2019 Yearbook

R E V I E W A N D A N A L Y S I S 17 RESOURCE PLANNING AND INVESTING FOR THE LONGER TERM SEÁN O’REILLY, IHBC DIRECTOR O VER THE past year the IHBC has worked hard to maintain high levels of activity, impact and influence across a wide range of member and stakeholder interests as we do our best to support those who shape and care for our built and historic environment. As the economic constraints of the previous financial year have eased, we have correspondingly renewed our cautious expansion, with the low-cost consolidation of core operations and services being the primary focus. In particular, we have looked at improving efficiency with better management and planning, a theme that is explored in more detail in my regular reports in our membership journal Context . Of course, streamlining services without regard to users’ needs would be pointless, but the powerful affirmation of member satisfaction in the responses to our 2017–18 membership survey (with 92% of members satisfied or very satisfied and 94% likely or very likely to recommend IHBC membership) meant that the obvious response was to build on this good work. Additionally, given the recent turbulence in global and local politics and economics it was important to maintain the great value already offered to our members. As such, our recent investments of effort and resources have been primarily directed towards streamlining and coordinating our activities, a cautious strategy perhaps, but also one in keeping with our conservation- friendly precautionary approach. In many cases, such improvements have been invariably more complex than anticipated. Examples include ostensibly simple procedural changes, such as embedding the development of our online ToolBox resource into committee processes, which ultimately require new protocols and practices to maintain standards. An even more challenging improvement has been the structured planning of our online and hard copy suites of publications, to make sure they secure a broader input from volunteers while also winning new audiences. One example already in hand is the marking of key anniversaries from 2019, including the 50th anniversary of the Churches Conservation Trust, COTAC’s 60th, the centenary of the Bauhaus, and the centenary and bicentenary of the births of Sir Bernard Feilden and John Ruskin respectively. The challenge is that these events should register appropriately across all IHBC platforms, from the NewsBlogs (limited to as little as one hour to plan) to the yearbook (for which planning can take eight months or more). With closer ties to current events such as anniversaries, or more ambitious targets such as future national political initiatives like the successful new heritage investments in England’s high streets, we can heighten our impact substantially. Significantly, and at little extra cost, this uplift should transform the IHBC from serving as a receptive and willing platform for others to wield their agendas, to being both a player and a leader, as we deliver on our own agenda. However all this can only be done if we can streamline our activities into a process that can react directly to wider opportunities through better planning and preparation. While this may generate more up-front expenses, the payoff has potential to be substantial, as any such streamlining will inevitably reduce costs or add value to our operations and services. A simple example of the changes under way is how we target new audiences and networks by offering free copies of Context . We already do brilliant work in producing each issue, but because this has largely operated as a stand-alone activity in the past, the c£50,000 overall annual cost did not attract the wide-ranging return it might have. Better integration between planning, programming, promoting, procuring and publicising – such as with our Context -linked CPD boosts on our NewsBlog news service – can wring more value out of any activity, for members, their colleagues and of course for the sector as a whole. Securing this level of integration, however, has required the establishment of new processes to link content, training priorities, authors, publishers, volunteers, sponsors and sector stakeholders, all in a single, manageable and coherent process. Its development has not been fully concluded, but the benefits are clear. Naturally, more effective planning of Context also opens up new and often more powerful audiences. Internationally, we have been able to offer a forthcoming issue to a Chinese audience at a Shanghai conference and develop links with the architect’s professional body there, while the 2019 annual school