Monday, May 21, 2012

Presidential Address to IAP2 UK & Ireland Annual General Meeting

Address by Geoff Wilson
Presiding Member
May 2012

Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words here today at the Annual General Meeting for IAP2 UK/Ireland. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Geoff Wilson and I am the presiding member of the IAP2 federation board of directors.
I am from Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. Some of you may know that it takes about the same time to fly to London from Halifax as it does to fly to Vancouver, British Columbia on Canada’s west coast, so in this Canadian context, I am very close to the UK. And of course Canada and the UK share deep historical and family roots, so it might not surprise you to know that I have a strong affinity for and sense of connection to the UK.
I bring greetings from the IAP2 federation board and offer my congratulations to the executive committee, board volunteers and members of IAP2 UK/Ireland for your achievements over the past few years since becoming an IAP2 affiliate.
I would especially like to acknowledge Nicky Leggatt who I have been so fortunate to work with on the international board in recent years. As well, I am getting to know Emma Cranidge and Rod Sterne and am looking forward to building a closer and more productive working relationship with them.
It’s fair to say that keeping an international professional association alive and relevant during a prolonged international financial crisis has had its challenges. From speaking with Nicky, Emma and Rod I know that every sector in the UK is cutting back on things like public consultation and engagement. It’s therefore a bit ironic that relatively recent public policy changes in the UK have placed a much greater emphasis on public engagement than ever before.
And while I’m sure many of you may be feeling challenged by this, I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for the IAP2 UK/Ireland to grow its membership and its influence on the public involvement stage. What could possibly be more appealing in this environment than a professional association of peers that connects one to a vast international network of practitioners, trainers and researchers? The cost of membership is much less than many other professional associations but the value of the networking opportunities is priceless, in my view.
I understand that IAP2 UK/Ireland is planning some ambitious membership recruitment targets for this coming year. The timing of this couldn’t be better.
I also understand that you’re planning to launch a more interactive web presence. Again, the time is ripe to be reaching out to prospective new members and for creating some new buzz within our professional community in the UK and Ireland.
So, I want to thank each one of you for your commitment to IAP2 UK and Ireland, and for lending your time and expertise to growing this association.
As some of you may know if you are familiar with the federation’s strategic directions, we have embarked on an ambitious international agenda and the UK and Ireland affiliate is a valued contributor to that agenda. We are developing new affiliates in many places – but most exciting and relevant for all of you – many of your European neighbors are working towards IAP2 affiliation. I hope we will be welcoming an Italian affiliate to the federation very soon to join with UK & Ireland, France and a growing European presence.
We are also in the midst of renewing our training program and materials, one of IAP2’s most important initiatives. And, we are developing standards for our field of practice. I know that the development of practice standards for public participation is a particular interest to many of your members, so I hope that UK and Ireland will play an active and leading role in our standards work as it develops in the coming months.
There is much happening at the local and international level in our association to stimulate interest in being an IAP2 member, so I would ask everyone at your AGM to think about five people they will approach to join IAP2 UK and Ireland in the next few weeks. You can begin these conversations by saying how wonderful it is to be part of a growing international network.
Before I conclude, I just want to speak about the importance of the relationship between UK/Ireland, the other IAP2 affiliates and the international board.
Like many of you I joined IAP2 to be part of an international network of colleagues with whom I could share experiences and learn from. That means that it is vitally important for each affiliate not to become too insular; to look beyond borders and reach out to colleagues around the world.  We have much to learn from each other, and much to share.
The federation is the connector for affiliates and their members to the rest of the IAP2 world. If we are to achieve the vision for IAP2 to become the preeminent public participation organization worldwide, UK/Ireland and all affiliates must embrace their membership in a global community of practice. And I would say this of the UK and Ireland from my own personal experience: You have so much knowledge and experience to contribute to our professional field that we need you as an active and engaged affiliate within the IAP2 family.
This federation is the affiliates, and without vigorous and interested participation in the federation by all affiliates, IAP2 cannot deliver the important member benefit of being part of an international network of professionals.
In closing, thank you for this opportunity and congratulations on your AGM. For those who may be looking for professional development opportunities, IAP2 Canada and IAP2 USA are co-hosting a North American conference in late September here in Halifax, and IAP2 members from everywhere are welcome.
I am looking forward to hearing about the many great things that will happen for IAP2 UK/Ireland in the coming months and years, and I thank you for your time and attention today.