IHBC Yearbook 2015

14 Y E A R B O O K 2 0 1 5 EXPERIMENTAL EVOLUTION SEÁN O’REILLY, IHBC DIRECTOR The past year has been one of the most exciting and challenging since I came into the post. It began with Bob Kindred’s appointment as our Research Notes consultant and with Fiona Hyslop MSP, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, agreeing to speak at our Edinburgh school. The pace barely slackened until year’s end, when we were at last able to promote our new associate category of membership as a stepping stone to help affiliates progress towards full membership. A business-minded approach has underpinned these developments, producing the resources and capacity that has allowed us to raise our game substantially. Supported by our trustees and key volunteers, we’ve progressed a balance of commercial and charitable imperatives that, with a little intelligent management, lets us distribute a little of the largesse from our better-paid colleagues to those members more in need. This small but significant redistribution also helps us to achieve our charitable and corporate ambitions. In our model, any surpluses that arise from business operations, projects or events help subsidise those who can demonstrate they can benefit most, or are most in need. For example, about 2½ per cent of a member’s full fee goes to subsidising other members on annual salaries under £17,500, who benefit from a 50 per cent reduction in fees under our concessionary rates. That relief is even more substantial – up to 100 per cent on occasion – for the still small number of members seeking hardship support, such as those on salaries of £12,500 or less. Generating surpluses means we can support those members most in need, but it also means that branches have the freedom to use their annual allocation, or any surpluses from income-generating events such as the annual school, for their local needs. This is a great way to spur innovation in localised heritage support. That some branches can then, in effect, return funds to the IHBC’s cycle of events by offering bursaries for the annual school is a small reflection of just how the spirit of the IHBC as a charity need not be compromised by commercial realities. At the same time, surpluses underpin our small but carefully targeted contributions to key sector issues, achieving a value and profile that belies the modest sums involved. Sponsorship of the excellent suite of annual conferences from COTAC (now the Council on Training in Architectural Conservation), brings our name to the fore in one of the most critical areas of conservation practice, architectural conservation and its allied interests. The examples are extensive, and the corporate benefits well demonstrated by the simple matter of our sponsoring refreshments at the third meeting of Place Alliance – its ‘Big Meet 3’. This sponsorship offered a critical platform to stake our ‘place’ at the table of place-making. The Place Alliance initiative follows on from the Farrell Review and its encouragement for the alignment of interests across the PLACE acronym: Planning, Landscape, Architecture, Conservation, Engineering. The review panel aligned themes with professional bodies, such as the RIBA and architecture, but unaccountably failed to specify a body for the conservation role. Extraordinary, perhaps, in a document setting out to promote integrated practice, but by sponsoring the ‘Big Meet’, and securing our logo on the invitations, we have specified just where we see ourselves in that PLACE process, even if others, as yet, do not. So it is our legacy of successful business management that has allowed the institute to grow both in operations and ambitions, peaking with the kind of hectic year the national office has just experienced. The biggest impact, however, has been on our internal organisation. After a long period of cautiously exploring ideas, we agreed to make the kind of commitment that would have been a pipe-dream only a few years ago, by adding a new post to our small, formal staff of two – the director and projects officer. The Learning, Education, Training & Standards (LETS) liaison officer post offers branches the assistance needed to generate even more benefits from their hard work: adding capacity, extending networking, diversifying outreach and even helping make connections across the branches. The economics of the post were cautiously mapped so that trustees could have confidence in its sustainable resourcing. Unsurprisingly, given our membership, we had an exceptionally strong and variously skilled range of candidates. Despite the relatively low salary, the opportunity the role offered to make a difference in the sector was clear to all, so with the chance to take on board an exceptionally skilled candidate, if on more limited hours, we agreed IHBC Director Seán O’Reilly with Fiona Hyslop MSP, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture, at the Edinburgh School