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Sirico Parables book

    When Acton University (AU) started in 2005 (as Acton Symposium), it was a modest conference, welcoming fewer than 100 participants. But each year since, Acton Institute has worked to expand the conference, solidifying it as an annual four-day event. Over the past few years, AU has experienced exponential growth. In 2019 we received over 2,000 applications and hosted nearly 1,000 individuals from more than 80 countries. With this success, and the excitement of participating with this vibrant global community, we were all very disappointed when the “COVID-19” pandemic forced us to cancel Acton University 2020. Thankfully, we quickly pivoted and decided to move for- ward with an online version. In a matter of a few short months, we had designed, organized and scheduled a unique two-day, fully online version of Acton University. For our innovative digital pivot, participants from around the globe were able to virtually engage with dozens of original, world-class webinars and on-demand video content from expert scholars, practitioners, and lecturers. For the first time, participants were able to access Acton University from the comfort of their own home.

    While we were confident the new digital format would be successful and anticipated it would allow more global participants to attend than ever before, our ambitious expectations were exceeded:

    • Over 4,100 people registered for AU Online.
    • Over 90 countries and territories were represented, including all 50 states.
    • 67% of respondents (to post-event survey) had never attended an in-person Acton University.

    Following the event, the positive feedback flooded in. It was encouraging to read how well this new platform was received by people across the globe. A common theme was how, for many people, flying to Grand Rapids, MI, to attend the traditional AU was difficult, so the online format allowed them to participate in the event for the first time. Comments came in from Argentina, Sudan, Venezuela and beyond, noting how timely the content was. Many offered their gratitude to the sponsors for making the event affordable, oftentimes free, through financial aid.

    In the words of one conference participant:

    “For financial and personal rea- sons, I have never been able to participate. And the opportuni- ty to participate from a distance made me very excited. I learned a lot. It was very, very important to me. You have no idea what impact it has had.”

    Although we have some areas where we would like to improve the digital AU expe- rience, we are encouraged about integrat- ing this virtual platform alongside our next in-person Acton University, ensuring we welcome an even larger global community in 2021.

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