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10 highlights from our Annual Conference 2024

Filled with countless moments of joy, inspiration, learning and connection, Children in Scotland’s Annual Conference 2024 saw more than 400 delegates, speakers and exhibitors come together at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh.

From insightful workshops and uplifting keynotes to networking sessions and motivational speeches, the successful two-day event featured a packed programme – and here, we’ve rounded up just a few of the highlights to relive all the magic.

1. Our CEO shared the importance of optimism and hope

It’s no secret that many charities and third sector organisations are currently facing a range of challenges, including staff shortages and funding shortfalls. Echoing the themes discussed in her recent blog (click here for more), our CEO Judith Turbyne used her keynote address to acknowledge the serious impact these challenges will have on vital services for children and young people – but placed emphasis on never losing hope.

Speaking to a packed room of delegates on day one, Judith said: “The cost of living crisis – on the back of the pandemic – has meant that we have been functioning in crisis mode for quite a long period of time, and we know what a serious impact this is having on the children and young and their families and carers, as well as the organisations working with and for them.

“However, I very much do believe there is real power in facing up to a crisis and allowing that to be one of the levers for change. There is always hope, and if we really work together, we can make change possible.”

2. We made hundreds of new friends!

Across both days of the conference, more than 450 delegates, speakers and exhibitors arrived at Murrayfield, enjoying a range of workshops, hands-on sessions and networking opportunities. What’s more, our official conference hashtag #CiSAC24 was used more than 100 times on X (formerly Twitter) as attendees shared who they met, what they learned, and how they were inspired to improve their work.

3. We welcomed Natalie Don MSP

Speaking passionately about her mission to make Scotland the best place for children and young people to grow up, Natalie Don MSP was welcomed to the stage on day two of the conference.

The Minister for Children, Young People and Keeping the Promise discussed a range of issues relevant to the children’s sector, providing valuable insights for delegates, before staying to visit our busy exhibition hall – and stopping to speak with Changing our World (click here for more), our vibrant children and young people’s advisory group, who had their own stand in our exhibition hall.

Natalie Don MSP with CoW

4. Delegates learned why courageous leadership is vital for reducing violence

During a personal and inspiring speech, Jimmy Paul, Head of the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit, called for children to be better represented in discussions about rising violence in schools, and shared why a trauma-informed approach should be taken to address such challenges.

His thoughtful speech, which focused on the need for collaboration over competition, was one of the programme highlights. Reflecting on the talk, one attendee said: “Jimmy's very personal story resonated and made me reflect on how our roles must always centre on supporting young people and families, and going above and beyond to protect them and adapt to them as individuals”.

5. Our AI panel focused on children’s rights

Hosted by Ken Corish, Online Safety Director for the South West Grid for Learning, with Gregory Metcalfe from Children’s Parliament and Dr Mhairi Aitken of The Alan Turing Institute, our panel on children’s Rights and AI raised lots of important issues, and helped to raise awareness of the safety implications of chat bots and AI-generated content.

As Gregory said during the panel: “AI is such a rapidly evolving field, it can feel impossible to keep up – but the important thing is to focus on children's rights".

6. We made some Braw animations

During an interactive and engaging workshop, Braw Talent (click here for more) shared how they use storytelling to enable young people to share their voices – and attendees even got to create their own stop motion films based around UNCRC incorporation!

Braw Talent workshops AC24

7. There was a magical musical moment

During the Live Music and Mental Health workshops, which shared key learnings from a recent project engaging with children and young people and professionals, attendees were treated to a live performance from the incredible Scottish Ensemble (click here for more) – who needs Taylor swift tickets when you’ve been to #CiSAC24!

8. Children and young people were put at the heart of our event

When it came to shaping the programme for our Annual Conference, we knew children and young people’s views and opinions would be vital for ensuring its success. As well as helping with the planning process, we were lucky enough to have members of Changing our World in attendance across both days, while members Mhairi and Olive came on board as co-chairs.

It was so inspirational to see CoW members not only chatting with delegates but hosting workshops and leading discussions – and we can’t thank them enough for all their hard work.

9. We sparked new connections

With more than 40 exhibitors hosting stalls at the conference, our delegates got the chance to learn about everything from mental health and wellbeing to social care innovation, safeguarding initiatives, suicide prevention, road safety, support available for the third sector and so much more. Plus with 25 informative workshops, there was space for lots of learning, too.

10. And there were lots of cuddles…

Zola Pets as Therapy

The wonderful charity Pets As Therapy (click here for more) brought along a special surprise for delegates – beautiful pooch Zola, who was more than happy to receive cuddles between workshops.

Thanks to everyone who attended our Annual Conference 2024, including our sponsors Kibble, Road Safety Scotland, Harmeny, and Yopa, who made it all possible.

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