A new year message from the President

04 January 2017

Member news

Welcome to 2017!

2016 has been particularly busy for the RPS with some major initiatives having been undertaken and now ready for release.  The first of these has been the Distinctions Review; the committee went through the process and the associated paperwork to confirm it was all up to date, and sounded out the membership by way of a survey to gauge the feelings of those who had direct recent experience in going for a distinction. 

I am very conscious that Distinctions are the bedrock of the Society and it is essential that our high standards are being maintained.  The RPS distinctions are meant to be challenging and it should be realised that not everyone can aspire to the highest levels; we should however encourage our members to progress as far as they can. The objective of the distinctions process is to improve members’ personal photographic skills; it is not an end in itself.  There is indeed a fine line between the role of ‘assessors’ and that of ‘advisors’ to assist candidates meet the required standards. It is imperative that we don’t cross that line, but at the same time, we are there to give meaningful assistance to help members reach that standard.

General comments from the survey indicated the need for:

  • More distinctions awareness days
  • More advisory days
  • Better and more consistent feedback
  • More help to ensure candidates have entered the right category
  • More practical guidance needed to illustrate what is required to satisfy the criteria
  • More transparency in the Fellowship process
  • A majority of the Fellowship Board to be independent of the DAB

A full list of the recommendations (and subsequent actions taken) will be circulated in the very near future.

In general, the comments indicated a high level of satisfaction with the distinctions process and members can be re-assured that the RPS Distinctions remain the Gold Standard (and are now being emulated by the PSA). My thanks to the Review committee, the distinctions staff and the DAB - who have had to bear the brunt of the review.

After much consultation, the Society's Strategy document is also ready for publication. Although our membership continues to grow – and the latest figures show an all-time high – we must not be complacent. The Strategy document sets out the ambitions for the Society for the next few years to increase membership, and membership benefits - which includes a larger and more conveniently placed HQ building to act as our ‘Hub’.

Council also initiated a Governance Review to look at our current structure to see whether it was still relevant and fit for purpose. One of the most significant changes is to the Advisory Board, which is expected to drop from about 40 members to around 15. It will act as a forum for debate and discussion on all matters concerning the implementation of the objects and purposes of The Society, advising and co-ordinating with Council.  In the past, it may have seemed to work the other way round!

The new structure envisaged will remove the need for the election of general members of the Advisory Board but instead will be made up of representatives from the Special Interest Groups and the Regions as well as other interested parties. The new Advisory Board will set its own agenda.

Another recommendation of the Governance Review is to implement electronic voting which I anticipate will be widely supported, particularly by our overseas members.

This review was due for immediate publication, but may have to be revised depending on the outcome of the EGM.

Whilst on the topic of the EGM, I would urge you to read the papers, and submit your vote. The proposal suggests far-reaching changes in the Society’s Governance – which were rejected both by the Governance review committee and by Council – and could have significant impact on the Society and the services it provides to its members. Overseas members who are concerned about voting within the timescale by post, can print a copy of the proxy form, complete the form, scan it, and send it by email to michael@rps.org.

It is Council’s opinion that we should make better use of our distinguished Fellows and Hon Fellows. More lectures could be arranged and more workshops to enable them to act as our Ambassadors; I believe such activities would be widely welcomed and would do much to spread the word that the RPS is an organisation that likes to share its skills.

On completion of the EGM and any possible changes that result from it, Council will organise the elections for the next two years. To remind you, any member can be nominated to Council and, if voted for, can go on to be President – and this of course includes the Hon Fellows.

We have just appointed two additional staff positions (one for PR and Marketing and the other as Volunteer co-ordinator) which will support our Strategic plan in bringing the Society to a larger audience and in addition assist our hard-working Volunteers on whom we are so reliant and do such a splendid job.

My colleagues on Council hope to attend as many events as we can and I urge you to come forward and introduce yourselves and talk to us; we need to encourage more members to participate in our activities – experience shows more involvement leads to more satisfaction.

Finally, I thank you for your continuing support.

Best wishes for a productive 2017

Walter Benzie, Hon FRPS
e: president@rps.org