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Ada Lee: The value of networking

Dr Ada Lee is RTPI’s Infrastructure and Climate Change Specialist. She is currently leading the evidence collection process for the Institute’s Networks Review.  

When I was at university, my favourite pastime was going climbing with my friends. We would study a route together, try our hands on it, fall and learn from the experience together. Climbing is not considered a team sport in a conventional sense. However, not only is it more fun to climb together, but the opportunities to learn from each other have made all of us better and stronger climbers.  

Reviewing RTPI networks 

Collaboration and engagement are equally important to the Institute’s work. Participation from members – be it through the General Assembly, or volunteering to sit on a regional committee, or attending one of the many webinars, conferences, social events and policy forums that we organise –  is important to the health of the profession and the continuing professional development (CPD) of planners. For members who work in specialised areas of planning, such as enforcement or urban design, you may have heard of, or participated in, one of our existing policy/practice-focused ‘networks’: 

  • National Association of Planning Enforcement 
  • Transport Planning Network 
  • Independent Consultant Network 
  • Urban Design Network 

These four specialist knowledge (or special interest) groups have evolved over the years and developed a range of operating mechanisms and support. 

Taking account of recent thoughts of members via the Institute’s corporate strategy GROWPLAN initiative and member survey – with a view to deliver value to members and the profession more broadly –  it is important to consider if the networks and their ‘offer’ are fit for purpose. At present, over 10% of RTPI members are currently registered with at least one of these networks. 

Over the past six months, we have been collecting data, evidence and reflections internally and externally with stakeholders including the chairs of the four networks. We have looked at what and how other organisations service their specialist knowledge (or special interest) groups and networks so we can learn from good practice. This work has commenced under the direction of the Policy Practice & Research Committee who, under the RTPI’s good governance approach, has responsibility for these types of RTPI networks and the review that is being undertaken. 

The current project follows a similar exercise to that we undertook in 2012 and will look at how we can deliver value to members and whether the existing set of policy/practice-focused networks reflects the contemporary landscape of the profession. 

Member-focused groups that the RTPI convenes and supports such as the Young Planners Network and the Politicians in Planning Network are not part of the project. 

What we have been doing so far 

In the past few months, we have: 

  • Reflected how networks can support various objectives of the Institute and profession, and maximise impact including CPD; 
  • Benchmarked ourselves against other similar institutes on how specialist knowledge (or special interest) groups or networks are managed; 
  • Analysed other membership body research including reports from PARN; 
  • Interviewed current chairs and steering groups/management committee members; 
  • Conducted workshops with input from BAME Planners Network, Planning Out, Neurodiversity in Planning and Women in Planning. 

Next steps 

Going forward, we will be seeking further comments and ideas from the networks themselves, as well as the wider membership. This is likely to include a consultation of RTPI members and stakeholders later in the year.  In the meantime, if any member wants to give any feedback or initial thoughts to the project team, please feel free to email [email protected]. 



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