We are delighted at 2B to announce that Bill Blackledge has won the Landscape Institute's 'Volunteer of the Year' Award 2019. We are all very aware of the amount of time and effort Bill puts into all of this 'extra' work. 2B are all very proud of your echievement... and envious of your enthusiasm! Congratulations!
Why did I put my name forward for the award?
When I made a submission to the Landscape Institute for the 'Volunteer of the Year' award, it was with some hesitation. The reason being that there is a core of truly dedicated volunteers who support the LI, many of whom I have known for years, and all of whom are equally worthy of the title.
However, after three years' hard work, the LI guidance 'Visual Representation of Development Proposals' had just been published. Chairing the working group meant that I was responsible for writing most of the drafts, or stitching together the text provided by our contributors into a (hopefully) coherent document. I spent more hours than I care to admit to, and it was fair to say that, if ever there was a time to put my name forward as Volunteer of the Year, this was it.
Why do I volunteer?
Being part of LI Technical Committee or, before that, Yorkshire & Humber Branch representative to LI Council or, before that, chair of Yorkshire & Humber Branch (at the same time as Elizabeth was Secretary)... does take a lot of time. Time that could be spent earning money or developing the business (or, heaven forbid, taking a holiday). But it is also time which is rewarded with a better understanding of how our professional body works, and with a common sense of purpose which extends way beyond just earning a living.
It also offers professional advantage, in that one tends to have an excellent seat from which to view (and sometimes contribute to) the cutting edge, whether that be changes to the way our profession is managed, to the latest thinking on important technical or policy matters affecting our everyday work. There is no better way of being informed, and therefore of providing our clients with truly professional, quality work.
Volunteering Numbers in the Landscape Profession
There is another element to volunteering. The LI is a relatively small organisation, with a membership of around 6,000, compared with, for example, RIBA, which has around 44,000 members. If we are to help tackle important environmental and social issues, we need to punch well above our weight - and we know that the LI does precisely that. The LI has established that volunteers contribute between £1-2 million worth of value to the organisation every year. But that contribution is currently made by around 800 people out of a possible 6,000. Imagine what we could do if we had half, or even most, of the profession contributing actively to the aims, the collective knowledge, and the clout of the Institute. The maths is not difficult - we could be looking at up to £10 million value added to the LI every year. Imagine what that would do for an organisation with a turnover of around £2 million!
I appreciate that volunteering is not for everyone and that people, at different stages of their lives, have many conflicting priorities. But we come into landscape architecture because we believe this is a profession in which we can make a difference. A difference which goes way beyond the cosmetic (even though beauty of our towns and countryside is important), and deals with important issues of biodiversity, climate change, social cohesion, quality of life, health and well-being being, flood resilience... the list goes on.
That should be motivation enough to do a bit more outside of 'nine to five' but, if more incentive were needed, there is always that ultimate accolade, the 'LI Volunteer of the Year' Award!
By Bill Blackledge CMLI