TOM DUNNE explains how reflective practice can be an appropriate and beneficial tool for a profession.

The Society is now settled in 38 Merrion Square, truly a beautiful building and a fitting headquarters, which all members should take the time to visit. It is a wonderful legacy from the IAVI for which all surveyors will be grateful, and the continued occupancy of which says something important about the past of the now unified profession.

The creation of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, following the merger of the IAVI and the SCS, marks an important change and speaks with some confidence about the future. Right now for all surveyors the consequences of the bust remain a major challenge and many are simply concentrating on survival. Lessons from the past are there to be learned, however.

At the formal launch of the Society, Frank Daly, Chairman of NAMA, suggested that members should reflect on their contribution to the property and construction boom, the aftermath of which is having such a devastating impact on our people. Much of this is taking place. I am sure everyone has had many informal discussions with colleagues about what happened and why and, more importantly, what lessons can be learned.

In 1983 Donald Schon, who was Ford Professor of Urban Studies and Education at MIT in the 1990s, wrote a famous book called The Reflective Practitioner, which has had a big influence on all professions. He introduced the idea of ‘reflective practice’, where a practitioner analyses experiences in order to learn from them with a view to obtaining some developmental insight. Clearly the Society would benefit from some formal reflections on past practices so that the profession of the surveyor will be strengthened.

One lesson from the past is that policy makers have a lot to learn about the true nature of the interaction of the construction industry and property markets with the macro economy. Also, surely it has become plain that policy and much legislation for land, property and construction can have unintended, and frequently undesirable, effects.

Reflective surveyors are often aware of these issues, but their concerns may not be accessible, or not fully appreciated, by politicians who have to rely on advice to make policy decisions.

The best safeguard against the policy mistakes is evidence-based policy making, and Chartered Surveyors have a role in acquiring evidence about the past and helping to ensure that future policy does not repeat avoidable errors. Certainly a process of reflection would enhance the capacity of the surveying profession to inform and influence future policy.

Tom DunneTom Dunne