Taking Steps Toward Systemic Change: ICCA and BestCities Global Alliance Honour 2021 Incredible Impacts Winners


The global pandemic has amplified crises such as domestic abuse, limited access to medical care for marginalized communities, and violence against women. In response, global conferences are directing attention towards these pressing issues, advocating for systemic change, and facilitating initiatives and policies that channel commitments into action.

The Incredible Impacts Programme, a joint initiative by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA) and BestCities Global Alliance, is thrilled to honour three associations who have left lasting legacies of social change – not only in the meetings industry, but in communities around the world.

Lesley Williams, Managing Director of BestCities

“Congratulations to the winners of the 2021 Incredible Impacts Programme. They are an inspiration for the entire meetings industry for their passion, fortitude and commitment to ending human rights violations and ensuring every member of our global population is treated equally and fairly. We hope their stories will spark similar determination and creativity in their fellow associations, so we can build on their legacies – and also create new ones.”

Senthil Gopinath, ICCA CEO

“It is wonderful to see that social impact is taking centre stage and I would like to congratulate all three winners of the 2021 Incredible Impacts Programme on their amazing achievements and the well-deserved recognition. Their impact stories are uniquely fitting in with ICCA’s 2021 Congress theme “Forward to our Future”, where we will highlight the topics of inclusivity, gender equality and sustainable development all of which are reflected in each of the three winning submissions. I would like to encourage meetings suppliers and associations alike to embrace these important issues and work together on long-lasting impacts for the future.”

Whether obtaining signatories for a pledge to achieve equal access, creating an accessible global platform to support victims of gender-based violence, or obtaining commitment from world leaders to implement policy changes, the winners of this year’s Incredible Impacts grant have emerged as champions for vulnerable, marginalized and minority communities. They are:

  • European AIDS Clinical Society I This non-profit promotes excellence in standards of care, research and education in HIV infection and related co-infections. The 18th European AIDS Conference, which will be held in London, UK in October 2021, aims to spread awareness of the challenges facing marginalized communities and improve quality of life for people living with HIV/AIDS. Impact legacies include a new London EACS Respect Committee, which asks conference attendees, politicians, celebrities and the public to sign a pledge to end stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS and provide equitable access to medical treatment and services.
  • The Garden of Hope Foundation I This NGO founded the Asian Network of Women’s Shelters (ANWS), and has served Taiwan for more than three decades. The organization spearheaded the Fourth World Conference of Women’s Shelters (4WCWS), held in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan in November 2019 – the first time the conference has been held in an Asian city, thereby amplifying the voices of Asian communities through translation in multiple languages and more Asian speakers. Topics included art as a tool for expression and healing; LGBTQ shelter management; and the introduction of lila.help, a central platform integrating support mechanisms around the world for victims of gender-based violence.
  • Women Deliver I A leading global advocate for gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women, Women Deliver held its largest conference ever in Vancouver, Canada in June 2019. The event was attended by 8,000 people from 169 countries, as well as 200,000 participants online and through satellite events. During the conference, Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau made a 10-year, $1.4 billion (CAD) annual commitment to gender equality and sexual and reproductive health and rights. President Kenyatta of Kenya committed to ending female genital mutilation. And for the first time, NGOs, grassroots advocates and survivor-led organizations united to develop a plan to end female genital mutilation/cutting by 2030.

These three associations will each receive a grant of $7,500 (USD) to be used for future projects, in recognition of their excellence in hosting events that are moving the dial on global issues. Their efforts can and should serve as inspiration for event planners who are likewise eager to make a tangible difference. Meetings, after all, have the power to introduce policy, spark dialogue and shift perspectives – and these are key foundations of systemic change.



Matthew Hodson, Local Community Co-chair, European AIDS Clinical Society

“We want the 18th European AIDS Conference not just to be a forum for scientific exchange, but also to provide a platform to influence policymakers and service providers in east London, one of the poorest parts of the UK with one of the highest incidences of HIV. Despite enormous advances in recent years in treatment and prevention, the gains have not been evenly distributed. Our Communities of Resilience programme will highlight the diverse and vibrant communities that live in east London and showcase the strong community responses to the challenges faced. We must ensure that all benefit from the progress that we make in healthcare. No one should be left behind.”

Ching-Wen Lin, Chairperson, The Garden of Hope Foundation

“On behalf of the Garden of Hope Foundation and Global Network of Women’s Shelters, it is our utmost honor to be an ICCA/Bestcities Incredible Impacts Award winner. We are truly humbled, and also grateful to show the world that, despite women and children facing injustice and violence around the world, shelters and practitioners are doing all we can to build a safety net. A real home for survivors is built on solidarity, and only by working together can we terminate gender-based violence.”

Kathleen Sherwin, Interim President & CEO, Women Deliver

“The Women Deliver 2019 Conference in Vancouver was the largest and most impactful conference on gender equality to date. Over 8,000 people from 169 countries and 200,000 online participants convened to inspire political commitments, unveil new research, share solutions, and shine a global spotlight on the importance of gender equality. We are honored to be awarded this recognition and look forward to putting it towards our commitment to make the Women Deliver 2023 Conference the most inclusive, accessible, diverse, and consultative Women Deliver Conference yet. We hope Women Deliver conferences continue to galvanize advocates to take action and harness new knowledge, skills, and connections to advance gender equality and build a more just world.”