R E V I E W 17 HELPING CONSERVATION SPECIALISTS Membership of the institute is steady at around 2,200 despite the destabilising economic and policy environments. We continue to offer financial support for members in need, covering fees and training. We introduced the new associate membership level, which accredits conservation in a single generic area of practice, and renewed the professional indemnity partnership scheme. Members of HESPR, our dedicated support for conservation businesses, now enjoy enhanced benefits including access to a regular listing of tenders and one free job advert a year. PLANNING AHEAD CP20 encapsulates our future plan, including business, research, advocacy, operational development and more. The strand headed by IHBC+ summarises how we will secure the longer-term sustainability of the institute through supporting our members. As such, IHBC+ lies at the heart of CP20, tying it together by focussing on people: our members, in the first instance, as our fee-paying ‘clients and customers’; as volunteers too, as they support our work and serve as advocates and ambassadors; and finally as advisers who guide our development and progress. In these terms we are already moving forward under CP20 with strong foundations: • IHBC+ is extending our reach outside our core membership while empowering members by encouraging them to be more active • Council+ offers opportunities for those who are not full members to get involved in our planning and strategic development • our committees have been encouraged to appoint more vice chairs with specific portfolios or responsibilities to encourage proactive volunteering, more flexible learning opportunities and wider engagement as they continuing our ‘peripatetic’ agenda by meeting local members in their local branches • branches are receiving more funds and additional personnel support to encourage them to adopt and adapt the most useful lessons of these new arrangements • members will find it easier to engage with our work, and use it for CPD purposes, as we build more systems to formally recognise their contributions. If this brief outline seems a little short on detail, perhaps an easier way to capture the potential of their ‘people power’ is through the example of Council+. Council+ is a new national platform introduced to generate more diverse and informed input to the board of trustees than our AGM can offer. It also serves as an accessible training ground for future volunteers, whether as trustees, with their strategic management priorities, or as national committee or branch chairs and vice chairs, with their more operational interests. In 2015 we had two pilot meetings of Council+, the first at the annual school in Norwich and the second before Christmas. At the former, members gave up their Sundays to discuss IHBC and Council+. The point then was less the content than the people. Around the table an uncommon diversity of players and current – and, no doubt, future – leaders explored what they considered important to their careers and for their representative body. They also heard much more about how the IHBC operates, meeting officers and hearing about their roles. Our second meeting got down to more of the brass tacks of the profession as we: • reviewed outcomes from and responses to the previous meeting to ensure continuity of purpose • learned how prejudices against age, gender and sector could generate barriers to progress for careers and the IHBC • commended the new volunteers who are helping to promote the IHBC as an educational resource and a membership body • explored how to generate better connections • and sought answers to some of the ‘great inscrutables’ of our day, including diminishing capacity, minimal training opportunities and irregular career paths. Council+ members emphasised that dwelling on the difficult or even tragic isn’t always the best way to respond to unfortunate aspects of the present. Rather we must recognise, acknowledge and affirm the positive, the opportunities and the potential. Such attitudes reflect the institute’s ever-increasing confidence and maturity, affirming an ethos that we will take through 2016 and beyond. In that spirit it is surely right to celebrate here our coming of age as the IHBC enters the next stage of what looks set to be a long and successful life. Seán O’Reilly, firstname.lastname@example.org The first pilot meeting of Council+, held at the 2015 annual school in Norwich.