Spring online, autumn in-person: federal conference plans for 2022

Federal Conference Committee chair Nick da Costa has announced the plans FCC has drawn up for next year’s Liberal Democrat conferences:

We considered a number of options for next year’s conferences and took the difficult decision to hold Spring Conference as an online conference and only returning to an in-person event for Autumn Conference. The dates of Spring Conference will be 11-13 March 2022 and we will announce the dates and venue for Autumn Conference in due course.

The Committee discussed several options with regards to the format of Spring Conference and, whilst there was a strong desire within the Committee to return to in person meetings and events as soon as possible, our challenge was that the COVID situation remains uncertain and therefore still causes significant concern … If we had taken the decision to hold an in person Spring Conference, this would have taken place in York – a venue which we usually operate at full capacity. Enforcing social distancing and COVID measures would therefore have been extremely difficult with the potential number of attendees. Furthermore, the danger that a large number of people may not have felt safe attending a crowded in person event meant there was a significant risk of a drop in the number of members attending Conference…

That said, the Committee strongly felt that this should be the final online-only conference, if at all possible. For that reason, the Committee strongly endorsed holding an Autumn Conference in person next year.

We have also established a Hybrid Working Group to look at the options for hybridisation of Conference and to take forward some of the better elements from an online conference, including greater accessibility and wider participation for people who would not normally be able to attend conference. While we were not confident this could be implemented in time for Spring Conference, we are committed to finding a solution which works for Autumn Conference 2022 and beyond.

(More details in Nick’s full post.)

An additional factor to bear in mind is that at our last conference, an amendment was passed about the party moving towards net zero in its own operations.

Applying our public policy stance to our own activities in the case of conference should mean thinking hard about its environmental impact. There are real benefits to people coming together to meet in person, and online events still use data centres which have a non-trivial environmental impact. So this is not a conclusive factor on its own. But to be serious about what conference decided, these sorts of factors are something everyone needs to take into account in their decision-making for the party, from the local leaflet round through to national events.

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