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Outreach yes - over-reach no!

Prof. Andy Fleet, Treasurer

Geoscientist 17.7 July 2007

Outreach activity may be the unavoidable duty of a charity, but there is no matching obligation to bankrupt ourselves  – financial health must remain the basis for all our ambitions, says Treasurer Andy Fleet.

Crouching over a paddling pool during the May bank holiday weekend and watching 600 kids gold panning for pyrite, magnetite and various ‘gems’ reminded me how fulfilling - and sometimes physically numbing - ‘outreach’ can be. Along with 50 or so colleagues from the Natural History Museum and our President, I was helping out at the Lyme Regis Fossil Festival (more of which in a future Geoscientist). One of the Society’s local heroes, Mary Anning, was also there in person - engaging young and old in tales of fossil collecting.

‘Local heroes’ (as its leading light, former Foreign and External Affairs Secretary Joe Cann, has explained in past issues) is a scheme to celebrate key figures in UK geology and arouse the interest of both the cognoscenti and the plain curious. As such it is provides an element of what current jargon describes as our Bicentenary ‘public outreach’. The very successful Shell London Lecture Series provides more.

Beyond 2007 and the end of the Bicentenary, Council aims to continue and develop the Society's outreach activity. In the words of the Society’s strategy (Geoscientist 17.3) by being “the respected pubic voice of geosciences in the UK” and by promoting “geoscience education” by working with others to support geoscience teaching in schools and helping to encourage lifelong learning.

In the strategy, aspirations for ‘outreach’ take their place alongside those for providing lifelong professional support and high standards; fostering innovation; showing leadership and communicating research. This is where I must run my treasurer’s colours to the masthead, because all these activities carry price tags that will dictate what, among our many aspirations, we can afford. The ‘foundation’ statements at the base of the strategy recognise the need to work to maintain and strengthen the financial health, human resourcing (paid and voluntary) as well as the charitable status of the Society.

Publishing activities (printed and electronic), conferences and events, investments and further diversification of our income streams will all be necessary in growing our financial strength. Aiming to ensure that subscriptions continue to cover the services received by Fellows will both account for core expenditure and help define the charitable status of our other activities. Burgeoning outreach and other activities focused on the world beyond the Society will help us demonstrate what ‘public benefit’ we are providing, which is the basis of our charitable status.

Not least, strong financial health will enable us to maintain and develop an expert and professional staff t underpin the activities we aspire to. A hidden facet of the bicentenary has been to again demonstrate their dedication, ability to deliver and broad outlook. I am sure you will all join with me in giving them a shining vote of thanks to brighten up the monochrome words of financial prudence.