The Global Challenges Summit with Swansea University & Hillary Rodham Clinton case study

Swansea University logoHow world leaders convened to address some of the planet’s biggest issues

The world feels a strange place right now. We’ve come through two years of lockdowns. Covid stalled life in some areas yet rapidly progressed it in others – just look at the speed at which work shifted online and how fast we developed vaccines.

Thought leaders at Swansea University knew there were lessons worth learning from the pandemic, particularly around collaborative working, that might help the world accelerate towards resolving other critical issues – like the climate crisis, digital inclusion or healthcare inequalities.

The University also knew that it had a unique opportunity to bring the right people together to understand what those partnership and pandemic learnings might be, thanks to its longstanding relationship with former US Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Secretary Clinton, who is a third Welsh, received an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University in 2017 and continues to engage regularly with Swansea.

“We’ve been running the Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Master’s Programme for several years now,” says Chris Marshall, Swansea University’s Head of Policy and Strategy, “and we felt the time was right to convene a Global Challenges Summit to consider some of the world’s most pressing issues. The Summit was also an opportunity to showcase some of our key areas of academic strength around low carbon, digital inclusion, healthcare and human rights, and to shine a spotlight on Wales as a progressive, innovative and creative nation; a place where partnerships can deliver the progress we need to make.”

Chris and his university colleagues had organised plenty of events before, but nothing quite of this stature or scale; a three-day virtual event with an impressive speaker line up and a global reach. Speakers included current and former Prime Ministers and Presidents, as well as leading representatives from the White House, the World Health Organisation, the Welsh Government, global business, academia, and media – there was even an astronaut!

“We worked closely with Secretary Clinton and her team at every stage to make sure that the Summit would deliver against their hopes and expectations as much as ours,” says Chris.

“Our aim was to make this incredible event freely accessible to anyone in the world who wanted to watch it and I’m delighted we were able to do this with some financial support from the Welsh Government and because, without exception, all our speakers gave their time freely. They were just as engaged as we were in wanting to have this crucial conversation.”

Chris and the Swansea team knew they needed to deliver a “top notch” event to reflect its standing and would need some additional support. Axiom had previously partnered the University and, with a strong track record, was a natural contender for this epic endeavour.

“Axiom’s video conferencing experts instinctively understood this was going to need to be a cut above your average webinar or Zoom conference and immediately began pulling out all the stops to secure us the best, most engaging platform,” says Chris.

The platform’s functionality would be critical to the Summit’s success – it needed advanced capability and flexibility to accommodate the University’s requirements, including an online networking area and a fully bilingual (English and Welsh) experience, which called for a Welsh language version to run alongside the English one.

“As you’d imagine, there’s a lot of work involved in ensuring that we could run a bilingual platform, but Axiom rose to the challenge and did a cracking job for us – from the initial invites, to the delivery of the event itself and the post event follow up.”

There were many additional elements of complexity, such as broadcasting from multiple sites and tiered participant access levels.

“We were keen to enhance access for some participants, such as University alumni and other key stakeholders, so they could access networking areas or pose questions to our globally renowned speakers,” explains Chris.

It was also a complex event from a broadcast perspective, with speakers joining from multiple locations and countries. The University broadcast all their speakers from their campus studio, supported by Swansea’s tech team, while others presented from locations in the US and around the world. Axiom brought everything together as part of one seamless experience.

“The end product was a slick and professional job that reflected well on the Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Programme at Swansea University and which, importantly, created an exceptional moment for some thought-provoking conversations,” says Chris.

“Part of the reason for that was the sheer time and effort that Axiom colleagues put into supporting tech checks. They gave every speaker or their team the opportunity to see how everything would work ahead of the event. I don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort that took, working with that number and calibre of speakers, but it was absolutely worth it. Those ‘run throughs’ significantly contributed to the success of the event.”

The results

3,000 participants joined over the three-day event and a further 1,000 people have subsequently watched on demand.

Representatives from 120 universities joined from around the world and more than 80 UK secondary schools also watched the event.

“With a reach of 14.8 million, this was also the highest performing organic social media campaign in the University’s history, but I suspect we’ll never know the true reach of the audience,” says Chris.

Over the course of the event the University received “so many” congratulatory comments from speakers, stakeholders and participants. Seeing that feedback was incredibly rewarding,” says Chris. “It showed the Summit was hitting the spot and doing what we set out to achieve.”

What our client says

From Chris Marshall, Swansea University’s Head of Policy and Strategy:

“We wanted this to be a free and open conversation for people around the world to join, to learn from Covid, to tackle future challenges and I think it worked. We successfully showcased what we are doing and who we are doing it with on a global scale and the Axiom team were a huge part of that success. The support we had from the whole Axiom team, pre, post and during the event was phenomenal. They were a major contributory factor to the whole success of the Summit.”

From Hillary Rodham Clinton, in her post event correspondence sent directly to the Axiom team:

“…The event was a smashing success, and I am grateful to you for making it all possible.”

If you are interested in watching any of the Global Challenges Summit, you can do so on demand here: Hillary Rodham Clinton Global Challenges Summit | Swansea Global Challenges Summit


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