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Charlotte Morphet: Broadening your perspective by volunteering with the RTPI

Charlotte Morphet is a chartered planner and Senior Lecturer at Leeds Beckett University. Charlotte is past chair of RTPI London and has previously served as a Trustee on various standing committees and the General Assembly.

Volunteering for the RTPI is a rewarding experience. It has given me many opportunities and experiences that have significantly enriched my career. In this blog I highlight some of the skills and experience I have gained through my involvement with the RTPI, and focus on what I consider to be the most valuable, broadening my perspectives as a planner.  

Skills and Experience

The range of volunteering opportunities with the RTPI has allowed me to build skills and experience much earlier in my career than expected. Through volunteering with RTPI London as Chair for the Young Planners and Chair of the Regional Activities Committee and Regional Management Board, I have gained experience managing boards, including preparing and chairing meetings, events calendar planning and delivery, and annual business planning and review. These have honed my skills in governance and decision-making. These experiences, while useful for my day job, also gave me the confidence to become a Trustee of the RTPI, where I gained experience in these areas from a broader organisational perspective. When I started my career, I associated being on boards with being a senior professional. However, with the RTPI, that is not the case, and through the Young Planner Trustee role, the Young Planners Conference and regional networks, the early career perspective is not only included but respected and valued.

Being part of a region has also allowed me to be involved in various events. As chair of RTPI London in 2015, I organised over 35 events and, in various other roles, was part of organising many more. I learnt skills I did not know I would as a planner, such as events management, sponsorship strategy, communication and marketing, and chairing panel discussions. I have used these transferrable skills when working on public engagement events for local plans. After supporting the delivery of the Young Planners Conference 2012, organising public engagement for a local plan feels much less daunting.

The skills and experiences are by no means exhaustive; I know there is much more I have learned. Being a volunteer, without a doubt, has helped with my own imposter syndrome and given me confidence. Without volunteering with the RTPI, I know I would not have had the confidence to co-found Women in Planning with Alison Mackay.

Broadening my perspective as a planner

Although the skills and experience I have gained through volunteering with the RTPI have shaped my career to date, it is not what I find the most exciting part of volunteering. The most interesting part for me is broadening my perspective as a planner. Through volunteering, I have met or listened to professional planners from all over the world and in different roles, which is a real privilege, and it reminds you what a rich and diverse profession planning is.

At the General Assembly, you can meet planners from across the RTPI membership working in different roles and areas. You can learn how planning operates across the four different nations of the UK. You also meet planners working in different roles to you. The General Assembly also hosts speakers, and I have enjoyed listening to academics present their latest research, international planners visiting the UK and sharing their perspectives, or planners working on various fascinating projects across the UK. Being part of the International Committee and Policy Practice and Research enabled me to have broader discussions about planning practice across various geographies. I enjoy this; it is not something I could access through my day-to-day roles.

One of the benefits of volunteering at a regional level is curating your events and broadening your perspective through this. Last year, I co-led the organisation of the RTPI London Summit 2022. The Summit focused on the Olympic Legacy and what planners could learn from the approach. The Summit delved into the work that went into the bid to host the games; it was incredible to hear how vital planning was to this. I was able to pull together planners who worked on the Olympics and get them to reflect on the project where planning really was front and centre of strategy.

These opportunities to learn and broaden my perspectives and understanding of planning have enhanced my experience as a professional planner. Although I have enjoyed and benefitted from learning new skills, these opportunities to meet and learn from various planners have led me to volunteer with the RTPI in various roles for over a decade and recommend volunteering to others. As much as I have benefitted from engaging with a wide range of planners, it is also valuable and vital to the RTPI. My experience is different to others. The RTPI needs diverse views to ensure its work remains relevant to its members and society.

How can you get involved?

Each year, there are several opportunities to volunteer at RTPI. These include working to shape the overall Institute approach at the Board of Trustees or through the General Assembly, to focusing locally by joining Regional Activities Committees or Young Planner groups. There are opportunities to explore particular interest areas, such as the Standing Committees or to ensure the quality of chartered members through RTPI Partnership Boards, or being an assessor for the Assessment of Professional Competence across all the routes to membership. The RTPI shares these opportunities through their emails and volunteering pages on the website.

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