The Society deconstructed

President Katherine Carpenter writes.


I remember when I first was elected on to a BPS network committee, feeling completely bamboozled by the intricacies of the Society’s structures and processes. Despite, or maybe because, there was so much information available, it always seemed a bit of a blur that went in one ear and out the other! 

So, as I approach the end of my year as BPS President, I thought I’d take this opportunity of setting out a mini dummy’s guide for anyone like me who would like to get involved, but isn’t sure where to start.

Part of the problem, I think, can be that lots of us have been involved with the Society for ages, and we can sometimes be guilty of assuming that you know what we know. The second problem is all those acronyms. Sheesh. Like medical jargon, it’s all very useful, but can be pretty off-putting until you get into the swing of it. 

The Society is governed by a Board of Trustees which, under the old rules that will remain in place until we receive Privy Council approval for the proposed changes, is made up just of psychologists. The board has legal responsibility for running our charity in terms of governance, risk and strategy, and it meets about six times a year, the minutes being published on the website. 

The board is chaired, under the old rules, by the President, but under the new rules this chair will be someone else. It may be a BPS member, or indeed be recruited from outside the Society, as will up to three ordinary board members. This is a significant change which will increase the independence of the board. 

The board delegates the day-to-day running of the charity to the chief executive and the senior management team, which reports regularly to the board.

Members volunteer in the various networks of the BPS, which comprise specialty practitioner divisions, specialist academic/research sections and geographical branches. The chairs of these come together in the Senate, which helps to decide on our policy priorities.

The Board of Trustees is supported by four strategic boards - the Research Board, Education and Training Board, Practice Board, and Member Board. The remits of these are probably self-explanatory, apart from the relatively new Member Board, which focuses on enhancing the value of membership.

I come to the end of my term as President at the end of July. As a candidate in 2021, I declared a commitment to bringing stability, improving Society governance, and integrating equality, diversity and inclusion. Building on work begun by previous colleagues, I feel quite proud of having been able to deliver at least some contribution in all three areas. 

Under the new rules, the chair of Senate will be a trustee, and my hope is that this will enhance the flow of member views and perspectives up into the board and increase member and officer understanding of the direction and vision of the trustees. We have also formed a new strategy board for equality, diversity and inclusion, the chair of which will also be a trustee.

But… I’m not going anywhere just yet. From July I will still have one year as Past President (under the old rules). My plan is to pass the baton to Nicky Hayes, and to support her in implementing the next important piece of work, the member network review. There is still much to do.

As this is my last piece here as President, I’d just like to thank everyone, trustees, CEO and senior management team, members, staff, student members, who has supported me in what has unusually and necessarily been a steep learning curve into a tough but important year. Thank you all.

Katherine Carpenter

President, the British Psychological Society

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