Think of FESPA and your first thought is probably of the exhibitions that are staged around Europe and the rest of the world, attracting wide-format print service providers in their thousands to check out the latest innovations in printers, software, inks and substrates.
There’s no doubt that the FESPA brand dominates the calendar of wide-format exhibitions, and most printers in our sector will have visited a FESPA show somewhere on the circuit, which in recent years has taken FESPA to Barcelona, Munich, Amsterdam, Berlin, Geneva and Hamburg , as well as Bangkok, Delhi, Orlando, Mexico City, and Singapore!
But in many ways, the growth and success of FESPA’s exhibitions has eclipsed the true soul of FESPA, which is that of a not-for-profit ‘umbrella’ federation of national trade associations. FESPA - which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2012 - was founded to promote knowledge-sharing and best practice among screen printers in a small cluster of European countries. This at a time before digital printing had even entered into the marketplace.
Over the years, the founding members embraced new associations from other countries, including associate members from outside Europe. Membership now stands at 27 associations in Europe, and 10 associate members from Asia and the Americas. And now FESPA engages with a combined global community of over 200,000 print service providers.
To connect and support that community is the central mission of modern-day FESPA.
And, the success of the exhibitions has been an enabler of another, arguably more praiseworthy mission. FESPA’s principle is one of ‘profit with a purpose’. Surplus revenues from FESPA shows are ‘reinvested’ for the good of FESPA’s global community, rather than being distributed to shareholders.
I believe this differentiates FESPA very clearly from any other exhibition organiser in our industry and makes it a very special organisation to work for.
Here’s what this means in practice. Some of this reinvestment occurs directly via FESPA, for example in the form of educational publications such as FESPA Sensations and the Planet Friendly Guide, and through the creation of valuable community platforms such as the FESPA Wide Network.
Some is channelled into developing cross–border market intelligence through initiatives such as the Worldwide Survey, the regular FESPA Economy Survey and the Print Evolution Study.
Some of the funds are used to enable FESPA to deliver world-class educational content at our global events at no charge to visitors, as well as staging regional thought-leadership Summits, knowledge-sharing events such as conferences, congresses and seminars or webinars.
Much of FESPA’s reinvestment is managed through the projects committee, which receives applications for financial support or subsidy from FESPA’s member associations. These applications might be – for example - to request support with the development of a new website or other member collateral, to stage a local networking event, round table or technical seminar for members, to engage with students of screen or digital printing at a local university, to translate a piece of training material, or to develop a new service of value to local members. In the last seven years, FESPA has reinvested a staggering three million Euros back into the global community.
If you are thinking of heading across the Pond in 2013 to experience the next FESPA show in London, not only are you going to explore the world of positive opportunities that exist for your wide-format business. You’re also part of a vital and interconnected 200,000-strong global FESPA community. And your participation is part of a virtuous circle, the fruits of which could ultimately end up benefitting you.