Two months into the “new” year, into 2015, it still feels like this year has just begun, like the fireworks and New Year celebrations have just been fading into the morning of January 1st and the year in front of me offers all the possibilities I can imagine. I can still feel the fireworks exploding on the night sky of Stockholm, can still remember my New Year’s resolutions and still feel the energy, motivation and inspiration that every new year carries with it.

I think, that is because of an amazing event I got to be part of: the IOGT Prevention Conference.

We used the IOGT Prevention Conference for kicking off 2015 with innovation and inspiration.

Prevention conf Oslo 2015_s

We had an amazing lineup of speakers and a cool mix of participants. The speakers, coming from different parts of the world and having diverse professional backgrounds, were able to explore the topic of prevention from many different perspectives. There were many participants from IOGT Norway, obviously. I think that was great because they ensured that the speakers would really focus on community-based interventions – how innovative ideas really can be implemented in the communities. But we also had a very good mix of different ages and different backgrounds in attendance. These two aspects, along with the fact that IOGT Norway had managed to really put together a well-organised event, enchanted with our signature IOGT spirit, indicate all the benefits of the first conference this year.

Some great snapshots and remarkable quotes

Our President Kristina started off with two powerful statements. Encouraging the participants to reflect on the alcohol culture in the Western world, she asked: What have we missed?

The alcohol culture (in the Western World) is changing and more and more people are choosing to live alcohol free.”

MVI_1367

We have contributed to that development, ensuring to question the alcohol norm, to expose the tactics of the alcohol industry, to empower decision-makers to implement high-impact policy measure and making sure through our work that people, especially children and youth, have alcohol-free spaces and environments to go to. But we also need to ask ourselves the tough questions:

We, as the IOGT movement – the biggest and most successful global movement for sobriety – should self-critically reflect how we can better harness that development around the world.”

1544433_838986889498495_7963525848463662174_n

In Sri Lanka , we have two Member Organizations that have been doing incredibly innovative prevention work. They have shifted the paradigm for what prevention and health promotion should be about and how it should be conducted – to be most effective in promoting behaviour change sustainably. It was therefore great to have an opportunity to listen Pubudu, Vice President of IOGT International and Executive Director of ADIC, Sri Lanka – explaining how they work and what the underlying principles are.

We are in the business of social change.

Pubudu addressed the huge challenge that when talking about alcohol, its effects and culture, myths and facts are often confused.

ADIC has been named “NGO Of The Year 2013” in Sri Lanka and has been awarded several prestigious prizes for their health promotion and prevention work. It’s truly groundbreaking and this year we will work heart-driven to empower more Member Organizations to develop projects based on those principles of questioning the effects of alcohol, de-glamorizing alcohol and offering attractive environments and opportunities for all who choose to live free from alcohol and its intoxicating culture.

Mirek and Becky, from IOGT Polska, were also rocking the floor with their talk about prevention work in Poland. They say it’s TIME FOR COLOR in one of Europe’s poorest urban areas, Bobrek in the city of Bytom.

IOGT in Poland has developed a number of innovative approaches to help, support and empower children, to give them hope for the future, and believe that their dreams can come true.

10516796_839085239488660_1595808874261594199_n

In her presentation, Brenda, our International Board Member from Zimbabwe and Tanzania talked about latest evidence concerning consumption of and attitudes towards alcohol in East Africa.

MVI_1465

She delivered another powerful quote that has stuck with me:

People in East Africa know that alcohol causes health problems.

Awareness raising has done its job. But aggressive alcohol marketing and other practices by ‪Big Alcohol‬ in our region are perpetuating myths, promoting alcohol to children and youth.

We need innovative programs that foster the behavior change, which awareness raising alone cannot accomplish.”

A really remarkable session were the conference conclusions, with one of our IOGT movement’s true heroes, Dag Endal. He explained that to protect and support the people in the world who choose to live free from alcohol is one of the defining issues in the coming years.

A public health and social development crisis is looming if populations across the non-Western world start taking up alcohol use like it’s been done in the West.

10941842_839462006117650_4051050358876372537_n

Especially women, indigenous people and children and youth deserve all efforts by the global community to protect their choices and to build more environments that foster healthy lifestyles.

The IOGT movement should play a leading role in these efforts.”

To do so, we as the IOGT movement need to work both with a policy approach as well as with an attractive lifestyle narrative. And with these words we concluded the conference, and you understand why I still feel as inspired, hopeful and forward-looking like it was January 1st, the first dawn of the new year.