The president of the Landscape Institute has told a cross-professional grouping that communication with the public is vital

Sue Illman stresses importance of communication

Sue Illman, president of the Landscape Institute, has called for the professions to communicate better with the public.

Speaking at the third of four Edge Commission debates on the future of the professions, in this case looking at the topic of ‘society’, Illman said, ‘How can society see the relevance and value of what we do if they don’t understand what we do? As landscape architects, we can only deliver public benefit if people value what we do. It is the public-facing aspect where we struggle.’

Whereas older professions such as architecture are better recognised (if not always entirely understood), Illman said, ‘younger professions such as ours struggle to achieve broad public recognition.’

This is not helped, she added by the fact that ‘professions have responded to a complex world by creating ever more institutions.’ In contrast, she said, ‘the Landscape Institute is trying to become a broader church. The areas of expertise may differ, but some individuals may work in several of them.’

She talked about the way that a number of of professional organisations came together to jointly author and sign the open letter to the prime minister about flooding – quickly putting aside inter-organisation rivalries. ‘We must work together to understand and articulate longer term issues of sustainability and see why and how we can contribute,’ she said.

She concluded ‘Delivering public benefits and communicating outcomes is not about dumbing down our role but about making our contribution recognised which will uphold our professional status.’

In response to a question about whether presidents of professional institutions could be more effective if they served for longer periods, Illman, who is nearing the end of her two-year stint, said, ‘I wouldn’t wish a longer period on anybody. It’s not reasonable to ask anybody to do it for longer than two years.’ Continuity comes she said from members of committees and council, from the secretariat and from the fact that relationships built up during the period as president will continue.

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