The Pay-it Forward Conference Model
Last summer, Lone Star Urantia Association was tasked with hosting the first united conference between Urantia Association of the United States and The Urantia Book Fellowship. This was a challenge of unknown proportions simply because we had never attempted it before! But they were ready and produced a wonderful event that will propel our community forward for years to come.
One of the challenging questions was simply: What to do with any leftover conference funds? Traditionally within the Association, the hosting group would decide on how these funds would be distributed, but because of the unique nature of this conference a new framework was adopted: instead of splitting the excess between the Fellowship and the Association, all leftover funds from this North American conference would be forwarded to international conferences in Europe and Latin America.
In September, Budapest hosted the first United European Conference bringing together students from more than 20 countries and starting a new tradition of yearly European events. The North American donation was used to bring in students from Croatia, Ukraine, Russia, and young and new readers from across Western Europe.
In October, Bogota hosted the first United Latin American Conference, bringing together teachers and leaders from Central and South America. The North American donation was used for students from Venezuela, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, as well as dozens of local students from Bogota. Representatives of every country present met to determine goals for the Latin American community and to select leaders to help guide those goals. And a new tradition of tri-annual Latin American Conferences was born.
But the North American gift did not stop there! Both the Bogota and Budapest conferences actively raised funds for a conference in Accra, Ghana in February, our first attempt at a multinational conference in Africa. All leftover funds from those two conferences have been forwarded to the Ghana event which aims to bring together students from coastal countries from Nigeria through Liberia.
One conference in the United States has gone on to fund more three conferences on three different continents. Are we looking at a future model of conference funding?
None of this would have been possible if LSUA, UAUS, and the Fellowship had not stood together and volunteered to turn over the leftover funds to international conferences. It set an example on how we can bring together students from across one country, and showed how we can make our world a little less isolated than it was a year ago.
Urantia Association International