Still Time for a Rethink on IPEd - Letter

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Dear Editor,

Still time for a rethink on IPEd

I hope that you will publish this letter to stimulate your members to think long and hard about the future of their society and profession, and our shared national affairs, matters which should be of great concern to all of us.

My most recent association with the Institute of Professional Editors Limited (IPEd) was as Councillor for the Canberra Society of Editors (CSE). I resigned that position in November 2014 when it became clear to me from the content and tenor of the documents emerging from the IPEd transition project working groups that I could no longer, as stipulated by the Corporations Law, 'be bound to act in the interests of the Company as a whole', rather than those of the society that nominated my appointment.

The decision to resign was hard for me, because my work for IPEd and its predecessor the Council of Australian Societies of Editors (CASE) had lasted more than 10 years, six of them as its secretary. But I am also a longstanding member of CSE, which I joined more than 20 years ago in 1994. Under the circumstances now unfolding, my commitment is to CSE and, to the extent that it might be possible, the other six Australian societies of editors.

The currently envisaged endpoint of the review and transition process involving IPEd and its member societies, which is now in its fourth year, is the winding-up of the societies as fully autonomous agencies. They will instead become branches under the overall administrative and financial control of a new national body with a reach far exceeding that agreed to by the members who voted for the establishment of IPEd just seven years ago.

There is no question that, in its short lifetime and in its current form, IPEd has done excellent work in terms of establishing and running the national accreditation scheme, the primary reason for its creation. But there has been for some time now general agreement that it has insufficient funds to extend and enhance the scheme and complete the other tasks envisaged for it. Given that, why didn't we, the owners of IPEd, vote in November 2013 to simply give it more money, rather than opting to commit group suicide via the direct membership model?

The seven Australian societies of editors have been for the past 20-30 years eminently successful associations providing their members with pertinent and valued services - that is certainly the case for CSE. As far as I know, all the societies are financially sound; indeed, some have, apparently, quite substantial surpluses. The societies have, among their members, enormous capabilities; witness, for example, their capacity to organise and run, with minimal outside help, apposite professional development activities and highly successful and profitable national conferences.

The currently envisaged outcome of the transition process is, I believe, perverse: an agency that was declared to be in a bit of trouble four years ago is possibly now on the threshold of ingesting the seven societies of editors that created it. The parents will revert to children! What is the sense in agreeing to the sacrifice of the societies to 'save' IPEd when all it needs is greater funding? It's an organisation that has proven itself an efficient and effective user of the resources provided it; let's just give it the money to do its job and also keep the societies in the form that has well served us for so long. It seems to me that the risks involved in doing otherwise are too great to entertain.

Sincerely and with best wishes,

Ed Highley
Honorary Life Member
Canberra Society of Editors