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Zoe MacGregor: The value of volunteering

Looking back over the year

Zoe Macgregor is the RTPI’s Volunteer Project Co-ordinator, leading on the implementation of RTPI’s volunteering strategy.


Last week I attended the induction for the incoming Chairs for the Nations and Regions. All the Chairs are passionate about what’s going on in their area and looking forward to leading their committees and wider members through the coming year. Over the course of the day, I heard from participants and contributors that volunteering with the RTPI has increased their skills, expanded their network and broadened their understanding of wider planning issues.

Our new Nations and Regions chairs attended our Botolph Lane office to discuss plans for 2024

Victoria Hills, RTPI Chief Executive, welcomed the Chairs remotely from COP28. Victoria said: “As someone who started out volunteering as a student member, some of the networks and relationships that I developed then, have served me well throughout my career.”

Networks have been a recurring ‘value’ that members have written about in their blogs this year. Emilly Kitching Bower, RTPI North West Chair in 2023 wrote: “I’ve also increased my professional network from working with planning professionals across the North West, but also nationally with the central RTPI team and the other phenomenal chairs this year. “  

Another ‘value’ that Emilly highlights are the skills she’s gained from her experience of volunteering that have benefitted both her work and employer: “I’ve strengthened my skills at chairing meetings … I’ve improved my presentation, communication and team working skills through working with task groups, active volunteers and planning professionals… In being able to develop these skills outside of work, this has improved what I can deliver for Arup and enhances the projects I work on.”

More recently, Charlotte Morphet, past Chair of RTPI London wrote: “The range of volunteering opportunities with the RTPI has allowed me to build skills and experience much earlier in my career than expected.” Echoing this, Clare Eggington, RTPI West Midlands Chair wrote: “Volunteering has enabled me to grow in my career and as a person, helping me to expand my CV through practical, social and administrative skills and it has also helped me understand and empathise with what makes communities and individuals ‘tick’, essential skills for town (and country!) planning of course.”

Behind any professional volunteer is a supportive employer, who also sees the value of volunteering. Earlier this year Darren Muir, Director at Pegasus Group and Chair of the Planning Aid England North West Task Group and a member of the RTPI Regional Activities Committee, wrote about the value of volunteering to the employer: “From an employer’s perspective, there are also many fantastic reasons to encourage employees to volunteer their time. Ultimately, supporting employees who want to volunteer can not only drive successful innovation, but also positively impact on a company’s bottom line.”

Marc Watterson, Associate Director at Arup, and Chair of the RTPI North West in 2014 wrote: “From an employer’s point of view, volunteering gives an opportunity to widen out their network in another avenue that might otherwise not be considered. It gives exposure to a wide range of people and organisations within the region – sometimes potential clients, often collaborators and occasionally friendly competition. It also gives valuable insight into the work of the RTPI and their policy influencing role through being involved by hosting and leading round tables and discussions around emerging issues, forthcoming changes, new areas of research and potential influence. It also gives more of an opportunity to get involved in speaking at events in the region, being part of the annual awards, the annual dinner and a range of other activities.”

It was fantastic to meet the incoming Chairs and see their enthusiasm for getting members involved in their areas, who will also hopefully reap personal and professional benefits from volunteering. I’d like to thank all the contributors who volunteered to write a blog on the theme, the Value of Volunteering. In addition to those mentioned above; Gillian wrote about her perfect planning mixtape, Ben wrote an apology to Sir Bob Hoskins and Charles wrote about the value of volunteering to the RTPI and wider public interest.

Looking ahead to next year we plan to build on this theme by highlighting the contribution of volunteers under the theme, ‘the impact of volunteers’. Blogs will focus on what volunteers achieve and deliver when they give their time to the RTPI. After all, you could be walking your dog or socialising with friends, so we want to make sure you know that your time will be well spent if you spend it with us to advance the vision and mission of the RTPI.

We’d love to hear from you. Find out more about volunteering here.

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