Kate Bailey CMLI, LI Trustee and Chair of the LI Policy and Communications Committee, discusses the recent outcomes of the LI’s ongoing governance review and our next steps
A few years ago, the Landscape Institute Policy and Communications Committee initiated a member-to-member ‘Conversation’ about the future of the Institute and our profession.
None of us foresaw the current pandemic, or how quickly the climate crisis would come to affect all our lives. Nevertheless, the Conversation did generate interesting possibilities, many of which have influenced the LI’s strategy.
One outcome was the Board’s decision in 2015 to consider whether the LI’s governance structure remains fit for purpose, inclusive and relevant in the 21st century. We’ve since made several changes to LI regulations – to the election process and extension of voting rights, for instance – and we envisage further updates.
What is LI governance?
The LI is both a charity and a professional membership organisation. Three separate documents govern the Institute: our Royal Charter, our By-Laws, and our Regulations.
Our Royal Charter, granted over two decades ago, outlines our charitable objectives. In brief, these are:
- to protect, conserve and enhance the natural and built environment for the benefit of people, place and nature
- to share knowledge relating to landscape architecture, and promote landscape research and education
- to ensure high standards of knowledge, competence and conduct for those who practice landscape architecture*
At the top of the LI governance structure is the Board of Trustees. The Board are the ‘decision-makers’, and are legally responsible for the charity’s operation. They take advice from member groups, including Advisory Council, and delegate some responsibilties to three Standing Committees. Supporting and delivering all of this at the local level are the 12 LI branches.
Over time, other groups and forums have emerged – to progress certain pieces of work, to support the Pathway to Chartership, or to provide specialist advice to staff and other members, for instance.
The case for change
It’s taken a long time to consider the potential for change. But the Board is now involving volunteers, including Council and Standing Committee members, in discussions about more inclusive and effective ways of working together.
Our key aim is to engage more members – particularly younger and newer members – in the LI’s work. We need the Institute to be open and accessible to all members at all levels. We need to modernise our ways of working, employing a more digital approach to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the climate crisis. And we need to work much harder to instil equity, diversity and inclusion in the organisation and the landscape profession.
Board and Council are setting up a joint working group to develop further proposals for change. Over the coming months, the working group will invite different member groups to explore options: these might be roles for future committees, new forums, expert panels or new member networks, for example. The group aims to recommend a draft revised governance structure to the Board early in 2021. (We’ve been pleased to see some members already coming up with ideas for possible improvements!)
After the Board has considered the working group’s report, we’ll invite all LI members to have their say. Board and Council have agreed to make extra time for engagement, and everyone’s views will be welcome. We’ll revive ‘the Conversation’ to keep everyone informed, and encourage responses from every member.
LI members can visit the Members’ Area of the website to stay abreast of all our governance updates. Look out for more updates from me over the coming months, and be ready to share your views in the New Year!
* The definition of ‘landscape architecture’ is much broader – our Royal Charter (section 5) contains more details.