Kate Bailey CMLI, Trustee and Chair of the LI Policy and Communications Committee, discusses next steps for the LI Board and Council’s ongoing governance review

The Hive at Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Photo by Jack Young on Unsplash

The Landscape Institute Board of Trustees and Advisory Council are currently considering potential improvements to the ways our organisation is governed.

We have now set up a Joint Working Group (JWG), comprising volunteers from both Council and Board, whose role is to make recommendations and provide options for a ‘modern, flexible and agile governance structure’ for the LI. The JWG will be required to provide a report and a summary with recommendations, including any relevant options for the future LI governance model, to both Council and Board.

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 (recently updated) 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; and
  • 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 this system at the local level are the 12 LI branches.

The JWG held its first meeting at the end of November to discuss draft Terms of Reference for the group. This document outlines the overall purpose and reporting procedures for the working group, as well as membership, appointments and terms. It describes a number of key responsibilities, including ‘to ensure the recommendations consider the range of views of the wider membership‘.

View the Governance Review Joint Working Group Terms of Reference here.

The Board of Trustees formally approved the updated Terms of Reference on 8 December 2020. The JWG is now on track to commence its work before the Christmas break, and it will continue to convene until the group has fulfilled its purpose.

The proposed timescale for the governance review initially envisaged that work would start in September-October 2020. However, slippage in the outline programme for the project, as a result of unavoidable work pressures, have meant that evidence-gathering via reference groups is now unlikely to begin until the early months of 2021. In the meantime, a few members have already begun to contribute their views and suggestions for change. The JWG welcome these contributions and will take them all into account in due course.

We realise that individual emails will be difficult to identify and collate for consideration. We’ve therefore created a feedback form in the LI members’ area to enable members to submit comments and views in advance of a member-wide consultation in the summer of 2021.

LI members can visit the Members’ Area to stay abreast of all our governance updates. Look out for more updates over the coming months.


  1. The TOR begin with the preposition that Council and Board should be separated more. This is contrary to every other promise that decisions on this review are for the working group and members to discuss. To start like this with the conclusion that an unrepresentative minority wants is ridiculous. We already know that Board makes the decisions
    after consulting widely and being advised by Council. This is a given. But the Board/ Council relationship is dysfunctional. Separating them more makes it worse. More sharing and coordination of a common agenda and overlap of membership for continuity of understanding would make it better. Council is not just a tiny bubble in a sea of fora, to be set adrift. Look at the bylaws and regs the review says it will abide by to see how wrong that view is, yet that is the current proposition that has front loaded the debate. Council functioning could easily be improved by minor operational adjustments that do not require a full review with expensive ( from consultants) and time consuming input. Stop consuming their bandwidth with one way presentations and let them breathe and think. We have got bigger priorities, all external facing. This review is not about modernisation and inclusivity and diversity. Where is the evidence to prove that. It is about a power grab.

  2. For an overview of the Landscape Institute’s first 91 years and suggestions for how it should change in readiness for our 100th Anniversary in 2029, please see a blog post and video (written by a member who joined the Institute 50 years ago). The central proposal is that the LI should move in line with the often-expressed wish of members by focusing energy and resources on raising the profile of landscape architecture. This is in line with Clause 2 of the 1929 Constitution ‘‘The Institute shall be formed to promote the study and general advancement of the Art of Landscape Architecture in all its branches, and to serve as a medium of friendly intercourse between the members and others practising or interested in the Art’. It also accords with Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe’s declaration that: ‘We are promoting a landscape art on a scale never conceived of in history.’ Comparably, our Royal Charter states that the LI is ‘for the benefit of the public by promoting the arts and sciences of Landscape Architecture’. For more information, please see:
    Comments and discussion welcome.

  3. Probably the key thing to remember is that governance is about facilitating the aims and objectives of the organisation, not an end in its own right!
    It is all too easy to become engrossed in organisational navel gazing, as I found in the preparation of the application for the original Royal Charter in the mid-1990s. The challenge is to achieve a governance structure that is understandable and accessible to the membership, and that focuses on the achievement of the Institute’s primary purposes.


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