ANALYSIS OF THE EMBOK FRAMEWORK AS AN EVENT MANAGEMENT CURRICULUM MODEL
29 September 2013
Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP and Kathleen Beard Nelson, Ph.D., CSEP, CMP
Increased interest in event management educational programming in academic, vocational, professional development, and credentialing contexts has increased the need for strategies to ensure curricula parity. Such parity requires a standard against which programs can benchmark their current and future offerings. This article proposes that the Event Management Body of Knowledge (EMBOK), a conceptual framework of the knowledge and processes of event management, can serve as such a model for curriculum assessment and development for these programs. The viability of this position is explored through the content mapping of five industry certification program competency and curriculum blueprints to the EMBOK framework.
Key words: event management, EMBOK, education, curriculum development
Event management is the complex job of development, organization, supervision, and evaluation of a planned event. Planned events can range from meetings and trade shows to festivals and sports events, to business and communication events, to cause-related and social events. They can range from dozens to hundreds of thousands attendees and a handful of staff or more than a million volunteers (e.g., the Beijing Olympics and Shanghai World Expo) (United Nations Volunteers, 2010), and can span a few hours to several weeks or months. They “touch virtually every life on the planet several times over” every year (Schmader, 2009).
Given this broad range of planned events and their contexts, it is clear that this profession is both highly visible and in demand by students pursuing careers–as well as workers seeking new opportunities–in tourism, hospitality, sports and leisure, business communications, or experiential marketing. This demand increases the pressure on academic, vocational, and professional development education providers to make practical and effective programs available to their respective constituencies. Such programs should be based upon the scope and actual practice of managing events, providing an “integrative” curriculum that transcends event type or setting (Getz, 2002) “adapting from pertinent disciplines” (Getz, 2007). The credentials they award (e.g. certificate, certification, diploma, degree, etc.) should be credible and foster worker mobility in an increasingly global environment, with equivalencies that lead to mutual recognition of academic credits and credentials. Because event sectors and events within each sector vary widely in scope, scale, and complexity, curricula for educational programs should anticipate this flexibility by addressing the full range of knowledge categories and competencies.
This paper examines the development and viability of the Event Management Body of Knowledge (EMBOK) as a conceptual framework that provides a comprehensive, stable, and user-interest structure in curriculum development through a comparison of the competency and curriculum blueprints of five industry certification programs using content mapping. These blueprints, based upon job analyses conducted by representative community of practice associations and confirmation by working professionals, reflect a credible and reliable outline of the functions, tasks, and knowledge required to work in event management. The EMBOK as a tool in curriculum development for university degree programs, community college programs, continuing education programs, certificate programs offered through universities as well as commercial entities, and professional certification programs offering credentials is discussed. The role of curriculum criterion for academe and industry, quality assurance initiatives in higher education, and the status of international recognition of standards and qualification credentials are considered. Finally, conclusions are drawn regarding the solutions and opportunities the EMBOK framework offers to curriculum developers.
Overview of the EMBOK and its development
An initial event management body of knowledge domain structure was developed in 2003 based upon an affinity analysis of 28 event management industry programs and knowledge systems from five countries plus a bibliography of industry-specific and general business literature (Silvers, 2004). This domain structure was expanded to five domains plus phases, processes, and core values in 2004 by the International EMBOK Executive and released as the International EMBOK Model, as shown in Table 1 (Silvers, Bowdin, O’Toole, & Nelson, 2006).
One of the stated purposes for development of the International EMBOK Model was “Education organizations, including academic and vocational training institutions, may use the EMBOK for developing and maintaining quality curriculum programs based on benchmarked current practice, as well as creating relevant research opportunities” (International EMBOK Executive, 2005). In addition to academics from universities in Australia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States offering event management programs, members of the International EMBOK Executive were also practitioner representatives of industry associations such as International Special Events Society (ISES), Meeting Professionals International (MPI), International Festival and Events Association (IFEA), to name a few.
Table 1. Overview of the International EMBOK Model
In 2007, a tri-lateral Memorandum of Understanding between South Africa’s Services Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) and the South African Qualifications Association (SAQA), Service Skills Australia, and the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council (CTHRC) was signed in Johannesburg to undertake the mapping of their qualifications against each other and the EMBOK. In 2008, members of the International EMBOK Executive convened in Winnipeg, Manitoba to review the International Event Management Standard (IEMS) developed by the CTHRC, which used a curriculum model based on the EMBOK (Silvers, 2007) for norm referencing, plus other recognized and established occupational standards and curricula from six countries. The IEMS was ratified by a network of domestic and international professional associations, government standards setting bodies, event management practitioners, thought leaders, and other stakeholders from 16 countries, thereby taking the legitimacy of the EMBOK to a governmental level.
In 2009, the IEMS was subjected to a rigorous large-scale validation by events practitioners from more than 20 countries, and was released in 2010 as the Event Management International Competency Standards (EMICS) (Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council, 2010). The EMICS have subsequently been adopted by Meeting Professionals International (MPI) as the basis for their Meeting and Business Events Competency Standards (MBECS) (Meeting Professionals International, 2010). Thus, combined with the results of the analysis conducted for this study, a full circle substantiation of the relevance and efficacy of the EMBOK framework can be illustrated, as shown in Figure 1.
Figure 1. 360o Evaluation of the EMBOK framework
This study compared the EMBOK to five voluntary certification programs offered by international organizations representing event industry professionals. These certification programs have implicitly adopted the National Organization for Competency Assurance guidelines for credentialing programs (NOCA, 2005), as well as adhere to the standards established by its accrediting body, the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA, 2003, 2004), which include demonstration of the link between the performance domains related to the skill or task identified in a job analysis to the competency assessment criteria. The relevance to curriculum development, and the role of EMBOK within it, as shown in Figure 2, is its critical position linking knowledge to competency assessment–what one should know how to do rather than measuring one’s ability to do it.
Figure 2. Overview of the professional credentialing path
The credentials selected for this study include professional certifications in meetings, exhibitions, festivals, special events, and overall event management, as shown in Table 2, and represent the predominant event sectors and typical credentials in the events industry (Bowdin, McPherson, and Flinn, 2006). This selection of credentials also represents the most prevalent event sector curricula foci of academic, vocational, and professional development programs. Each credentialing program has developed a blueprint that identifies, in varying depth, the tasks, skills, and knowledge associated with its respective occupation, thus establishing its own individual body of knowledge. By mapping these credentialing blueprints to the EMBOK, one can see the similarities and differences between the various certification programs and their bodies of knowledge, thereby establishing the potential for credential and curriculum parity.
Table 2. Scope of credentials included in the study
The mapping process for each EMBOK domain included importing all the competency or curriculum points from each source that were directly or indirectly relevant to the topic. Given the structural format and style differences (see Table 3), the competency points were then analyzed and compared for similarities taking into consideration the variables associated with each distinct credential. It should be noted that the EMBOK framework is organized alphabetically, as opposed to sequentially or sector-specific ranking in the blueprints included in the study, which provides a neutrality with regard to importance and therefore broadly applicable. The mapping was based upon a content analysis, for which there is a degree of subjectivity associated with the analyst’s judgment (Cambridge Professional Development Limited, 2010), however the resultant comparative overview (see Table 4) indicated that the practitioners in each sector are performing the same management functions, albeit with different emphasis and different issues per each sector.
Table 3. Blueprint structure and format
Table 4. Mapping outcome at-a-glance
The skills and knowledge content points for the topics were then analyzed for similarity of task objective to identify the overarching areas of activity within each management area, as shown in Table 5. In that they represent the essential competencies, this menu of topics represent the responsibilities associated with event management, and although they have variable situational applicability within each event context (i.e., event type, purpose, scale, complexity, etc.), they show the same fundamental task and skill set categories. This provides curriculum developers with a benchmark for conducting a gap analysis of existing curricula and a strategy for developing new programs, irrespective of a sectoral focus such as meetings and conventions, exhibitions, festivals, special events, or other types of planned events.
Table 5. Overview of responsibilities associated with event management
The challenge for curriculum developers for event management educational and professional credentialing programs is to ensure a comprehensive and flexible model that represents the full scope of the responsibilities assigned to event organizers. These programs might focus on a single type of event or the full spectrum of event sectors, yet should consider the transposable characteristics inherent in all events. The goal is providing learners with the knowledge that prepares them to enter or advance in the workplace and the industry, no matter where they enter or where their career takes them.
All sectors–meetings and conventions, cause-related and fundraising events, corporate and live communications events, festivals and civic events, fairs and expositions, social and life-cycle events, entertainment and leisure events, and spectator and participatory sports events–have administrative functions, event design functions, marketing functions, operations functions, and risk management functions that must be performed. The comprehensive nature of the EMBOK provides a scalable and adaptable structure that reflects the total picture of industry’s management activities. Although different event sectors will have different applications, including differing terminology, techniques, and elements, the scope of responsibilities does not change; only the applicability of the functions will be different.
The EMBOK categories are generic rather than specific per event type, which facilitates a broad range of possibilities ranging from the nomenclature for comparable course titles as well as an assessment tool for course content to articulation agreements between institutions to ensure the efficacy and efficiency of credit transfer. In addition, it might serve as a benchmark for establishing linkage across numerous degree programs (e.g. departments) and course materials (e.g. textbooks); establishing standards for a quality equivalency assessment of curricula; curriculum differentiation between programs aimed at credit transfer (e.g. community college to university) and those aimed at personal development or interest (e.g. continuing education); and harmonizing respective credentialing programs in order to facilitate equitable mutual and foreign credential recognition. The generic nature of the EMBOK categories also illustrates the potential for translating skills and context both inside and outside the events industry, once again fostering career mobility as well as expanding the pool of sources and resources available to programs, instructors, and learners.
Conclusion and Recommendations
Given that the blueprints provided by organizations awarding professional certifications to successful candidates have been developed using job analyses of “expert-level” working professionals, the results of this study reflect the total picture of the occupation’s activities and indicate an underlying parallel in the core management functions that span the various event sectors. The structure of the EMBOK incorporates these functions into a framework of recognizable and modularized categories that captures the fundamental knowledge needed by practitioners–the components necessary for a comprehensive and effective curriculum.
The EMBOK appears to be a scalable system for analyzing and organizing curricula for the field of event management. However this will only be proven through usage–testing its relevance and reliability in customizing learning programs for the variety of event sectors at the various levels of credential desired. Yet the opportunities for curriculum and course development are promising. In addition to facilitating quality assurance initiatives for globally harmonized academic programming and workforce education, the EMBOK framework facilitates cost effective development of uniform and adaptable curricula without duplicating efforts already accomplished. It also offers the ability to customize programming, particularly in an e-learning context, by organizing course offerings in a structured domain-category classification system.
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