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Improving historic environment practice - consultation
Recommendations for improving historic environment practice - the Southport Group seeks your views

The Southport Group has launched an online public consultation to gather opinion on a ground-breaking draft report that outlines recommendations and products for improving historic environment practice to ensure delivery of consistent excellence in public benefit.

The consultation officially launches at the IfA Conference on 13 April and runs until 3 June 2011. All content can be found on the Southport webpage:

The draft report considers key areas of planning-led investigation of the historic environment, identifies obstacles to optimum delivery in the past, presents a vision for new ways of working under PPS5 principles, and makes detailed practical recommendations to reach that vision. The impetus for change stems from the 2010 publication of Planning Policy Statement 5, which offers an extraordinary and rare opportunity for the historic environment sector to ensure its work is truly driven by the interests of what has been discovered or lost and that its overall purpose is the realisation of public benefit.

The consultation asks historic environment professionals to provide written feed-back on whether they endorse the report visions, recommendations and proposed products, and to suggest any changes or additional commendations/products before the June deadline. Comments will help to shape the final report due to launch in July 2011.

Organisations assigned with actions in the report recommendations will be approached over coming weeks and asked if they wish to endorse the visions and commit, insofar as resources allow, to the recommendations subject to any changes they propose. The intention is for key sector bodies to indicate, at the launch of the final report in July, their intention to implement the report's recommendations.

This is the best opportunity for the sector and those it serves since 1990, and it could well be another 20 years before another chance like this comes along. Please do make this consultation count.

Comments on the report should be emailed to by 3 June.
[FONT=&quot]This statement worries me - “the vision is that commercial investigation and explanation of the historic environment should be commissioned and conducted in a way that makes public participation the norm not the exception

So we are all going to be replaced by unpaid volunteers :0
The Southport Groups presentation at the conference was very interesting, but very much a presentation of two halves, with potentially conflicting ideas. Most of the second half of the presentation concerned raising standards, creating universal standards, accreditation, the possibility of charter all good and serious points. However, the first half was concerned with incorporating local groups and volunteers into commercial archaeology, and here in my opinion the problems started.

Public involvement, as anyone who sat through the session will tell you, was very high on the agenda. This was placed under improving practice but in fact has very little or nothing to do with it. Public participation, in essence this means amateurs and volunteers will be working in commercial archaeology. This is the Big Society pushed into the private sector, not even David Cameron has espoused this. It will mean the IfA will write this into its code of practice that Registered Organisations must follow. Companies that do not embrace such volunteers will face being struck from the IfA Registered Organisation list, something that at the moment not only gains them work but ensures that they can work in certain areas.

Being forced to use unpaid volunteers can only mean one thing, cuts across the board affecting field staff. In real terms this means; less real field jobs, less opportunity for real jobs in the sector and lower wages to accompany those jobs, forced down by the use of unpaid volunteers. The knock on effect as field staff are replaced by volunteers will be an increase in the loss of skills within the sector, something that has been an IfA concern for years. The section of the report concerning local groups and volunteers will not improve practice in any way but contribute to a deprofessionalisation of archaeology, and this is really only the tip of the iceberg.

Unfortunately the feeling I got from the conference presentation was that their proposals were already set in stone and the consultation was little more than lip service. I hope I am wrong and would urge all to read the report and send in comments it is your future career that will be affected.
This is going to be discussed soon. However, per ce Paublic participation is easy enough to do. back in the 80s and early 90s, it was common - so common as to be standard.

Used as replacement.. this is different.

Though in the IfA Code of Conduct:

Quote:3.1 IfA wishes to encourage the participation of as many people as possible in archaeology and recognises the need to give students practical experience in fieldwork. However, this cannot be done at the expense of professional standards or risk to the limited archaeological resource.

Quote:3.5 Employers will not use volunteers and students in place of employed staff when funding is agreed for the latter, as this would be tantamount to exploitation.

Quote:3.6 There may be occasions when timescales are more relaxed and the required professional standard of work can be achieved outside normal commercial pressures. Subject to agreement by the site owner, developer and curator, such situations may provide suitable opportunities for the participation of volunteers or for the training of students. Similarly, there maybe opportunities for such participation or training aspects of a site’s archaeology which are outside the scope of the controlling authority’s requirements, but which could enhance the overall results of the project.

So the IfA already seem to protect against that concern. I for one will wait to hear more.
Thanks for that Replicator.

This needs a thread.
I think we need to be very clear here . Is it widening public participation we are looking at or the idea of using volunteer labour to replace professionals. One is acceptable the other is not. It is very important to remember that volunteers are volunteers they can walk away from the job at any time and quite rightly refuse to do anything they do not want to do. As soon as any form of enumeration for work ( expenses above and beyond the normal travel) or a contract be it verbal or other wise kicks in they are employees. This is very dodgy ground as in some cases they have all the rights of employees and I believe in other sectors volunteers have been involved in industrial tribunals .

In theory public participation should involve the use of more professionals to provide the level of training and supervision needed to allow volunteers to participate .

The commercial sector is not the place for volunteers if you have dead lines and professional standards to meet you cannot rely on a work force who have a perfect right to walk away at any stage. I think the Southport Group and the IFA need to be very clear what they have in mind and go and talk to some of the big charities who use volunteers all the time. I think there are a lot of issues they have not thought through. Same with the Government the BIg Society is a non starter without paid professionals to mange volunteers and the understanding that volunteers are not employees and cannot be bound by contractual obligations without invoking employment law ( unless of course decades of employment reform are about to be thrown over)
I will go away and read the various links and see if they actually know what they planning to doWink
I have heard from others who attended the IFA conference this past week. They reflect Relictor's impression as well. If this agenda doesn't motivate individuals into action, to be honest, I don't know what will. My initial reaction is incredulation, must read the full proposal.
A positive attitude may not solve all your problems, but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.
i dont think relictor was at the same presentation as me. there was nothing to suggest that public participation would be foistered onto reg orgs but i agree that everybody should read the report, think about it and send in their comments
I would love to be proved wrong and I truly hope I am.

However the mission statement of the Southport Group states they are

Quote:a group of professionals within the industry who have formed a working party to think creatively and radically about how we practise and how the PPS may best be implemented.

It then goes on the say

Quote:A post-Southport world would see a sector that consistently adds value to development by contributing to the sustainable development agenda, to design, brand, place-shaping, securing consents, risk management, PR, CSR, marketing and sales/rental values. The vision is that commercial investigation and explanation of the historic environment should be commissioned and conducted in a way that makes public participation the norm not the exception.

and then

Quote:Development-led research into the historic environment should be a collaborative venture involving commercially-funded, local authority, higher education and the voluntary sector.

as for changing the Standards and Regulations well that is also mentioned

Quote: ....containing recommendations for a framework of guidance and other products that would help realise the aspirations of PPS5. It will contain the specification for the tools and rules we will need for the job – ie the revised advice and guidance (for planners, the archaeological sector and others) on how to realise public benefits from archaeology

Now, even if it is not the intention to place volunteers within the commercial framework, the wording certainly allows for it to be interpreted that way. It certainly is a valid question to put to the group what exactly their intention is, because as they say:

Quote:The authors of this report hope that the sector, by responding to this draft, will seize the opportunity to shape the future.

So lets make sure we secure our future .....
?It [PPS5] is based on the recognition that heritage professionals do not conserve or investigate the historic environment for their own edification, or for the entertainment of a small elite.?

Having just read through the relevant section I cannot believe that anyone would argue against the basic principle stated above. For those who do not, you are being left behind by the flow of ideas that has been building for some time.

?... shortcomings (in public provision) are evidence of market failure in commercial investigation and interpretation of the historic environment... only radical restructuring of the market will provide solutions... the necessary improvements will be made if more mature reflection on the role of the historic environment professional in society leads to a change in culture and behaviour.?

There has been a failure in attitude toward public participation in the commercial sector, from management to the digger, but also great work has been, and will continue to be, undertaken by committed units and individuals in those units. The term ?radical restructuring of the market? is unnecessary scare mongering, but some ?restructuring? of attitudes is vital across all sectors of the job. This is not new. I worked on a site, nearly 20 years ago now, were professional diggers worked alongside volunteers for over 5 years! No one in the unit (a very small one in the East End of London) was concerned.

?Some of the most striking ? and popular ? cases are where the commercial sector has not led communities, offering them opportunities to join in the process, but has supported communities in projects they have designed and driven.?

This is the most important point in this section of the report. It is not all about volunteers taking jobs away from professionals; it?s also about professionals working with people who have already set up projects in parallel with the commercial sector. It?s happening so lets get more involved rather than trying to stem the tide.

?Just as local people have often been poorly served in the planning process in the past because they do not have the confident grasp of technical language and process, so the new complexities of interests and significance may act as a barrier to participation unless expert translators are on hand or training and guidance is made available.?

This point makes it clear that new jobs can be made not old ones undermined.

The report points out that (1) a small additional cost should be put into the brief (2) standards can be learnt and if units have someone ?ringfenced? to train people up paid for by (1) then who loses out? (3) adhering to IfA policy statementson the use of volunteers (4) undertake risk assessments as usual (5) have a greater focus on public benefits in reports.

Where volunteers want to be involved with commercial units, or in any other way (most will do their own thing, with some help provided), it is not beyond the wit of archaeology to work it out. This is an opportunity to make jobs and secure those already established since PPG16, in an increasingly bleak time for all of us.

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