President’s column

Dorothy Miell's final missive.

President’s column
Dorothy Miell
Contact Dorothy Miell via the Society’s Leicester office,
or e-mail: [email protected]

The whole of the UK is in countdown mode to 7 May, and I have to keep reminding myself that the obsession with major changes looming on that date is not about our own leadership processes, since the last days of my presidential term are on almost the same schedule! We hold the Society AGM during our Annual Conference (in Liverpool ACC, 5– 8 May) and that’s when I will formally hand over to the next President, Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes. At the AGM on 6 May we also announce the outcome of our own elections for the next President Elect (i.e. who will serve as President in 2016/17) and it is the point at which other new members of the Board of Trustees take up their roles, including our new Honorary General Secretary, Dr Carole Allan.

Of course the transition within the Society is less disruptive than any potential general election outcome, since our Presidential Team work very closely with each other as well as with the staff of the Society to ensure a degree of continuity. Jamie and I have worked together for a year now (along of course with Richard Mallows, our Vice President until May), which gives more of a sense of a rolling three-year agenda for each member of the team. I have focused over the last two years on developing and beginning to implement the Society’s new strategic plan as well as seeing through a review of our governance processes (begun by Richard), and Jamie is already well into the Member Network Review which he has been leading and will need to see through to implementation in the coming year(s).

The outcome of the general election is likely to be hugely important for us as psychologists, given that the various parties are all campaigning on issues that centrally affect various aspects of our profession and the people we work with. Funding and policies for education (from pre-school to postgraduate) and science, for health including mental health services, for the criminal justice system and employment legislation are all key battlegrounds for the parties and areas that psychologists are heavily involved in and so likely to be affected by proposed changes. It is incredibly important that we campaign to ensure that those who we work to support, often the least able to speak for themselves, have services not just protected but improved, and that our research is supported to uncover new and more effective ways of changing society for the better. Often this involves working with other professions and disciplines to enable voices to be heard and expertise to be listened to, and I’ve been really heartened to see the increased media profile for issues with clear psychological relevance in recent weeks (such as through the ‘We Need To Talk’ coalition, or the new BPS Impact web portal (www.bps.org.uk/impact) explaining some of the amazing outcomes of UK psychological research). Psychologists are also of course involved in the electoral process itself through offering an understanding of some of the many factors affecting voters’ decision-making processes, as well as in the work on opinion polling and analysis of voting intentions, and in these areas as well the expertise of our colleagues is gaining greater visibility.

As I look back on my presidential year, apart from the frustrations about not having been able to get things changed that I’d hoped to, especially those issues and processes that so many of us have wanted to see improve for so long, I think the most positive aspects will be memories of the many individual members I have met. I’m delighted how often members talk to me about their phenomenal enthusiasm for their engagement with various parts of the profession, the discipline and the Society, and about how keen they are for all these aspects to flourish and develop. At times when things get tough – when progress seems slow or people show their rather more difficult sides – it’s that enthusiasm that has kept me going.

In conversation with the partner of a colleague of mine it was so good to hear of her commitment to both the discipline and profession and her great interest in the Society and its work, despite her not being actively involved in any of its formal structures. I’m aware that sometimes we don't engage enough with those members who aren’t part of the representative structures of the Society and perhaps it’s time we reminded ourselves about how important the Society pages of this publication are for that wider group – thank you, Joyce, for reminding me of this through our conversations and perhaps we can find ways to do more to use these pages to boost our dialogue with such members.

It is of course the combined force of all our members that gives the Society its power and influence, and so it was particularly gratifying to finally reach our long-awaited target of 50,000 members, and rather fittingly in the 50th anniversary year of the granting of our Royal Charter. We’ll be celebrating both at the Annual Conference in Liverpool. It’s also been good to see some of our international ambitions being realised, with the first accreditation visits to international universities offering psychology degrees in association with UK institutions. Extending both our membership reach and the support we can give to build professional capacity in psychology makes such an endeavour really worthwhile, and the membership staff and accrediting teams have done a great job over the last year to make this possible.

While there’s a long way to go with the implementation of the Strategic Plan, I think that it was a major step forward to have agreed on our priority areas:
1.    Promote the advancement of the knowledge base of psychology and its practice through support for research, education and professional training.
2.    Develop the psychological knowledge and professional skills of our members.
3.    Maximise the impact of psychology on public policy.
4.    Increase the visibility of psychology and raise public awareness of its contribution to society.
5.    Attract new members and broaden our membership base.
6.    Develop our organisation to support change.

The first five are about what we want to do, but we may get nowhere with them unless we ensure the final one is achieved, and I remain very committed in my vice presidential year to work with the staff of the Society and the Trustees to ensure that the organisation is structured, managed and resourced appropriately.  I’ll also ensure that progress is monitored and reported on regularly, both to the Board of Trustees and to members.

So as I sign off, determined to keep pushing for improvements through working with the new Presidential Team, I’d like to thank you all for your support over the last year.

 

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