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BAJR Debate with Pen Foreman

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Question Time for Pen Foreman, in a discussion leading up to the election for the position of Honorary Chair at CIfA.   Accredited CIfA members can cast their vote for Honorary Chair at the link below; consider carefully, this will be part of our collective future as archaeologists.

On the 21st September  BAJR Facebook ( Direct link to the full discussion ) hosted a conversation with  Pen Foreman reacting to questions sent in by BAJRites.   The topics were wide ranging, and worthy of preserving to further discuss during the coming months.  Thanks to Lu for chairing, Liz and Gwil for their work on this and of course Pen Foreman herself for her insightful replies.

Q1. What is the role about, and how does it work?

So the role is “Honorary Chair”, and that’s of the CIfA Board of Directors (so not the chair of CIfA itself as an organisation! That’s the role of the Chief Executive, currently Peter Hinton). The Board acts in governance over CIfA, and the chair holds the leadership of meetings. In practice, this means the chair makes sure that Board meetings are held to order, that our charter and statute are followed, that meetings are minuted accurately, and that all members of the Board act according to our Code of Conduct. For anyone unfamiliar with a Board or Committee of Directors, this is a function separate to, but holding responsibility for, the organisation – so we do not manage staff, but rather govern the standards which they work by, and govern important documents and procedure such as finances, the formation and running of various committees and groups, and feed into forward strategy and planning. As Chair, I have oversight of all of these elements, as well as supporting CIfA staff in their processes and work flows, representing CIfA at events or when networking, and above all – I act as the conduit for the members to be heard at the highest level.

As for a little more on how it works – in essence it means I sit at Trustee (and occasionally Advisory Council) meetings and hear, discuss, and make decisions on points brought up in them. But it also involves a lot of talking – to CIfA staff, to members of our Groups, to members of our Committees, to the Industry Working Group, to Prospect, to directors of other Institutions – all to make sure my decisions and actions are as informed as possible. I also can only act with the Board – so decisions are made collectively after hearing everyone’s thoughts, experience, and ideas.

Q2. How do you envision your role in CIfA making a practical difference to archaeologists?

I think that most in the profession know that change is needed, in varying degrees and in different ways depending on where and what kind of work archaeologists are doing. My role is to make sure that the profession is supported through change – so in practical terms, that could take lots of different forms. It might mean tightening our standards and guidance to give our colleagues in the field more oomph when it comes to negotiating with developers or standing firm on their WSIs. It might mean strengthening our mandatory training at a manager and director level, alongside changes in RO requirements, to make workplaces more equitable and fair for all. It might be rethinking the way the IWG handles key issues and the very makeup of the IWG itself. These are changes I want to happen, but I can’t push for them until I have spoken to and heard more from what will definitively benefit out members. What I can say for sure is that there will definitely be a difference in how CIfA hears its members and acts on what it hears; I think we need to radically alter lines of communication so it is much more open, transparent, and effective. I want every member to know who they can contact about a specific issue, how long they should expect to wait to hear back, and what types of action could potentially be taken. Change is necessary, but it has to happen collectively and with, let’s face it, some radical honesty about us as a profession.

I stand for equality in the sector, and to me, that means in a practical sense that all members feel they have access to the same (better) employment rights, the same standards and guidance, the same processes, the same quality of response when they need support, the same opportunities to access the career they want, and the same level of respect and dignity. That means changing a lot of things, and with a 3 year tenure I can’t promise everything, but I can do everything in my power.


Q3. With so many layers of organisation within CIfA, how do you feel you could steer strategic changes that allow for swifter implementation of policy?

Although I recognise there are what seems to be an extremely complicated structure, one that can feel both daunting to navigate and sluggish to respond, I also recognise that to represent several thousand members with very different individual needs, working situations, specialisms, and requirements, a degree of complexity is needed. These layers also offer layers of accountability that is vital in maintaining our standards. I definitely agree that there is a need for more swift action in some cases, however. I am a very active and visible leader, my style is to muck in, shout up, keep track, keep on progress. So for starters, I think that will help. I know that there are also constantly reviews and changes within the staff of CIfA, several of which I think will be manifested in some differences in the way policy is implemented over the coming months and years. However, to directly answer the question – I will steer it by being my usual, stubborn, determined, dogged self. I don’t let things go. I’ll reach out to members, and take their stories and opinions and thoughts direct to where they need to be heard, and not stop until we get faster action. We need to be better at this for our members, but also for the professional as a whole – I don’t want us to lag further behind construction, engineering, and other chartered professions that do things better. We’re already taking learning from some other chartered institutes, so I am hoping this also helps us do better.


Q4. We know you’re passionate about EDI. How do you feel your focus on this will benefit the organisation, membership, workforce and the industry as a whole?

For me, a focus on EDI makes working conditions, and the culture of the profession, better for all. It means everyone gets better pay and conditions. It means everyone feels safe and free from harassment and bullying. It means everyone can ask for flexible working. It means projects can be developed and designed with more diverse voices informing them from the start. It means our work speaks to more audiences, has better public benefit, and more robust research outcomes – and strong evaluation of this in turn gives us stronger justification for more work, more research, more development of our craft. EDI doesn’t mean focusing on a few groups – it means recognising the individual is valuable as just that; irreplaceable, unrepeatable, invaluable. EDI means everyone has respect and dignity at work. That translates to us being excellent advocates for archaeology – cascading out to universities, museums, community groups, YAC – a myriad of others. For me, my EDI focus means I am working for a strong, sustainable industry that is centred on the people at its core; the workers, the volunteers, the students – to all realise their best archaeological selves. A healthy, equitable work culture breeds a high standard of work, demonstrable good outcomes, and means we can “sell” ourselves with high efficacy as well as valuing ourselves more highly when it comes to setting out our expectations for rates!


Q5. A previous IfA survey and report concluded that there was a lack of engagement within commercial archaeology with government schemes to help the disabled into work by providing tailored training opportunities, and that this was severely hampering the chances of people with disabilities being employed within archaeology. If appointed as Honorary Chair of CIfA, what actions will you be taking to support disabled job seekers either via these government schemes or by other means?

As people might know from my talks at CIfA conference this year (and general shouting from the rooftops at most available opportunities) I am highly committed to supporting disabled people into archaeology roles. At the moment I know there is a disappointing takeup of government schemes to make this happen – and I believe this is down to two things. One, a fear of not being able to accommodate the working environment (and a lack of research / time invested in seeing just what that might mean in practical terms), and two, the fact that these schemes are woefully inadequate in term of support for both employer and employee. At the moment, I think they are a poor mechanism for disabled people to get jobs in archaeology. What would I do about it? A couple of strands. One, lobby for reform in these government schemes – we can hope for a new government next year with more progressive and equitable approaches to disabled jobseekers, and I could look to speaking through the APPG or other advisory capacities; I believe the recent CIfA survey on barriers to participation in archaeology will help with that kind of advocacy work. Secondly, I want to challenge employers to audit just how they are currently prepared to make accommodations, and work with groups like Enabled Archaeology to develop guidance on different ways accommodations can be made – everything from job application processes to fieldwork practices to employee awareness training to research in tools and methods. I think both of these elements are necessary to make change happen.


Q6. Where do you stand on the role of CIfA and unions? Should CIfA endorse a union, or develop a closer relationship with (a) union(s) to advocate better for workers’ rights, at all levels? At present, how much (more) should CIfA engage with and provide campaign support to unions?

There are unions for all – UCU is your best bet if you’re working in a university setting. Unite for those working in some public sector / county archaeologist settings – potentially also Unison though I think this is less common. Find out who your colleagues are with! I am more than happy to work on a more dedicated union panel with CIfA where we get together in a room with reps from all unions and work for all our members. There are opportunities for some fantastic collaboration that can benefit across the profession.


Q7. What can CIfA do for archaeological consultants who are trying to ensure cost effective, proportionate, and quality work is completed under NPPF and other consenting regimes? Not how the archaeological contractors can do this through changes to fieldwork, but how they are supporting their consultant members to improve that line of the profession.

Individual consultants and smaller companies are definitely on my radar as a really under-represented voice at CIfA currently and I agree that more support is needed, in the face of what feels like a real pushback at the moment on standards of reporting, work quality, and depth of work. CIfA has worked on stronger standards and guidance, and more dedicated competency matrices for some specialisms in the profession, and I think it’s time more clout was put behind our standards for consultants so they have the in-writing clout behind them to pushback. We know that a high standard of work is needed and that consultants do brilliant, worthwhile, meaningful work – and I think if CIfA provides some stronger guidance on that for clients, it makes life easier for consultants to do their brilliant work without being pressured into compromise. What I really want to do is make it easier for members in this situation to speak to CIfA about these issues so we can make really representative, high quality resources in response – more than just an addendum in the Client Guide or a tokenistic re-write. I want members to know who to contact and what they’ll be able to do – and for there to be better forums for members to be heard. As I mentioned above, this is exactly the kind of issue where swift policy action is needed – and I will be repeatedly shouting about it!


Q8. What are your views on Chartership? Do you think it will make a genuine change for all levels of our profession? If so, what is the timescale for implementation, and how can we get involved/contribute to it?

Chartership is a complicated issue with a long history, that many have put much effort and good intention into working on. I have previously voiced my concerns on the way it was presented to membership when it last went to vote, and I still need to see some change before I think it’s ready for rollout. I think that individual chartership will, eventually, be a good thing for members and make our accreditation stronger – which will lead to changes, in the medium to long term, including better pay, better professional regard, stronger opportunities for different contract and funding opportunities. However, I firmly believe it needs a radical rethink before we are at the stage where it can be enacted and have these positive effects. First and foremost, CIfA needs to go back to membership and get honest and frank answers as to – why isn’t it right in the current format? What needs to change? What are your needs? What will our profession need in 5, 15, 25 years’ time? We need a process of radical honesty, both from members and between ourselves as a Board and staff at CIfA. We also need to make sure other elements of the profession are ready – the Industry Working Group needs more solid terms of reference, the discussion over setting / recommending of pay and conditions needs firm and fair resolution, culture change needs to be seen across the profession, change management needs to be supported across the board. Timescale? Well, it’s in the current CIfA business plan, but I think we need to be looking towards the end of that before it can begin to be realised. It’s not something for the near future, it’s something for a sustainable future – but only if we do it properly.


Q9. How do you see the wider sector collaborating in (let’s face it) an ever more competitive market? Do FAME, Prospect, CIfA etc. have a fighting chance when the future is looking a lot like bigger JVs and consortia joining forces to minimise risk/maximise profits, where does the old Industry Working Group fit into that?

We stand a chance, but only if we really pull our fingers out and get collective in a truly meaningful sense. We are a profession that loves to fracture itself and sit in silos, and that’s sometimes understandable when there are such a diverse range of skills, specialisms, and work types – but the core of archaeology – what makes an archaeologist – should be consistent and subject to collective strength. We need strength of conviction to act together – and that means we need a strong IWG to act as the voice of this. The IWG needs not only our support, but also our candour. We need it to be strengthened by voices that can, without prejudice or partisanship, stand up for the profession as a whole. I think stronger terms of reference are needed. I also think a core dedicated group should be established, with a wider circle of advisors and supporters, to avoid burnout and to make sure there is diversity in voice. CIfA is dedicated to holding the group together – and has continued to negotiate to achieve this, to make sure the profession is represented. However, I think the IWG needs solidarity and strength, not to collaborate on paper-thin lines of agreement that could shatter and put the profession at more risk. I’d like to see a rethink in how the IWG is run, and try to forge it into a stronger, louder, more forceful entity, as is needed to stand up to the big consortia.


Q10. In terms of the industry, where would you like to see CIfA in 3 years?

I’d like to see us more embedded in the profession. Staff regularly attend our training, lunchtime events, conferences. More membership of the Groups and wider attendance at Advisory Council. More diverse competency matrices so more people feel able to apply for accreditation. More open and easy communication, so people think we are more approachable and less detached. I’d like to see us more involved in universities and speaking there to students – I don’t want to hear any more stories about students being told in their first week that they’ll never earn a living / there’s no future in the profession. I want to see CIfA as central to a profession that is changing, opening. I’d like to see more people apply for Board positions so there’s always a competition and more voices are heard. I’d like to see us go from being, frankly, tolerated – to being on the way to being welcomed. I can dream!

But I’d also like to see us more respected outside the profession. In parliament, across the sector, and as an exemplar to adjacent sectors. I want people to see changes we’ve made and want to emulate them. I want our skills of negotiation and advocacy to be respected (potentially mildly feared) by policy makers. We need to be welcoming, but you know, we still need to have teeth. I can work towards both.


Q11. What would you consider to be your primary concern(s) just now?

That archaeology is a leaky pipeline. How many brilliant archaeologists have we lost? How many ideas? Discoveries? Theories? Projects? It honestly keeps me awake at night. My primary concern is stopping that flow. I want barriers removed. Not removed, smashed. They are not only draining us of so many potential futures, they are stagnating the profession to a dangerous level. The “status quo does just fine” attitude is seeing people living in borderline poverty on low wages. It’s making people choose between a career and a family. It’s meaning that disabled people can’t find a job. It’s making us the punchbag of the political agenda, it’s making our work dismissed as “woke” and the “red tape” of development, when it should be the jewel in our planning system. It’s meaning harassment and abuse go under the radar, or blip over the radar and get handwaved. I am tired of all the stories I hear, with alarming regularity, of what the profession is. Imagine all the ones I *don’t* hear. Well I’m tired of it. My primary concern? Doing all I can to change us before there’s nothing left to change.



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