as a great opportunity to learn from each other and share ideas and experiences. The Conference has also enabled social marketers from different continents and regions to come together and start conversations about establishing social marketing associations in Africa and South America.
Special thanks to session chairs, presenters, key note speakers, sponsors, organisers and all participants. Their professionalism and contributions were vital to the creation of an exciting and professionally enriching program. The delegate feedback was overwhelmingly positive with over 87% of respondents saying that the content of the conference will have a positive impact on their work.
Until the next World event, watch this space for updates on the UK (September 2017) and European Social Marketing conferences (September 2018).
Written by Dr Nadina Luca (Lecturer, University of York)
Some photos from the conference