R E V I E W 17 EXPERIMENTAL EVOLUTION SEÁN O’REILLY, IHBC DIRECTOR We have had a remarkably busy year, achieving the usual high level of activity and influence across the wide range of interests that shape built and historic environment conservation, even if, as our ambitions extend, pressures have increased. We are also very aware of just how challenging the working environments of our members have been. Before we look at the wider contexts of our work, though, it may be best to begin closer to home. Responding to the reasonably healthy financial situation of the institute and following on from the part-time appointment of Kate Kendall as our Learning, Education, Training and Standards (LETS) Officer in 2014, an additional post was agreed by the trustees early in 2016. The Branch and Events Support Officer role was devised to offer more help to our volunteer members, one of the institute’s most critical resources, and was filled by Carla Pianese, a part-time student at University College London and a conservator by background. That membership focus also stimulated our continuing exploration of more modern forms and structures of governance, which progressed as an informal programme operating under the title IHBC+. It was best summarised at the time of its earliest conception, in December 2014, as a process of ‘experimental evolution’. By 2016, IHBC+ had generated substantially more inclusive and diverse platforms for membership engagement, notably our Council+. As a UK-wide advisory forum, Council+ was devised to introduce members of all categories, accredited and otherwise, to the strategic operations of their professional body, with appointments led by both local and national branches and the UK-wide board. Building on the capacity offered by all our members – and reducing the unfair obligations on the few – helped to consolidate our presence and profile across the huge range of sectors that shape conservation outcomes: heritage and culture; construction, development and regeneration; as well as education and environment, among many others. This capacity building had other valuable impacts, as membership numbers reached around 2,400 at the end of September, although these figures do ebb and flow across the year. However, our investment in volunteer support and new membership structures such as IHBC+ clearly reinforced interest in our work and, through that, our voluntary resource. The IHBC’s listing of commercial and corporate conservation practices, HESPR (Historic Environment Service Provider Recognition), saw less dramatic changes numerically but that only sparked our ambitions. Promotion of HESPR continued in the Yearbook and online, occasional bulletins of business tender opportunities became weekly and cross-promotions increased, notably through the still-developing ‘Caring for your home’ website (http:// ihbconline.co.uk/caring). Historic England’s recognition of HESPR’s potential in its own guidance added more weight to the service, both for IHBC and HESPR members. At the time of writing, HESPR has reached a modest but solid 30 members. Adding more to the IHBC’s profile, objectives and brand were three other strands underpinning step-changes here: • the IHBC’s Conservation Areas 50th Anniversary Celebrations awards fund to help local communities celebrate the anniversary of the 1967 Civic Amenities Act • the development of the IHBC ConservationWiki (www. designingbuildings.co.uk/ wiki/ Conservation_wiki), our openaccess wiki-platform which targets the construction and business sectors • the Marsh Awards tributes which celebrate the achievements both of retired IHBC members working in the community and successful learners in heritage, with cash and annual school places serving as rewards and incentives. Other recent initiatives included a quality assurance model for local authorities, a new communications strategy, and a statement of ‘conservation professional practice principles’ for members to help us shape everything from accreditation to disciplinary standards. Moreover, we also launched CPD-friendly web promotions of our celebrated publications, notably Context; new training programmes were introduced, notably for secretaries and staff on the Church of England’s diocesan advisory committees; and we consolidated our new professional indemnity scheme.