The annual EAPA-SA Eduweek has just celebrated its 20th anniversary – and this year it incorporated the Pan African Conference.  EAPA-SA and Pan African Eduweek 2018 was a resounding success, drawing the largest number of delegates in the history of the event and featuring the widest range of international speakers, to date.  What’s more, not long after this event EAPA-SA was awarded the 2018 Africa Association Award for Best Large Conference.

EAPA-SA Eduweek’s primary aim is for the industry – incorporating Employee Assistance Practitioners, Professionals and Service Providers, along with allied professions – to gather over four days with the intention updating professional knowledge and skills with regard to cutting edge EAP practice and workplace trends.  The benefits of attending the conference are many, including the chance to network and spend quality time interacting with and learning from peers – and to deepen meaningful business relationships; to learn from industry specialists and leaders, and to earn continuous professional development points (CPD).

We interviewed Board members, Thiloshni Governder (President), Pravesh Bhoodram, Radhi Vandayar and Bernie Roberson, all who sit on the Conference Committee to bring you insight on where the conference started and how it has developed over twenty years.

  1. Who, in the main has been the driving force behind the EAPA-SA Eduweek?

The EAP industry had just come into being in South Africa in the late 1990s and the conference (now Eduweek) was started with a view to educating the industry with regard to EAP – and to formulating core industry standards and technologies.  In the beginning there was limited funding – members of the Board themselves arranged and managed all aspects of the conference management.  Today, Eduweek remains the one project the entire Board gets involved in, but there is a Conference Committee and a contracted Events Manager coordinated by the Conference Convenor.

  1. How has the conference (now Eduweek) grown and developed in the last 20 years? Have there been any specific/stand-out milestones reached along the way?

The annual Conference started with being a joint initiative of the local Chapters and the Board to being fully Board driven. As the demand and scope of the conference expanded, an event manager had to be contracted to deal with the logistics. A major shift in the whole conference planning experience for the Board came with the involvement of Nicole Rollings – first through LM&P then Iquiniso and Enov8. Nicole and team took the conference to new levels of excellence – delivering better conferences each year as the Board and Nicole learnt and improved the conference experience through delegate feedback and evaluation, as well as experimenting with new and different ways to deliver learning and networking for the members.  Another significant contribution was from stakeholder partnerships and sponsorship – which enabled more to be delivered through the conference. EAP service providers and financial institutions who also partnered with members to deliver financial wellness came on Board to sponsor.  EAPA-SA has leapfrogged our international counterparts in being the first EAP association to create a mobile conference App.

  1. How does Eduweek support EAP professionals and the HR | Health and Wellness industry in South Africa?

Eduweek not only supports the EAP industry in South Africa, and Southern Africa, it offers support to individual professionals within the industry by condensing a diverse but comprehensive learning experience for delegates into a single venue and time – providing the best industry experts both local and international, providing a platform for sharing the latest research as well as best practice case studies – with breaks designed to enable quality networking.  Self-care activities are built into the conference programme that are aimed at providing a wide range of holistic and supportive modalities for professionals within the EAP industry, along with demonstration of new team-building and wellness activities. Eduweek also offers a platform for the exhibition of latest products and services as well as a network of local non-profit options for enhancing EAP services.

  1. Where do you see the Eduweek going in the future – do you have any special aims or plans for the further development of the conference?

There is always a full post-event assessment of Eduweek.  The Board is always on the lookout for new and innovative ways to deliver the learning experience to all those in the employee and organisational wellness space. Our membership needs, as articulated in the evaluation forms and other platforms, will always drive the agenda.  Moving forward, Eduweek may become a forum for the discussion and then formulation of EAP legislation – for example around the matter of ethics in use of technology as a diagnostic tool.  There will be growth and development of an Eduweek loyalty programme that encourages the regular return of loyal delegates on an annual basis.  President, Thiloshni Govender, says, “Personally I see our Eduweek going fully international as we attract fresh interest in our space.”

  1. What is your absolute favourite conference memory over the past 20 years?

Thiloshni:  My favourite part of every conference is our annual Awards dinner – where we celebrate our achievements in a truly South African way – with fun, music and dance.

Pravesh:  Initially the gala dinner was black tie.  Now the gala dinners are themed and one of the highlights for me is how delegates go all out to partake and dress up. These are such wonderful, positive social occasions.  The team building treasure hunt at Sun City also stood out for me.  We had the run of the place and the positive energy that this activity created was tremendous.

Bernie:  My two favourite conferences have been held in Port Elizabeth at The Boardwalk.  Our delegates love The Boardwalk as a venue and both conferences attracted excellent attendance – with 2018 being the best ever.  For me this is a testament to a strong EAP industry fraternity in the Eastern Cape.

  1. What stand-out criteria and qualities won EAPA-SA the Association of Association Executives Large Conference of the Year Award?

The theme, an exciting and diverse programme with CPD points, the calibre of local and international speakers,  excellent venues, the partnership with sponsors – and the fact that all of this comes at a very affordable fee.

  1. Has there been a positive knock-on for EAPA-SA in winning this award? If so, what are these and how has this recognition impacted the Association?

This award is an indication that EAPA-SA stands proud among the best and the largest associations in Africa.  Not only has it been validating for the Association, but for our stakeholders and partners as well – it has lifted their profile along with ours. We hope that this validation and recognition will lift the profile of the Eduweek and bring fresh interest from potential delegates – both local and international – as well as speakers, exhibitors and partners.