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

    View from Waun Fach overlooking Pengenfordd, by Alice Rhodes

    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.


    1. The problem is, though, the proposals so far do not evidence how they will deliver the aspirations. Neither has the case been proven that the current governance structure cannot just be improved to achieve the same aims. Instead, can we get on with higher priorities…which are, now you mention it, in the Charter you refer to: which is more along the lines of promoting the arts and science of landscape architecture and its associated education. We have over 26 members of staff and yet no education officer. Promotion is outward facing. Tinkering with governance is inward. But what would I know; I’m only a member looking in from the outside, not quite believing that the questions you ask the members won’t be loaded…

    2. Here’s the real truth. The proposal is to:

      . get rid of the President on the Board (why would you even suggest that as an option?)
      . get rid of continuity by getting rid of the past president position
      . continue the practice of staff being the experts not us
      . detach Council as a mere bubble or twig floating in a sea of fora
      . not improve Council functioning (our main voice in the governance)

      And yet the above article spins the need for change as a no- brainer.
      What is needed is no more than operational improvements to the existing.
      It highlights the need for inclusivity whilst the institute, e.g., actively excludes retired members from voting or participation in the running of the LI.
      This review process was halted already because of serious lack of transparency and independent advice that the Board did not hire or potentially even agree with. Now it is back, claiming it just needs a little brush up, tweaking and refinement. It Is NOT in the members’ interest.

    3. This governance review is like ‘taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut’. Our existing constitution is fit for purpose. It was drawn up by a very reputable charity lawyer not so long ago. Most of the problems could be solved by simple operational changes. For instance, Council should be given well-written, concise papers at least two weeks before meetings. Papers should not be confidential so that members can consult their branch and have time to reflect. Meetings should not be dominated by Powerpoints that stifle debate. This is but one example of a simple operational improvement.
      I was on Board for six of the last nine years and do not recognise these proposals. They are a mystery.

    4. . can the LI assure us that staffing has not already been rearranged to pre-empt the result (they’d like) of this G Review,
      regardless of members views from now on?

      . the sum total, of the proposals so far within this gov review is a distancing of members from decision making, not as claimed greater inclusion; and it will lead to a consolidating of greater staff power in that decision making

    5. Kate,
      A few questions first – why are you fronting this communication and not our President? Will all the responses be retained?
      Comments:- The reasons for the review do not add up as they can be achieved by day to day operational changes. There is clear evidence that the review is disguising the active dismantling of membership control over their own Institute. For example by proposing the option that our Head of Profession, our President might not Chair the only decision making Board of Trustees. Or the removal of the Immediate Past President function to be replaced by two years as President Elect ensures a cliff edge for every President – a function we have all invested in. Thus ensuring one more year in a subservient function and the inability to wind down their influence, ensuring continuity to the outside world. There is also evidence that our charitable status is being severely compromised by the refusal to engage members and staff in delivery of LI policies, also the fronting up by unqualified and inexperienced representatives. The failure to accept that all LI outward facing policy influence has to be signed off by members not by the CEO or his staff. The CEO is there to serve the membership, the Landscape Institute is not a dictatorship it is a member funded Institute and member control is being compromised under the auspices of a Governance Review.

    6. While I see certain needs for LI to progress into the future, I am very concerned about the direction of travel in this review as outlined by Brodie Mcalister ‘s comments.

    7. So, could anyone please explain what is progressive, inclusive or democratic about the detailed proposal that has been worked up WITHOUT the input of a democratic representation of the membership? Council is scratching its head on that one too. It seems ant- democratic to cloak so many meetings and deliberations and investigations in confidentiality. At the Nov 2018 Council and Board retreat the review was mentioned as due to begin in 2019.
      It promised to review the lack of transparency over minutes within governance, including committees. It has not delivered. It has gone backwards, not progressed. It proposes putting members one step further from the democracy of decision making. One step too far! Member input should have been at the front end of this review, not back end, in determining and defining whether there was a problem at all.

    8. Was the Governance Review conducted by outside consultants. What was their fee proposal and what is the current expenditure?. Did the Board agree the expenditure ?


    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here