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Presidential Blog

Sharing what we do

04 April 2018 | by Nicola Gale

How much do we share with each other what is going on in the BPS? How familiar are members with the range of what is happening day in and day out, and the opportunities presented to get involved and capitalise on what others are already doing and have achieved?

The BPS National Branches make a significant contribution to the discipline and profession in their home nations and beyond. This is not only of real benefit to the members of the branches, but is hugely important to the wider communities in which they are located.

At the beginning of March the BPS in Scotland held their Scientific Meeting and Annual General Meeting in Edinburgh. The room was packed, despite the recent challenging weather, and psychologists from across the range of the profession were represented.

It was a great pleasure to be invited to speak to our Scottish members about the future of our Society and the progress we are making. I covered European and International links (not least the European Semester), our growing policy influence, leadership and culture change, and developing our organisation to meet the challenges of our changing context, in particular the Structural Review.

I was delighted too, to be able to present the Society’s Lifetime Achievement Award for 2017 to Professor Richard Byrne. The audience seemed fascinated with his account in his award lecture of his work in the field with gorillas, on learning by observation, gestures, and what this means for our understanding of human language and communication. At their own AGM at the close of the day’s proceedings, Scottish Counselling Psychologists honoured their outgoing Chair Morag Taylor for over a decade of dedicated service to BPS in Scotland.

A real sense of community among our members in Scotland was evident at the event, with mutual support for each other from across the membership, particularly for students. A main point of report at the AGM was the annual Undergraduate Conference which has gone from strength to strength; the focus on support for psychology in schools through the activities of a pre-tertiary working group; and continuing work to help early career psychologists through work with the graduate careers advisory services.

Policy influencing work is also clearly central to the Branch’s efforts, with psychologists across the domains of practice engaged together both to influence Scottish policymaking, and ensure Scottish interests are fully represented in the UK as a whole.

This outward focus is all important for our Society in gaining traction in disseminating evidence-based psychology to enhance individual lives, communities, and wider society. The Branch conveys an overall sense of coherence and purpose, all underpinned by management from Joan Fraser the Society’s staff member specifically responsible for Scotland. To further their impact, members continue to press for a central visible office presence in Scotland.

Later in the month (21st-23rd) the BPS in Northern Ireland held their Annual Conference in Ballymascanlon outside Dundalk, Co Louth, which is just over the border. Psychologists from across the profession attended, presented, and networked.

The conference was preceded by an invited symposium on Health and Wellbeing in the Workplace, with presentations on ‘Understanding Neurodiversity within the Workplace – Impact on Wellbeing’ from Sharon Beattie, and on ‘Understanding Obesity – emotional eating and its impact on wellbeing within the workplace’ by Shauna Gibson. The opening keynote address was shared by me as President for BPS (speaking on ‘A good place to work and learn, psychology making a difference’) and Terri Morrisey, CEO of The Psychological Society of Ireland (speaking on ‘Does my work define who I am?’).

The event was chaired by Stephen Peover, Chair of the NI Chief Executives’ Forum, a former senior civil servant who spoke of the different government teams he had led and what he had found important in terms of wellbeing, including joy at work. The event was sponsored by the Forum, along with the Newry Junior Chamber, Drogheda & District Chamber, and Dundalk Chamber.

The overall aim of the Chief Executives’ Forum, which has been in existence for over a quarter of a century and which has over 130 organisational members, is to contribute to building a better future for all in Northern Ireland, where the public, private and voluntary sectors work together successfully. It seems natural for BPS to partner with such a body on an event like this, aimed at showing how psychology can help improve wellbeing and productivity at work. 

The whole event was a shining example of how two of our key current policy areas, Psychology and Work, and Obesity, were brought to key influencers and users in the community, and we showcased what psychology can bring. At the same time, it was another event which furthered the continued cooperation between the PSI and the BPS.

It also brought together the expertise of our members to network and engage with what the breadth of our discipline can bring to bear on complex problems. This integration of agendas continued into the Conference with a session by Nigel Atter BPS Policy Advisor for Prevention and NI external policy advisor Ben Mallon from MCE Public Relations; and streams focused again on key policy areas for example a keynote on ‘The globalisation of the thin ideal’ and symposium on ‘Changing dietary intake’.

The focus in NI too on early career psychologists was very apparent. There were awards from their 4th Annual A Level Conference, posters many from postgraduates with evident impact potential being carefully and enthusiastically judged by senior branch academics and practitioners, including by Education and Public Engagement Board Chair and Trustee Carol McGuiness, and peer early career support. Anne Kerr BPS staff member in NI was the lynchpin for the week’s events.

Other groups of members too are working hard to raise the profile of our Society and psychology in core areas. I met the Committee on Test Standards earlier in the month at one of their regular meetings. They work diligently to ensure that psychological tests are only used by those with appropriate training and qualifications, and that tests themselves are reviewed so that individuals who may take them and organisations that may use them can understand the quality, strengths and weaknesses of the measure in question. They produce a regular journal which is so popular it is oversubscribed with material. This group of members are engaged too on the wider agenda, with colleagues in the European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations (EFPA) and are keen to present their committee work on the international stage.

We discussed a range of matters including links to other Society initiatives and opportunities including Annual Conference. Members considered their way of working is a good model. It is supported in the Society in a partnership approach between members and staff Mala Pancholi and Richard Smith, and has a good balance of mutual contribution to strategic issues with members providing the psychology expertise and the staff team the executive input. Members also welcomed the chance to get an update on what’s happening in the wider Society.

What runs through this for me is how much is going on that is probably only really visible to the members directly involved, how much there is that can be shared, and that we have models for how things can be done and linked together that we could generalise. If you have ideas on how you would like to see this happening in your part of the Society, please do discuss it with your Society contacts.

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