IHBC 2020 Yearbook

R E V I E W A N D A N A L Y S I S 17 DIRECTOR’S UPDATE IHBC IN 2020: REFLECTIONS AND SPECULATIONS FROM A GLOBAL PANDEMIC SEÁN O’REILLY, IHBC DIRECTOR Since our Yearbook began, updates often blur from one year to the next. For this edition the narrative might have stretched back to October 2018 from the time of writing (April 2020) had it not been for the emergence of Covid-19. Clearly, the pandemic adds unique levels of threat, uncertainty and complexity even to this text. It is especially hard to reflect the continuity between what we were doing before, and where we have to go next. And when we appreciate that at Easter some churches were closed for the first time in 800 years, we can get a sense of the unique scale of the effects of this event on society. Despite this seismic shift, and unlike many long-established bodies, from airlines to blue chips and even our infrastructure, the IHBC is finding that many of its past priorities and aspirations are still pertinent. In particular, we need to ensure the continuation of our member services into the future, in whatever form we can. That is precisely because we now see more clearly the importance of our members’ roles in society. Our organisation and its services may change – perhaps radically – as we respond to any new economic, social or sector developments or changes in practice. The only thing ‘off the table’ is the idea that we would cease supporting the work of our members. That would devalue the diverse cultural, environmental and economic benefits which they bring through a unique cross-section of interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary skills, experience and knowledge. Fortunately, we can be confident about the institute’s capacity to continue in any operating environment, precisely because of all the hard work of recent years especially, consolidating our position and role across the heritage, development and construction sectors and beyond. Although those plans and actions were shaped in a pre-Covid-19 world, they offer our future its most secure foundation. Those efforts mean that, for example, in extremis, we could be perfectly capable of achieving any necessary down-sizing without losing our interface with our communities of users and beneficiaries. We know we can address that contraction because our founding ethos as a voluntary organisation still survives, as does its core economics. Ultimately, it is more important that the work we do is maintained across our now widely (although not universally) recognised interdisciplinary conservation standards, than to forgo those standards by, say, folding into other activities that would lose the spirit of our charitable obligations. Some simple innovations demonstrate how the IHBC has been adding value to existing operations, while also underpinning our longer term viability, regardless of any pandemic. Most obviously, we have been extending our reach and networks, while adding value to our most cash intensive CPD support, by offering free copies of Context to new audiences and sectors. This simple action raises awareness of conservation issues and promotes the profile of our members in entirely new groups. Similarly, we now plan CPD across three and more years of annual schools, and by providing support for the branches involved over those longer terms, we can focus resources better than ever before, including on CPD needs, even from inside a pandemic. Another legacy that builds resilience for our post-Covid-19 world has been our organisational development. Originating in the inclusive strategy of our ‘IHBC+’, we are re-shaping the future governance of the IHBC with our planned new constitution (our draft Articles), and our next corporate plan, CP25. These are the culmination of a strong legacy of engagement and innovation that adds substantially to our resilience. Details are accessible through our NewsBlog service. Our new IHBC Creative Conservation Fund, which is a restricted fund focussed on our charitable activities, represents another important conclusion to a legacy of earlier work. Although plans for the fund go back to 2010, it was not until October 2019 that it formally opened for donations. Now in a pandemic it might seem that the best opportunities for fundraising have been missed, but the development simply reflects the good work we have been doing since gaining charitable status in 1997 and even earlier. Formally articulating our charitable operations in this way means that we can pursue new resource generation, such as promoting wider volunteering and even formal fundraising, including Gift Aid. And in a post-pandemic world this can only strengthen our capacity to endure. The past year has also seen the foundations laid for a whole new level of advocacy, with the developments of the IHBC-supported All Party