The general assembly is the spawning ground for all the senior member positions in the RTPI. For instance, you cannot stand for junior vice-president, and thus later become president, without two consecutive years on the general assembly.
Most executive board trustees are elected by the assembly and most committee chairpeople and vice-chairpeople are members. At least two-thirds of the assembly is elected by the RTPI membership, while the other third is mainly made up of representatives chosen by the regions and nations.
The general assembly's role is carefully described in the constitution as "a forum for debate about the development of planning policy and practice, the corporate policy of the chartered institute and other issues relevant to its objectives". The assembly also acts through an audit committee that it appoints to scrutinise the performance of the executive board.
Since the new structure of executive board and general assembly was introduced, the primary responsibility for managing the institute's affairs lies with the board's trustees. This important organisation is the plenum for member engagement with the institute.
The general assembly has received presentations on key issues such as climate change, diversity and spatial planning and, through the process of break-out sessions, it has informed the institute's emerging policy. Yet the great strength of the institute is the breadth of expertise and experience among its members, who contribute to the planning policy and practice committee, the networks and association and the committees of the regions and nations.
The institute has grown in stature and competence following the management structure put in place by the New Vision for Planning. Considerable progress has been made in developing the arrangements for the networks and association and the regions and nations, but there is still scope to increase the engagement of individual members and improve services to them.
As I write this, the general assembly meeting is considering how its responsibilities might be more effectively discharged. It is looking at the principles of member engagement in a 21st century professional body to guide the executive board in its deliberations on membership structures. These include looking at creative ways to promote participation, clarifying the purpose of member bodies, securing diverse representation, improving means of communication, developing evidence-based policies, realising leadership potential and boosting membership.
If these principles are correct then improving the way in which RTPI bodies operate in line with them on behalf of individual members is vital. We have a good institute but we need to make it even better.
You can access the paper on the RTPI website, and there will soon be a report on the general assembly's deliberations. The assembly is your representative body and it is the right organisation to give guidance on engagement. The executive board is keen to see an effective dialogue with members.
- Martin Willey is junior vice-president of the RTPI.