Good ideas grow from sharing knowledge. Good networks provide the soil. We do both.

We ran our first Flood Risk Management Conference in 2005. Twelve years later the annual Sniffer FRM Conference continues to be the premier policy forum for flooding professionals in Scotland. Our 2017 event attracted 299 delegates from 101 unique organisations across two days of inspiring discussion and insightful debate, with attendees noting it is a ‘must attend event’ and ‘invaluable for all flood risk professionals’. Read more about the content of the 2017 Conference here.

Many of the ideas that are shaping flood risk management in Scotland today got their start at the Sniffer FRM conference. Staying ahead of the curve and providing space for innovation to grow requires both careful planning and being responsive to your audience. To achieve this, we take a multi-direction approach to designing each year’s conference: a steering group of key stakeholders helps us set the themes of the conference, ensuring we look to the future and reflect current challenges; we listen to the feedback of delegates and make sure the event follows their needs; and we also use our own knowledge and networks to keep up to date with the latest developments. This helps to create an event where new ideas are given space to develop and new opportunities for partnerships are created.

As well as the main plenary, this year’s conference included a bustling marketplace showing off the latest technology, a panel discussion on possible futures with debate continuing on social media channels, and a feature length film screening on Natural Flood Management. Presenters, chosen through an open call for papers, were asked to challenge the audience and ask the big questions. With a 50% growth in attendance in the last five years, the approach is working. Over a third of people attending the 2017 conference were joining us for the first time, while a fifth had attended more than seven times. Perhaps even more importantly, many delegates reported in conference feedback that they would be taking specific actions as a result of attending, including signing up to the new Scottish Natural Flood Management Network, investigating options for incorporating new ecosystem services approaches into ongoing projects and taking steps to build new business through the contacts they made.

Improving the lives of people in Scotland and the places they call home requires new ideas, new approaches and new partnerships. But what is new needs to be given space to grow and opportunities to develop from potential to action. By focusing on the aspirations of the professionals and the power of networks, we do both.