As we enter a citizen-powered age, we are increasingly debating the role of our trusted intermediaries – the professions – in a society where there are a growing number of more empowered investors, stakeholders and citizens
About 50 years ago, the great Harvard sociologist Talcott Parsons wrote that the professions have “become the most important single component in the structure of modern societies”. Is their role becoming more important in a century of increased complexity in which individuals are rendered less powerful? Or, on the contrary, is their role fading away, eroded by scandals and challenged by the phenomenon of new network societies?
Traditionally, there has been a massive asymmetry of information between the knowledge that specialists and the public have. This is now melting away. We can see this even in the medical profession where greater access to information has made patients more aware. So, on the broader level, the question is how do professions modernise themselves to adapt to these new realities?
What we aim to discuss with our AuditFutures initiative is how the realities of the information age are affecting the role of professions in general and auditing in particular. Within this framework, how do we calibrate what the public interest is? What does good look like?
These are the questions that we would like to address in our partnership with the Royal Society of the Arts, UK’s leading think-tank for social progress. The RSA’s mission rests on the notion of professionals, managers, entrepreneurs and others seeing the value of working together for the wider public good. The RSA started as a coffee house for intellectual debate and we want to bring the best of contemporary thinking to the audit profession.
We aim to engage important stakeholders from the accounting firms, academia and civil society in a positive debate about the evolving role of audit. Our challenging project aims to redefine the role of the audit profession within the context of today’s public interest and to formulate a vision for the highest aspirations we can have for audit in the 21st century.
As part of this project – which will lead to a discussion paper later this year – we want to invite you to contribute your views. You may be within the audit profession, have experienced how it operates in the private or public sector, or have strong views about how the professions need to evolve in the service of society.
We have focused on the following areas and we would like your input regarding these questions:
- How do you think businesses and the public perceive the audit profession? What should the highest aspiration for the profession’s role be in serving society?
- How can the audit profession develop the characteristics of a modern profession that enjoys public trust? Are there any professions whose journey is instructive?
- Where can the audit profession add value in a public service landscape that is increasingly shaped by global challenges, social innovation and information complexity? What are the areas in which we need trust and assurance?
You can post your comments here or send your responses via email. (All responses will be held in confidence and explicit permission will be sought before any are quoted in the project’s report).