Glasgow Convention Bureau’s Impact and Legacy team have taken a fresh approach to uncovering the true meaning and impact of conferences when they take place in our city, by revisiting the World Down Syndrome Congress team five years on since they met in Glasgow in 2018.
Over the last ten years, Glasgow Convention Bureau have delivered over 20 public engagement and legacy activities with our association clients while their conference has taken place in the city. However, as we know, a legacy by its very nature can take time to develop and mature. Even the official meaning of Legacy as ‘the long-lasting impact of particular events that took place in the past’ means the impact needs time to develop; we need time to pause and reflect and connect back in with those we worked with in the past, to help shine a light on their story since we met.
With this in mind, as we celebrate World Down Syndrome Day (21 March) and mark 5 years since Glasgow welcomed the international Down Syndrome community to the city for the World Down Syndrome Congress (WDSC), Glasgow Convention Bureau is reflecting on the work done in 2018 to engage with and empower people with Down Syndrome through Down Syndrome Scotland’s (DSS) Commissioner Programme.
DSS identified very early on that they felt strongly that people with Down Syndrome should be able to actively participate in WDSC 2018. They wanted to create a programme which was inclusive for all people with Down Syndrome to arm them with life skills and experience which would benefit them in the future.
As part of the WDSC, DSS recruited a team of 12 Commissioners and 10 Hosts (adults with Down syndrome) who volunteered at the congress. They were supported to undertake formal duties during the event, which included introducing and thanking speakers, ceremonial duties (opening and handover ceremonies), meet and greet, assisting delegates, registration, evaluation and co-facilitating workshops, as well as participating in some of the many activities and evening events on the programme.
5 years on, we spoke to one of the Commissioners from 2018, Cher Collins, to understand how being part of the Congress helped her to not only become more confident and independent, but to help her to become a permanent member of staff at DSS.
Cher, tell us about your role as a Commissioner:
“I did a lot of prep, planning and getting to know the other commissioners. I got really involved and delivered a talk about community at the Congress. I met and welcomed people and showed them where to go especially anyone who looked lost. I attended workshops and introduced speakers. Took part in the opening and closing ceremony.
I was interviewed by the BBC, The Social. The video was online and lots of people watched it. It was called Cher’s Story: Accepting People for Who They Are. I told them that having Down's Syndrome shouldn't stop you from doing what you want to do."
What did you get out of the experience of being a Commissioner?
“I got more confident and independent with myself and speaking to other people. I felt proud of myself, that I accomplished such a big thing, especially when some people didn’t think I could. I felt really included and listened to, like my voice was being heard. I met another person with same condition as me, so it was so lovely to know I’m not alone. I have mosaic down syndrome which is very rare to find so I was so happy to meet her. I met a lot more people and made some new friends which was great.”
After the Congress experience, new doors opened…tell us about that.
“I started volunteering on Down’s Syndrome Scotland’s (DSS) Life Story Project and helped others with doing a life story using a tablet. In August 2019 I became a trainer for DSS and we did employment training in September to START Scotland. I took part in a focus group meeting with the new CEO at DSS in January 2020. I started as co-host with TeenZ Space. DSS started TeenZ Space in the middle of the COVID pandemic to help teenagers have fun and make new friends.
As a co-host I help plan and run meetings for teenagers with Down’s Syndrome. We always have a good time. Other organisations were reaching out to me: Scottish Commission for Learning Disabilities (SCLD) and People First Scotland. I did the Our Future Leaders Course with Inspiring Scotland. The course was about developing my leadership skills.
I got involved in the ‘This is Me’ campaign through SCLD and did a workshop at Learning Disabilities Week 2022. I’ve been to People First Scotland’s conference and consultations. I am now a group member of the National Women’s Group and The Equally Safe Group working towards the Woman’s Equally Safe Congress this year.
A big achievement for me is becoming a permanent member of staff at Down Syndrome Scotland as an Engagement worker in September 2022. I do lots of training at DSS raising awareness about Down’s syndrome and talking about my life and achievements. I think these opportunities wouldn’t have come if I wasn’t a Commissioner and did the congress. I would happily do it again.”