8 August 2013

The value of professional association


Some/many of you will know that I have recently become co-chair of the HIA/Health Section of the IAIA (International Association for Impact Assessment). I did so reluctantly because I don’t know if I can give it the time it needs. In the end I accepted because I believe in what the IAIA stands for and what, in particular, the group of HIA Practitioners in the HIA/Health Section of IAIA are thinking and are doing (though I don’t necessarily always agree with every perspective). I like them and I consider some/many of them friends as well as colleagues.

I would like to take some of your valuable time and relate to you a story of my involvement in professional associations and why I think you should seriously consider joining IAIA. www.iaia.org

I was a passionate member/advocate of the UKPHA (UK Public Health Association) I joined UKPHA in 2003-04 as a corporate member (via my then very small independent consultancy Living Knowledge). I was very disappointed and quite frustrated that the Trustees of UKPHA did not see the funding crunch coming so that in the end the only way forward was for UKPHA to close (okay it merged with the Faculty of Public Health but for me it closed). I still think that was and is a big shame.

I have nothing against the UK Faculty of Public Health but ultimately FPH and the UK Royal Society of Public Health (of which I have also until this year been a long standing Fellow) have not been as good a fit in my professional development as I had hoped. At this stage in my (professional) life I don’t feel the need/value of being linked to associations where I don’t really get much from my membership apart from saying I am a member. Partly/mostly people can legitimately say this is down to me, you only get out of these associations what you put in. But I think it is also due to the structure and focus of these associations as well, HIA is not a strong focus in them.

Since 2004-05 I have also been a member of IAIA, in fact I met Ben Harris Roxas in Stavanger at an IAIA conference in 2005-ish. He has been a good HIA colleague (dare I say friend) ever since. I have also deepened friendships I have made at the International HIA conference at the Porto IAIA conference more recently.

There is only one international association for HIA that also connects with the other closely related IAs of Environmental and Social Impact Assessment and that is the International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA).

My enthusiasm for IAIA has waxed and waned and there was a point where my membership lapsed and a point where I seriously considered not being a member. The thing that has kept me renewing my membership  is that sentence above and more recently the, not perfect, but increasingly interesting members-only IAIA Connect network where members can post ideas, issues and thoughts across environment, social and health. They do have a journal IAPA (Impact assessment and Project Appraisal) but I rarely have time to look at it. IAIA Connect and the email updates I get are as interesting and useful as the HIA Group on LinkedIn and the HIAnet email network (perhaps more so).

I find that my £80 a year or so (US$110 is what they charge) is worth it for IAIA Connect, the ethical values that IAIA provides as a benchmark for all Impact Assessors and the sense that I belong to a bigger global Impact Assessment movement/community.