If 1914 was the year when the world changed forever, then 2008 was the year it all changed again, so said Gareth Tancred, CEO of the British Institute of Facilities Management (BIFM), in his closing slot at this year’s FM Charity Network Forum. Here, of course, 1914 marks the start of the First World War, fast forward 94 years later and 2008 represents the global economic collapse.
I’ll be the first to admit that constant referencing of the economy can become somewhat tedious, and rather disheartening. But the crash of 2008, and the four years of economic woe that has followed, has had a monumental impact on our lives – framing every decision we make as individuals or as organisations, from the politics we choose, the clothes we wear, the brands we eat, our employment, and ultimately the life we lead.
We may all be familiar with the sepia-tinted images of Americans during the Great Depression burning wheelbarrows full of worthless dollar bills, but somehow in the decades that followed society moved on, building large self-sustaining economic models that would apparently prevent this from ever happening again.
But there is something significantly more alarming about the economic crash this time; it exists in a virtual world of electronic money, shares, educated guesses and bankers’ brains. There are no pictures of pound notes going up in smoke.
Nevertheless, Tancred is right: 2008 changed the world irrevocably. And with that, it is imperative that publications such as FMJ endeavour to find out how the world’s economic troubles have changed the way organisations and people operate within FM.
With this in mind, in just one of the examples where we approach the subject this month, I ask Andy Christophi, head of facilities management at Shelter and one of the founders of the FM Charity Network Forum, whether the challenges for FMs in the voluntary sector were different to the challenges faced by FMs in the public and private sectors. His answer, on page 34, is a resounding ‘no’. However, he does believe that private sector FMs could learn a lot from the third sector’s willingness to share knowledge, exchange tips and help each other out. And while this may be Prime Minister David Cameron’s Big Society in action, charities are of course in a far more natural position to do this.
The FMJ Debate
The topic of the economy isn’t only confined to the pages of this magazine either. This month, FMJ hosts its next debate in the halls of The FM Event at London Olympia. A panel of experts including Chris Hoar, chief executive of the FMA, and Ismena Clout, chair of the BIFM, will discuss whether a faltering economy has redefined the role of the facilities manager. Most of you will have opened this issue once The FM Event at London Olympia has come and gone, but look out for a review in our next issue.
It’s an important issue, and as Tancred said, “Change is staying”, so we better find out what this ‘change’ is.
By Simon Iatrou • firstname.lastname@example.org
Extract FMJ October 2012