Assembly of Representatives and Abraham Maslow

It’s late, I just driven home from Glasgow after four hours on the train, so don’t expect more than a few bare bones of a tale told tonight.

I was in London today at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) for a meeting of the Assembly of Representatives, who are the elected members from the CIEH’s regions in the UK. The big challenge for the profession is the emerging public health agenda and, in England, the radical changes that the new NHS structures will have for public health delivery and the role of EHPs in local authorities.

We started, however, with a discussion about how we can best and most effectively deliver services to our members in our regions – that’s a particular challenge in Scotland which has a large geographical area and a relatively small number of CIEH members. But it’s also a challenge for all regions in that people these days are very busy and find it harder and harder to get away from work and attend professional meetings, even if those meetings are an essential part of maintaining professional currency and networking.

The discussion turned to the potential of new technologies (podcasting, video-conferencing etc.) in delivering services to members instead of the traditional meeting. It occurred to me that the need was more than simply delivering CPD opportunities, but building a professional community and building value for members in being part of that community – in other words, not being involved would have a tangible sense of loss for people. Thinking about what such a community would look like and do led to to consider parallels with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (go look it up for now, I’ll elaborate in a future post). At the moment, people are concerned with security and survival in a changing environment, and even maintaining professional currency is a low priority. So to think about a community which is seeking self-actualisation and autonomy for EHPs, and enabling folk to thrive rather than just survive, might seem to be very aspirational. But aspirations give us strategic direction, and we can then choose the steps that walk us towards, rather than away from, those objectives. We can only invite people into our communities, but we can do a lot to meet their immediate needs on the way.

And thanks to David Newsum, who also blogs on WordPress, and was one of the two excellent facilitators for the day.

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3 thoughts on “Assembly of Representatives and Abraham Maslow

  1. Good thoughts. The profession I work in has no truly functioning institute for professional members; nothing mandatory, and it is too small (maybe 80-100 members) to provide much in the way of professional development, or anything really. It concerns many in the profession, but finding a way to make it work eludes the executive and membership. I’ll have to have a look at Maslow, maybe it would be useful.
    The local organisation started off for private sector professionals (with the shortsighted intent of excluding government and academic practicioners) and thus I was not able to join – now I see how it works, or doesn’t, I don’t bother to join as I would get nothing for the annual fee, which my employer won’t pick up for me.
    The government I work for has been on an austerity kick for more than a decade, but it has brought in a lot of training through video conferencing and podcasts and similar technology. Some of it seems effective, though it is necessarily general or aimed at the largest user groups, which I don’t fall into.

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    • It’s a very similar situation over here, with fewer employers – particularly those in the public sector – paying professional subscriptions. For people who’ve always had their subs paid for them, they may not have made the effort to have found the benefit of membership or a reason to be actively involved, and then find no reason to put their hands in their own pockets.
      Only about half of CIEH’s members now work in local government, with probably more now working for themselves, in the private or third sectors. These tend to be people who value the professional credibility that comes from membership and tend also to be a little bit more active and involved – their future contracts depend to an extent on professional currency and chartered status, which is something that we offer. Even folk in local government are beginning to see the value of membership and chartered status as posts come under preseeure and there is a good reason to set yourself apart from your fellows in terms of competence and knowledge.
      Our delivery model for professional development has traditionally been the meeting in meatspace, and now we are looking at how we can achieve the same sort of value in cyberspace; even more important in a large region like Scotland where EHPs on the islands can’t even get to a meeting on the same day, and the value of attending has to be pretty good to make the effort.
      It’s a shame that your professional body decided not to be inclusive of academic and government workers, and perhaps the current lethargy is a consequence of that. The thing is, you can only start from where you are, and provided there are people who are willing to invite others into the professional community, simply because of common interests, not differences, it can be the start of something new. I think this is where Maslow’s model gets interesting; in straitened times, people are seeking to fulfill basic needs, and even professional currency is something that can be discounted when times are tough. Perhaps the model suggests ways of inviting people towards self-actualisation, because yoiu can never force anyone into autonomy.
      I do need to expand the idea a little, because this post was as much a prompt-to-action for me as it was an idea for readers.

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      • I look forward to reading more from you on this topic. It sounds remarkably similar to my own experiences. The group I am referring to here did belatedly open their membership rules – but in many respects it was too late. Also, as we hire new staff members into our very small group, they often come in as members, even on the executive, but within a year or so have dropped out. It really does not serve us, and the private sector whom we regulate (including their professional qualifications to hold permits to conduct their work) are distrusting of us being involved in their discussions about how to deal with the regulations, and so on.

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