Charles Handy awarded CIPD Ireland Gold Medal


Speech by Michael McDonnell, Managing Director, CIPD Ireland

Thursday 28 June 2012

On behalf of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), it is a privilege and a great pleasure to present the Charles E. Jacob Gold Medal to Professor Charles Handy.

I would like to thank Brendan Madden and his colleagues in Relationships Ireland for facilitating the award presentation.

We wish you every continued success over the next 50 years as you continue with the critically important work of helping and supporting people through periods of difficulty in their lives.

CIPD is now the world’s largest chartered institute for professionals working in HRM, with 135,000 members in 120 countries.

For some time we have felt that CIPD Ireland should have a special honour for people of outstanding achievement who have made a lasting contribution to social and organisational thinking and people development. Hence the Charles E. Jacob Gold Medal.

Charles Edwin Jacob was a member of an entrepreneurial family which contributed much to Ireland. Together with his brothers George Newsom and Albert Edmond they ran the growing family biscuit and confectionary firm of W&R Jacob Ltd in Bishop Street, Dublin.

In 1913, against a backdrop of shameful and appalling treatment of working people by many Dublin employers - so well captured in the novel Strumpet city - Charles Jacob advocated a different vision of people management, when he wrote:

In these days of strenuous competition any firm that wants to keep pace with the times must realise that one of the essential elements in the successful development of a business lies in the character and efficiency of the workers in it. Welfare, therefore, is a sound business proposition independent of the other benefits that it confers.

The principles he advocated of workplace health and welfare with skills training and personal development, so at variance with the prevailing views of most employers in 1913, are as relevant today as they were back then.

Furthermore, in June 1913 Charles Jacob together with the English social pioneer and industrialist Benjamin Seebohm Rowntree established in York, England, the institute that is now CIPD.

The Irish branch of CIPD was set up 75 years ago this year and CIPD as a whole celebrates its 100th anniversary next year. A lasting legacy to the vision and commitment of Charles E. Jacob.

(Perhaps it should be noted in passing that while Charles was doing all this mighty work his brother George was busy in Dublin inventing the Cream Cracker!)

It’s a moot point as to which of these great inventions by the brothers has made the most significant contribution to humanity ---- CIPD or the Cream Cracker!

It is entirely appropriate that CIPD Ireland award the Charles E. Jacob Gold Medal to Professor Charles Handy for his outstanding advocacy of, and concern for, people and their development.

Professor Handy is without doubt, one of the most influential social philosophers and organisational thinkers of his generation.

Charles, together with his wife Elizabeth, have devoted a considerable part of their professional lives to demonstrating how organisations can be transformed into communities that transcend beyond the mere pursuit of profit. An idea whose time has surely come as across the globe people everywhere struggle to find new direction and meaning in their lives.

Peter Drucker was once described as practicing the scholarship of common sense that same could well be said of Charles Handy.

In one of his great books The empty raincoat, Professor Handy concludes with this profound observation:

We cannot wait for great visions from great people, for they are in short supply. It is up to us to light our own small fires in the darkness.

As the dark gloom of depression lingers over our country - your's, Charles, is a message of hope and a call to action.

Your message is clear:

We can’t sit around any longer waiting for someone else to light our fire; we have to do it for ourselves.

You have shown us that it is possible to create - out of this current chaos - a more productive, fair and people centred society.

All that’s required of us is the courage to go and light those fires.

It is with great pleasure and honour on all our behalves that I invite you to accept the CIPD Charles E. Jacob Gold Medal as a humble token of the esteem in which you and Elizabeth are held by us all.