As chief executive of the Royal Town Planning Institute, I want every member to be the best planner that they can be. That is why I was heartened that a review of last year's activities showed that the RTPI collectively organised more than 16,000 places at over 380 events ranging from small free continuing professional development (CPD) events to the Planning Convention.
The institute's ethos has always been one of personal development and I want to ensure that we provide as many different opportunities, in as many possible ways, to learn as possible.
I know that cost and value for money are critical in these difficult economic times. Many of our events are free, with more than 37 per cent of places last year costing nothing. And at the events for which we do charge, we try hard to keep the cost down: three-quarters of our events cost less than £100 to attend.
Another way we can help keep events affordable is to ensure they are local. From Inverness to St Austell and from Dublin to London, you can find RTPI events near where you live and work. And to enhance learning opportunities further, we will be launching online CPD modules later this year so that you can learn in your own time and in your own way.
But I know that planners don't just want learning events, they also want to meet fellow professionals. Many RTPI regions and nations hold annual social events where you can let your hair down with your colleagues in glittering style.
I am often struck by the dedication that you, the membership, put in to making the institute what it is. The RTPI's core staff is surprisingly small, but as an organisation we punch significantly above our weight, and much of that is down to your efforts.
Most of our events are supported and often organised by people like you giving their time for free. Our active members and committees help choose the topics, find speakers, put together programmes and contribute a lot to running our events. Without this input from our members it would be impossible for us to provide such a varied and affordable range of activities.
The involvement of members also helps to keep the events fresh and topical: as they are practising planners, they know what topics are important and they know the type of events they want to attend.
It's a truism to say that a membership organisation exists for its members; it might be more accurate to say that the RTPI exists because of its members. In hard economic times, and with negative headlines about planning all too common, it has never been more important professionally to take advantage of what is on offer and to get involved in the RTPI to make what is offered even better.
Trudi Elliott is chief executive of the RTPI. For more information about the events that the institute runs near you, visit www.rtpi.org.uk/events