- What is your role in CIfA?
I am CIfA’s Policy Advisor. The role is about CIfA’s external affairs, chiefly focussed on advocacy. The post engages with one of CIfA’s key operational roles; influencing the policy environment for archaeology and building relationships with decision-makers and other parts of the heritage sector.
The job is essentially about assisting in the maintenance and operation of CIfA’s advocacy objectives and undertaking activities to advance them. This requires me to:
- understand the policy environment for archaeology and process of reform and change
- work with CIfA’s Board, Advisory Council, and expert advisors to develop positions and priorities
- advocate proactively to raise issues, and reactively to respond to government agendas and reform
- work collaboratively with others in the archaeology and heritage sectors to discuss issues and agree joined-up approaches to issues
- communicate our advocacy work to members
- Why is CIfA’s advocacy important?
There are two parts to this question: The first is why advocacy is important to CIfA’s work. The second is why CIfA’s advocacy is important to the sector.
The first answer is that CIfA’s purpose in regulating skilled professionals who deliver high quality work which adds value to industry and society, which fundamentally requires the maintenance of an appropriate policy environment in order to be possible. It is therefore vital to the future of professional archaeology for CIfA to seek to maintain influence on the systems within which archaeologists work.
The second answer is that CIfA’s role as a professional body lends legitimacy to our voice in advocacy: our advocacy is backed by the expertise of our professional members, and we draw on this in the formation of our advice to government.
- What are the main things that you do?
I am involved activities such as:
- monitoring government business and agendas
- collecting and organising evidence to support our positions
- producing material such as briefings to inform decision-makers on relevant issues
- managing responses to consultations and related activities
- meeting with or writing to politicians and civil servants to raise issues
- liaising and sharing intelligence with other archaeology and heritage bodies to develop policy positions and strategy
- communicating with members and others about advocacy issues
These activities can be predominantly reactive to external stimuli, or proactive, where we attempt to set the agenda.
- How much influence does CIfA have?
Over the years, CIfA has built a reputation for providing reliable expert advice on archaeology. We have good relationships with departments like the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and seek to maintain connections with others. Our remit covers the whole of the UK and overseas, and we work particularly in all UK nations with governments, national heritage bodies and local independent sector bodies.
We are amongst the most trusted and respected bodies providing advocacy in archaeology and have good relationships across the heritage sector. In recent years we have also increased efforts to build better relationships with client sector bodies.
Of course, we are a small organisation in a small sector, and therefore we do not command the scale of influence that bodies like the National Trust with their 4 million members can, and we are limited by resources and therefore cannot engage in some of the expensive methods that big businesses or industries can to obtain access.
The strategies that CIfA use aim to maximise access and influence through providing useful and reliable advice.
- What are some of CIfA’s historical successes in advocacy?
Ask anyone who works in public affairs and they’ll tell you that big, obvious wins with clear cause and effect are not common in the world of advocacy. Largely, we deal in a business of incremental change, of minor, often technical changes to policy to mitigate harm or achieve benefits.
Some of the most important and easy to point to advocacy efforts have been
- working under the covering fire of a National Trust public campaign to meet with government and secure changes to the 2012 National Planning Policy Framework, which ensured that the eventual policy was not a disaster for archaeology
- lobbying for improvements to the Neighbourhood Planning Act to ensure that changes to pre-commencement conditions for archaeology were not impacted
- working to ensure that archaeology could be recognised as a shortage profession in 2019 to help mitigate impacts of Brexit on the ability to employ from outside the UK.
In most of these examples, CIfA has been part of a wide web of advocacy seeking to influence reform processes. In all of the above examples we have worked alongside others, and in some cases actively enabled by others, but in each example CIfA’s individual role has been important, utilising our reputation for reliable advice, our contacts, or specific expertise to be influential.
- How does CIfA set its advocacy priorities?
CIfA’s advocacy priorities are agreed by the Board and discussed with the Advisory Council on an annual basis. I may propose additions or changes based upon upcoming policy agendas or opportunities, or the Advisory Council and Board may suggest things.
This process means that the work that myself and other staff do should also reflect what the membership thinks and that there is a representative means to change it.
I also regularly invite comment from the membership on all advocacy issues, and maintain a list of advisors to assist with formulating expert responses for specific actions.
- Why is the CIfA membership important to CIfA’s advocacy?
As I’ve already mentioned, without the expertise of CIfA’s members, the advice that CIfA advocacy staff like me can give is likely to be lacking in nuanced understanding of the reality of the situation for archaeologists. It is absolutely necessary that we have a strong network of voluntary advisors drawn from the membership who can advise on policy matters.
I have been pleased that in recent member surveys support for CIfA’s advocacy role has been 97% or above. But it is still important that members see and understand the advocacy work of CIfA and know how it helps to benefit the profession’s aim.
For me, communication of advocacy to the membership is almost as important as the advocacy work itself. It is so important that the support of CIfA professionals is cultivated. And as with other areas of CIfA’s activities, the more members that engage and support CIfA’s advocacy, the more influence and authority we will be able to bring to bear on government and the wider discipline.
To find out more about our advocacy work please see https://www.archaeologists.net/advocacy and https://www.archaeologists.net/annual-reviews-and-accounts