A couple of weeks ago we were in Washington D.C. for the 5th World Social Marketing Conference. It seems like just yesterday that The NSMC was organising the 1st World Conference in Brighton and over the past decade the conference has been held in Ireland, Canada and Australia and now it was the USA’s turn to host the event.

Below, Dr Rowena Merritt of The NSMC, reflects on the conference:

A key topic mentioned throughout the two days was systems thinking and the importance of upstream social marketing. Another common theme throughout the conference was around design thinking:  What if we had a new way to design products, services, and businesses that were good for people, the planet, and business?

There were so many good speakers, seminar sessions and posters. However, there were two that stood out for me. The first was Jeff Jordan, the President and Executive Creative Director of Rescue. As always, his key note was energizing and inspiring, and for me, he wins the prize for the best one liners. Here are just a couple of them:

“Companies make brands for people. Public Health makes brands for problems.”

“You don’t have to convince them to agree with you to convince them to change. Don’t force them to agree with you, open yourselves up to their values.”

These two quotes resonated with me greatly (and from the applause, with most of the audience too). How many times have you done multiple projects to address multiple challenges, only to realise it’s the same audience for both challenges?  Sadly, public health is funded in silos, based on problems, as opposed to looking more holistically at the people affected by those issues.

The second stand out speaker for me was a Professor from MIT who I have never heard speak before, but he was so inspiring. I was a little wary when I saw Professor John Sterman on the agenda, as reading up on him beforehand, I saw that he is sometimes known as Dr. Doom and at the end of a long first day, I was not in the mood for negativity. But I could not have been more wrong.

Yes, he was talking about climate change, and yes – that is a depressing subject matter. But he showed us this fantastic piece of software which he has developed. The C-ROADS climate change computer simulation shows you what effect even small increases in sea temperature will have on populations. The main benefit of such a software is it makes climate change tangible and I feel that is often the problem with the big issues – how do you show decision makers the immediate impact of their strategies and plans? His computer simulation does just that and he used it successfully to help support the Paris talks on climate change held in 2015.

Overall it was a fantastic event and The NSMC was proud to be one of the sponsors.