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40 years of the IED: Derek Walker


In the latest of a series of articles featuring influential IED people and projects from our proud history dating back to 1983, we hear from Derek Walker, member of the ‘National Council’ from 2005-12. Derek was subsequently made a Fellow in 2012 for service to the Institute.

I first joined the National Council at the beginning of 2005, when the IED was not much older than half of its now 40 years. I remained on it until September 2012, when the work pressures of an independent economic development consultant meant I could not give the time that being a Director of the Institute deserved and needed.

Now retired and in my eighties (though like Jack Benny I still claim to be 39 – the only trouble is not so many remember that great comedian now!) I look back with great memories of the people I worked with, the places we met as a Board, and the work we did serving the Institute and developing the profession. 

As for the places, early on in my time as a Director, Board meetings were held at the International Students House in Great Portland Street and later on at Hamilton House in Mabledon Place, in a basement room I seem to recall, well located close to Kings Cross station. And of course, there were the annual meetings with branches at the Midland Hotel in Derby, the oldest surviving purpose-built station hotel in the world. 

Then there were the splendid conferences organised by Stephanie Wakefield. In those far off and maybe less rushed days we managed to find time for two-day conferences, so as well as having excellent speakers and debates there was time to meet up, discuss things, and share views in the evenings. The conferences made a significant contribution to spreading the IED’s influence and profile across the nations and regions of the UK. In my days on the Board, we held conferences in Belfast, Gateshead, Cardiff, Hull and Bournemouth amongst others. 

Communicating with IED members has always been vitally important and in those days I guess we were at something of a changeover time between the digital world we were embracing alongside more traditional methods. We still had a hard copy journal edited by Daniel Mouawad and designed by Andreas Goldner, who I worked with for many years as a consultant. Some of the features I personally contributed – on performance measurement, modernising rural delivery, using procurement to boost local economic development and regeneration and developing international links – maybe give just a flavour of the Journal. 

Most of all, I have great memories of the fellow members of the National Council I worked with – Chairs like Geoff Herbert, Daniel Mouawad, Neil Robertson and Keith Burge, who continues to crop up annually in my email inbox for yet another of the crazy challenges he undertakes for such great causes. Board members of my time that I must mention include Jim McLeish, John Firn, Richard Williams, Mike Jessop, Michael Johnson, Dawn Hudd and Harry Govan, and our Business Development Director John Lockett.

Together, I do think we helped to drive forward the IED across its broad range of activities – supporting members, developing education and skills of economic development professionals, building the profile of the Institute and the profession, policy development and influencing key decision-makers at national, regional and local level. 

I have sometimes thought that maybe it is time for the IED to look to getting Royal recognition to be the equivalent of the RIBA, RICS and the RTPI (which I am also a retired member of) – but if that were to happen, as a Fellow of the IED, I guess I would end up being FRIED – so maybe that is not such as good idea!

The Institute has come a long way in its first 40 years. We may still be smaller in member numbers than some of the older professional Institutes, but I do believe the IED punches above its weight and long may it continue to do so. Here’s to the next 40 years and more!