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ICE post-Covid recovery plans – questions and answers

08 January 2021

A set of questions and answers have been provided to assist members with queries about ICE’s plans.

ICE post-Covid recovery plans – questions and answers

We are all aware that the coronavirus pandemic and the measures taken to contain it have had an unprecedented impact on our personal lives, our professional lives and the wider economy.

While the ICE has done everything it can to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, and to maintain the quality of service to our members, it has not been immune to the economic slowdown. The Institution has seen a significant drop in Thomas Telford income (which has long subsidized ICE activities) and therefore, it has taken steps to ensure we remain on a sound financial footing.

Members will have received an e-mail from ICE outlining ICE’s post-Covid recovery plan and a set of questions and answers has been provided below to assist members who have queries.

Frequently asked questions

What changes are you making to membership provision?

The most significant changes are that we will be using technology to replace unnecessary travel, rationalizing and centralizing our knowledge offer so that the global membership can take advantage of it through the ICE’s online presence. In support of this we will be ensuring that the policy and knowledge the Institution provides is created centrally and disseminated globally. This means that we will be able to bring our international structures into line with the domestic regions putting them on an even footing and providing the same valuable membership experience.

We are incredibly conscious that some members value the regional presence that the Institution offers. As such we propose maintaining this presence in England through a hub and spoke model. Each English region will maintain a regional director and support team. However, we are proposing the offices and premises will be moved to hubs in London, Birmingham and Manchester. The recent membership satisfaction survey and Polaris research has strongly indicated that members have a preference for accessing knowledge online and that very few were aware of the physical regional offices. This will allow regional directors to engage in local awareness raising and political engagement.

We recognize that the social value of your membership cannot be replicated online so volunteer members will still be able to organise networking, social events and site visits for your region when the lockdown restriction allow for it.

Why was there no membership consultation on this issue?

These are incredibly unusual times and the speed with which everything happened means we were not able to follow a fully consultative route. However, all this work has been evidence based and pre-existing survey data from the Membership Satisfaction Survey and the regional review have been taken into account.

Does this mean the institution’s priorities have changed?

No, The institution remains committed to its strategic goals while attracting and retaining members. These decisions have been taken with that at the forefront of all our minds.

Does this mean that the institution will be paying less attention to international members?

Not at all. We truly value our international membership and the insights they can offer the institution as a whole. By moving to a digital first provision the same content used in the UK will be available to all. This has proven to be the case with our newly introduced strategy sessions. Also, by proposing to bring the oversight of international regions into the same structure as the UK regions we hope to reduce the unnecessary differentiation that has occurred in the past. A member is valuable to the Institution no matter where they are based.

What will those members who want to network in the real world do?<

During the period of lockdown we obviously advise against person to person contact. Beyond that members are still welcome to network and meet in their regions. The main difference is that the primary Knowledge and Membership provision will be provided as digital first. This does not mean exclusively online and should your local committees wish to provide networking opportunities then they will.

What does this mean for the devolved authorities?

There will be no change to the way the Institution manages or engages with the UK devolved authorities.

Is the Institution at risk of folding?

No, the Institution has spent the past eight years rigorously building up a strong reserves position. However, the economic shock of coronavirus and the measures to contain it have been significant. As such we need to take these measures now to ensure the long-term viability of the Institution.

How will I keep up to date with the changes being made to the Institution?

We will commit to making sure that we keep members informed as changes are implemented. We will use the membership magazine, NCE, as well as our own channels such as email newsletters, social media and the ICE website.

I do not have internet or email, does that mean I am being disenfranchised?

Digital first does not mean digital only. Where possible we will continue to provide non digital options.

What does this mean for my NCE subscription?

NCE is published by a third-party publisher, EMAP. During lockdown they produced two digital only editions. We have a commitment from them that this was a temporary measure and that usual service will resume by August 2020. Any further changes to the way NCE is distributed will be made public well in advance.

If reviews are being conducted online does that mean quality is being diluted?

No, ICE’s professional review system remains the gold standard. By moving to remote reviews there will be no diluting of standards.

Do we need to worry that the Institution is no longer financially viable?

No, these steps are being taken to ensure long term viability.

Is this just the first stage of retrenchment for the Institution?

No, these decisions have been taken to make sure that no further actions will need to be taken.

Will the Institution still have an influential voice with Governments around the world?

Yes, one of ICE’s main strategic ambitions is to be the go to place for infrastructure insight. We are maintaining our successful Policy and Public Affairs operation to ensure that the ICE’s voice is heard not only in UK Government but around the world.

How will we achieve our primary objectives if we are making cuts like this?

Many of the changes we are making are in fact best practice and do not represent cuts in provision, but rather an altered method of delivery. In fact, we have seen our engagement increase substantially during lockdown by adopting many of these new methods. We have confidence that ICE primary strategic objectives remain achievable in the medium to long term. In addition, all the actions now being undertaken are built on a solid evidence base to ensure that the divisions remain focused on the Institution’s goals.

Is this the result of over-spending by the Institution in recent years?

No, this is a direct result of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. In fact ICE has been fiscally responsible in the past decade and built a strong reserves position, which has allowed us to weather the storm in a much more secure position than other organisations.

What implications will this have for my region?

It is proposed that your regional support team will now no longer be operating from a regional HQ. However, you will retain a regional director, a marketing and communications executive, and administrative support. There will undoubtedly be certain services which may no longer be possible as a result, but please be assured we are doing everything we can to account for that by providing centrally developed digital products for you.

What does digital first mean?

Digital first is the model we are now adopting, which means all projects and products that the Institution develops will be considered for online delivery first. This means that lectures, knowledge content, membership provision and policy work will all be available through the ICE website, or through one of our video-conferencing platforms and accessible from anywhere in the world. This also means that our email and social media channels will be the main point of contact with the Institution and the best way to keep yourself up to date with your Institution.

Digital first does not mean we are retreating from physical networking events or dinners. It means that all of these things will have a digital element in support. We have seen that during lockdown when physical events have not been possible the rates of engagement from the membership have been large. Our strategy sessions have been attracting audiences that would fill lecture theatres many times over. Digital first means that we will be continuing to make this provision and attract these audiences.

Will this mean the knowledge offering of the Institution will no longer be of any worth?

The exact opposite. By removing the constraints of geography and physical venues we will now be able to provide high quality knowledge and insight to members around the world when they want to receive it. Our offer will be interlaced with industry best practice and policy development.

Does this mean we won’t have regional dinners and awards, I know other PEIs have cut these?

We are aware that other organisations have pulled back from providing regional awards and dinners. This is not something we intend to do.

Does this mean we won’t be engaging in educational outreach?

We will continue to work through the Stem Ambassador network and Engineering UK to engage with young people. We will also focus our efforts at the crucial subject and career decisions points to ensure that as many new civil engineers are being trained as possible.

How long will these changes be in place?

We anticipate that these changes will be permanent. Much of what we are now adopting is in line with technological developments and best practice for other organisations.

Why are you keeping One Great George Street if we are in financial difficulty?

One Great George Street is the home of civil engineering. It is also largely revenue neutral and therefore does not represent a significant financial liability.

The website is hard to navigate anyway, how am I expected to access information now if everything is digital?

As part of being digital first we are committed to continuous improvement of our digital channels to ensure that members have the best possible experience. This will require time to develop but we are committed to keeping pace. We also must recognise that much of what is possible now was not five years ago, and we do not know what the next five years will bring. However, the goal will remain the same – to provide high quality digital content to members around the world on the best possible platform.

Are you still building a new database, and if so why? Surely that is an expense we could do without?

Any move to embracing a digital world is reliant on high quality data. The ICE Connect development has been factored into our decision making and is an essential piece of work for our new methods of working.

Won’t this just mean more focus on London and less on everyone else?

No, by adopting digital first we are able to decentralize our offering in support of members around the world.

  • Simon Creer, Communications Director