(a) Three messages on the theme "Evolution or Revolution"
(I) Will it be enough for IA to continue to evolve?
Our suite of presentations would suggest that evolution of IAIA would be sufficient if it can enable the SIA community to develop a certification process for SIA practitioners and does so in the coming 12 months.
Regulators in several Australian states are asking for certification of SIA practitioners in order to assure that they are receiving high quality reports with credible data,
a concern that resonates with the criticisms of SIA reports offered during this conference. The timeframe requirement reflects comments that IAIA has debated certification for nearly 20 years.
It also reflects the availability of resources and organisations - within Australia and to some extent internationally - to help that certification process -
e.g., EIANZ’s certification regime and relevant courses in continuing professional development offered by IAP2, the Australian Evaluation Society (?), and the Marketing and Social Research Society.
So, in this regard, evolution is necessary, and noone in this session was calling for revolution, but needs evolution to be in a timely manner.
(II) Is there a better way to ensure that impact-assessable matters are taken into account in project and policy decision making?
Some in the session argued that certification may make the profession be taken more seriously and give descison makers greater confidence that the SIA is of high quality because the practioners have met the
certification standards. While many in the room also argued that certificcation would cause the quality of evidence that SIA practiioners provide to improve, which also undergird their credibility, and imply not just credibility
(III) If revolutionary change is needed, what might it look like?
Longstanding concern was related to the irrelevance of university training in SIA. Some argued that solid undergraduate training in a few key disciplines was needed.
Others added that that would need to be followed in mid-career by a rigourous credentialing process combined with continuing professional development requirements.
A gap remained - what training does a recent graduate receive to turn them from a well prepared prospect into a quality professional?
What role might universities play in offering or at least coordinating such training? Beyond the training itself, what role might universities - or other independent bodies -
play in coordinating assessment related to certification processes?
The call for credentialing suggests that there is a need for a certifying authority. Discussion did not cover what such a certifying authority should look like, how it should be constituted.
On reflection, one can suggest that a national or international board should involve not just recognised authorities from the SIA profession but also highly regarded figures who represent the clients and stakeholders of SIA.
Recommendations for impact assessment practitioners:
Support a process to develop and engage in formation of credentialing process and certification board and continuing professional development.
Suggest - and be willing to accommodate - building on relevant offerings of other professions, in terms of professional development courses and credentialing processes, as noted earlier.
Get over the antipathy toward universities and university training. University academics may typically lack the depth of experience in SIA that longstanding consultants have. However, they have an opportunity to provide an overview and long-term perspective on cases pursued by different consultancies and can connect the dots to identify emerging paradigms and principles and relevant social theories to explain why events unfold as they do.
Recommendations for policy makers and other stakeholders (please specify if possible):
For regulators, continue to call for certification of SIA practitioners. That is a signal to the profession to … ‘professionalise’ in a more visible way, which will help to build its credibility and influence.