Chris Swinson – Persistence will reap benefits

Thank you for your congratulations on my appointment as president.

It is a privilege to be my institute’s president – and to be trusted with the responsibility the position carries.

I know some members think the institute is becoming irrelevant. Others fear the institute is a passive player in a world that is passing it by. Still others believe the institute is no longer their friend. Such perceptions are worrying.

I may be foolish, but I am stimulated by the challenges we face. The health and success of professional bodies matters.

I am lucky to have the chance of contributing as president to the institute’s future. As you know, there is much I would like to achieve.

We should not promise too much, however. Changing an organisation takes time. Changing people’s perceptions takes longer. Members must not expect everything to change overnight – even if that were desirable. We must also recognise that, for a few members, passivity may be the proper stance for the institute.

Our next step is to analyse the expectations and needs of our members – both in this country and throughout the world – by asking them. We will then assess our performance in serving members’ interests. Where performance is inadequate, ways must be found to achieve improvement.

We have, in the meantime, appointed John Collier to be secretary general.

We are now beginning the recruitment of the executive directors who will head the three new core directorates. A thorough going programme of revitalisation will follow.

To accomplish what we have in mind will take time. It will also require the work and commitment of many people. We only have a prospect of success because I am just part of a team committed to building the institute’s future.

You closed your letter to me by quoting Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’. You are right – I often read and find solace in poetry. In my inaugural address, I challenged the institute’s council by quoting Kipling’s ‘The Glory of the Garden’:

‘… such gardens are not made

By singing:- “Oh how beautiful!” and sitting in the shade,

While better men than we go out and start their working lives

At grubbing weeds from gravel paths with broken dinner knives.’

Our members do not owe us a living. We exist for no reason other than to serve their long-term interests. Our position rests solely on our effectiveness in serving those interests. This is what I and my colleagues are working for.

Peter, thank you for your best wishes. I – we – will need them.

If you want to contact Chris Swinson, e-mail him at

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