These are indeed very difficult times for the whole world and the professional body sector is certainly affected as much as most. I want to express my best wishes for all staff and those volunteering at professional bodies for your own personal health, as well as the task of keeping professional bodies up, running and secure for the future. Staying at home and other social distancing measures have become the main way of dealing with the virus until a vaccine is found. The consequences are socially and economically dire. The virus and attempts to slow its progress are testing our resolve to keep working together, to care for others and to keep as cheerful as we can without minimising the problems we and others are experiencing.

We rely on information from medical and other professionals, generally filtered through the government’s daily Coronavirus briefings. Understandably these briefings focus on virus contagion and unfortunate consequences as well as other medical and health supplies issues, but the inclusion of only a few statements by representatives of other professions is a concern. What are the consequences of the lockdown and the supply problems it creates for safety of buildings? What have the effects been on psychological conditions? On education attainment? On IT connectivity?

In these many areas of professional activities the public is in the dark, or have to rely on occasional sensational newspaper reports or social media. It is a challenge for professional bodies to encourage research into these areas, but again, the problems of carrying out research during lockdown need to be addressed, given issues concerning locating research subjects at home and GDPR.

We have now completed 3 weeks of lockdown, with little prospect of getting back to ‘normal’ for months, though there are a range of reports from other countries about lifting restrictions, most recently conflicting views coming from the USA on who has the authority to lift restrictions: governors of individual States, or President Trump. Here we have had a strong display of national unity on the need for the lockdown and social distancing out of doors, but the regular government briefings have been criticised for seeming to paper over problems of inadequate testing and personal protective equipment, particularly for frontline health workers and volunteers.

On a lighter note as I go on my daily walk around my neighbourhood, I am struck by the ways people are keeping busy and active. Besides the walking, running and bike riding, I see gardens with grass cut to putting green specifications, I see cars washed and polished to dealer window perfection, I see fences and doorways freshly painted. I suspect indoors shelves are being restacked and stacked again, junk closets are being sorted and children are being home schooled or taxing the imagination of parents to relieve their boredom.

We are all in this together and many face very much the same problems. However professional bodies are different in a number of ways. They have certain problems and (though not to belittle the enormous dimensions of the crisis) opportunities. Professional bodies are special in the sense that during this crisis you will have become aware of more victims of the virus than most. Not only are you aware of your staff but also your volunteers and, though to a lesser extent, also your members. While you may be almost entirely SMEs measured by staff numbers and volunteers, your membership numbers raises the level of your influence and responsibilities well beyond many large scale organisations.

Here at PARN we are gathering information on the particular challenges and solutions tried by professional bodies with our Covid 19 survey and the online CEO Forum tomorrow. We plan further CEO Forum meetings and we will be monitoring our LinkedIn group on Covid 19.

Please keep safe all.

Andy Friedman