Active membership starts with election participation

Voting in institute ballots is crucial to ensure that key governance roles reflect wide membership interests and skills, writes Martin Willey.

The number of members voting for junior vice-president and the general assembly has increased substantially over the past few years but still stands at less than 20 per cent. Meanwhile, the total membership has increased and the number engaged, as measured by regions and nations activity, network membership and website response, has also risen to perhaps a third.

During my presidential year in 2009, I established that there are many reasons for this. They include a belief that the RTPI is becoming a more effective body, especially through communications. The relevance of network, regions and nations activity is a factor, along with the website knowledge resource and the efforts of officers to engage members. There is also a recognition that active networking is a prerequisite for good career prospects.

However, I also discovered why many members do not engage actively in the RTPI. In my own experience, mid-career commitment is an understandable reason. Despite strenuous efforts, knowledge of the networks and the website is low.

My presidential award at the RTPI Planning Awards 2009 was to four "active members" because of what they put into the RTPI. Importantly, they received peer recognition and business and personal development opportunities in return.

The executive board has exercised its mind on how best to ensure that the institute's primary governance represents the different sectors and geographical distribution of the membership and the gender, orientation and ethnicity of the public community we serve.

It also strives to maintain a balance of skills and expertise in the bodies the members serve. This is reflected in the make-up of committees, panels and task groups but not yet in the board and assembly.

We need more members to vote in the current elections. The role of the president as primary ambassador is hugely important and the institute needs to tap into a wider variety of expertise and knowledge. Voting would show that you are engaged in your professional body and care about who represents you.

As president, I was amazed at the skills, success and potential of the 2,000 or so members whom I met. It would reflect well on the profession if more than 50 per cent of members voted and would, I am sure, impress our new chief executive.

Martin Wiley is the RTPI's immediate past president and managing director of YTP Regeneration Partnerships.

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