Sir Stephen Bubb

Sir Stephen Bubb

Friday, 18 September 2015

Women in Charity

One of the great advantages of a leaders’ network like ACEVO is the opportunity to network with other CEOs. That’s why ACEVO has always had such strong events and conference programmes. And we have always been aware of the need to ensure a strong regional presence and a programme that recognises diversity.

I’m rather proud of the fact that ACEVO has run a Women CEOs Summit for a number of years now. I don’t know of any other umbrella that has something similar to offer. We know that gender equality is rather a long way off and there are too few women CEOs in top national charity jobs (according to ACEVO’s most recent Pay Survey, only 25% of charities with a turnover of £15m or more have a female CEO).

This year’s Summit, kindly sponsored by RBS, has a rather stellar line up and a mega booking for it. It features a line-up ranging from Stella Creasy MP to chiefs at the Department for Education, Women’s Aid and Girlguiding UK. The Summit has been so popular that we are now fully booked and are running a waiting list!

The speakers will consider how women leaders should respond to a challenging climate for women and women’s services. They will also be talking about how women leaders can find a leadership style which works for them and how we can inspire the next generation of young women leaders. ACEVO’s policy and projects officer Lauren Kelly has been of huge help organising this year’s summit so I thought I’d include a few words from her with her take. She writes:

“This year’s Summit comes at a time of significant challenges and opportunities for women in the UK. Austerity has hit women particularly hard. Women have been disproportionately affected by staffing cuts in central government, local authorities, and the NHS as they make up the majority of public sector workforce.

Meanwhile, the combined force of tax credit cuts, reductions in housing benefit, and the three-year inflation freeze in child benefit month has weakened their safety net. According to the Fawcett Society, £22bn of the £26bn saved from welfare reform since 2010 has come from women’s pockets. As women still tend to be the primary carers for children and for frail older people, cuts to services hit them harder than men.

There has been slow progress in other key areas of inequality such as violence against women and under-representation in Westminster and other seats of power. Leaders of young people’s services tell me they are deeply concerned about the increasing pressure on young women to look a certain way and sexual inequality amongst young people.

The UK has seen a flourishing of equality activism, which some are labelling the ‘fourth wave’ of British feminism. Women – and many men – have taken to the streets to protest against sexist policies with respect to female representation, sexual violence, housing, immigration, news coverage, and even bank notes, amongst other things.

The result has been cross-political acknowledgement that number of women in government and in top positions across private, public, and third sectors is unacceptable and more women willing to speak up against casual sexism. To build upon this momentum, we need only to keep pushing and to harness the current public and media interest in women’s issues. I hope that attendees at this year’s ACEVO Women CEOs Summit will come away inspired to raise their voices.”

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

"So that was August"

I've always thought August is a bad time for holidays so tend to stay around and make use of the meeting free month.  Though this time it may have been meeting free but rather media full.  Making the case for the professional third sector and the need for strong leadership and governance in the wake of Kids Company in particular.  It put the fundraising issue into context I thought.

I spent my Sunday lunchtime talking to Sky news about fundraising in the light of the excellent letter from some of the top national charities CEOs which outlined how they will act to implement new arrangements to reinforce the highest ethical standards.

We welcome these reforms as necessary to restore any deficit in public trust.  Fundraising is the lifeblood of many charities and we can’t afford to lose too much of it.  There is a danger that less asking will mean less giving.  Given the huge strain on many charities coping with increased demand its vital these efforts continue to be supported by the public. The recent major media attention to the refugee crisis shows how vital the work of bodies like the Red Cross, Save the Children, Oxfam and Unicef are - to name but a few of those at the centre of efforts to relieve real hardship and distress.

One thing I try to do in August is visit members where they work. Its been a memorable time. Starting with the Reader Organisation in Liverpool; based in a splendid  "Calderstones Park" (they are planning on buying it off the Council). They aim to encourage children in reading out loud - so based in groups and where reading is valued and promoted among many kids for whom reading is uncommon. They are based in the old mansion in the park. Once home to one of the great Liverpool trading families its now a major community asset.

I also spent a day in Lancashire visiting facilities run by Future Directions for people with learning disabilities. The CEO is an active ACEVO member Paula Braynian and she took me to visit a range of facilities from high to low dependency.  I was able to talk to a number of people who had spent time in the NHS long stay hospital Calderstones and was shocked to hear their stories about treatment there that is so often based on a regime of seclusion, medication and physical restraint.  It was both heartening to hear their progress in a community facility and horrifying to reflect on the trauma of their time in an institution.  The 2 people I saw had spent 10 and 12 years in institutional care at that hospital.  One of these was a woman who had has a broken shoulder as a result of physical restraint.  And now they are cared for in a home that refuses to use such restraint, has no seclusion rooms and won't use medication for control.  A woman that was judged to be so dangerous to herself and others they predicted she would be back within 3 months is now managing her own medicine, leaving the home regularly to see her parents and teaching on courses about self harm and why it happens.  She has even started volunteering with older people.  It brought home to me so vividly
why we must close down institutional care and move people with learning disabilities into community support and independence.  That is why my work following up on my November report on Winterbourne is so crucial. I will not rest until institutions are closed and we give people with learning disability the future and the well being they deserve but are so often denied. I'm planning on a year review of that report by the end of they year.  

Then a change of tempo and it was the wonderful Battersea Dogs and Cats home, led by the dynamic CEO Claire Horton.  This charity has been around for over 160 years and like the RSPCA was founded on the principle of direct action to home strays but also campaign for better conditions for our nation's animals.  The revisionist wing of charity history, much in evidence in parts of our media, forget that many of our great national charities wee founded with those twin aims.  People who argue the RSPCA, the NSPCC, or the RSPB should somehow just "stick to their knitting" don't understand the founding mission of those organisations where campaigning was woven into the fabric of their very existence. Caring for an abused dog is good. Preventing and rooting out abuse better.

As a dog lover I so enjoyed being shown around the wonderful facilities there and chatting with Claire about the animal charity world! There was a rather lovely terrier who was looking at me dolefully but I don't think my very own Jack Russell would be keen on a rival....
Battersea is a great example of why Britain should be proud of its charitable heritage - Battersea is an example that has been copied around the world and they continue to attract attention across the globe for their work.

You should read the great story of the Home, "A dogs life" produced for their 150th anniversary. 

Then continuing the animal theme I went to the Vauxhall City Farm, led by Matthew Lock, one of ACEVO's younger CEOs.  A wonderful place where sheep and alpacas, ducks and chickens roam within sight of the looming towers of MI6.  They have a new block of stables for the horses much used by Riding for the Disabled.  Its both an educational and health promotion venture where they work with London schools in introducing pupils to the adventure that is nature.  They are in the process of a major development but are keen to expand the work they do, particularly on the health front.

Then last week I was in Suffolk to visit the Befriending Scheme, a relatively small but growing charity led by a CEO, Shirley Moore, who started with them some time back doing 5 hours a week and now runs this fabulous charity full time with over 20 staff and 300 volunteers.  Its provides support in the community for people with learning disabilities as well as those with other disabilities that would otherwise isolate them at home.  Shirley has wonderful plans for future developments and we talked about these over lunch in the lovely town of Lavenham.

Now Parliament is back and meetings begin in earnest.  I already have 6 today! Will they be as educational as my charity visiting I wonder...

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Give more. Get healthy!

Had a great lunch yesterday with David Halpern, the CEO of the behavioural insight unit.  Better known as the nudge experts, they have been responsible for some fascinating  innovations in the way our public services work.  David is publishing a book on the theory of nudge next week.  Get it.  I shall. 

They have been responsible for some in depth work on how to nudge people to give.  And today they are publishing some new research on giving and health.  And it shows that spending money on other people is good for your heart!  

Giving generously lowers high blood pressure, an ailment that contributes to the deaths of an estimated 7.5 million people prematurely worldwide each year.

This remarkable effect that being unselfish with money has on health was discovered by a team of psychologists that ran two studies among older adults with high blood pressure.

The first involved 186 people living in the United States who were aged between 55 and 74 and suffered from high blood pressure.  The team analysed how much money they contributed to religious groups, political organisations and causes, friends and family and other organisations.

The researchers found the more money the participants spent on others, the lower their systolic and diastolic blood pressure was two years later.

The second study examined 73 participants with heart complaints aged over 65 from the Vancouver area of Canada.  They were randomly assigned to spend three lots of $40 dollars either on themselves or others for three consecutive weeks during a six-week study period.

When examined afterwards, participants who gave to others showed significant improvements in systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to participants assigned to spend money on themselves. “Thus, prosocial spending was linked to lower blood pressure,” the team concluded in a paper about the trials.

The researchers believe these results represent the first-ever empirical evidence that engaging in “prosocial spending” can lead to lower blood pressure and healthier hearts.  They speculate that the improvement may take place in part because the generous act activates the release of the stress-reducing neurohomones.

This beneficial impact of generosity on well-being is good news because heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. High blood pressure, which puts people at a higher risk of a heart attack, currently affects 67 million people in the U.S. and, according to the World Health Organization, 1 billion people worldwide.

In their paper the team adds: “Together, these findings suggest that spending money on others shapes cardiovascular health, thereby providing one pathway by which prosocial behaviour improves physical health among older adults.” The team's paper goes on: “Across two studies, we provide the first empirical evidence that prosocial spending may lead to lower blood pressure among older adults.”

I wonder if this will be widely reported?  A good antidote to some of the hostile media publicity on fundraising.  It's great news for charities like the British Heart Foundation and their door to door fundraisers. So supporting them is not just good for the charity that is our leading heart research body but responding to their fundraising will help lower your blood pressure. What could be fairer than that! 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

We need charisma?

The debate around leadership at the Kids Company has revolved around charismatic leadership and whether this is enough.  As I said on the Today programme when the story broke charisma is good and indeed many of our great charity leader are both charismatic and  passionate, but when it is not coupled with sound administration and governance it can be disastrous.

Charisma is one of those things that we are supposed to fall for and admire.  God-given grace and charm is magical, not to be sniffed at.  Or is it?

I was fascinated to see that the dear old BBC Radio 4 is about to embark on a series about it in many walks of life, ranging from St Paul to Sarah Bernhardt and into the 21st century.  And I thought I'd reproduce the blurb from the BBC website to provoke thought on this. Franc one Stock writes,

 "Charisma is an external force of nature: confidence, charm, power, "quick-thinkingness", combined with physical impressiveness.
The more I thought about it, the more dangerous the whole concept became.  Beware of charisma, I say.  It will lead you into trouble.  I wracked my brains and in fact only a few business candidates come to mind.
For example, though they might like to think that they are - accountants are not charismatic, though they now often rise to the top of large organisations. Neither are bankers, though they may wield great power for a time.
Charisma is about more than power. It's about influence."

Corporate charisma:

For example, Henry Ford is probably the most striking example of what must be corporate charisma.  Farm boy, suspicious of banks all his life, opportunist who created the production line (out of existing manufacturing techniques) because there were no skilled engineers to be hired in Detroit (they were all making railway wagons).
Because he had to take unskilled immigrants with little English he broke work down into small repeatable tasks on a moving line.  He reduced work to monotonous repetition, but he paid well for it.
Fordist mass-production and the production line became so influential that they rapidly became the way of doing things in manufacturing, not just of cars but of almost everything else. 
Big and hugely influential maybe, but was this charismatic? I think it was.  Henry Ford used to go "camping" with his friends Edison and Firestone in a convoy of tent trucks.  The press would follow and record their fireside chats.  Edison had an ear trumpet.  Trumped up charisma, but a pretty big impact on the way many of us still work. 
Business charisma often coincides with a wave of technology change, which the charismatic leader rides like a surfer.  Ford was a part of the great automotive disruption of the early 20th Century.
Charisma has a lot to do with how the American media portray their business leaders.  Getting rich quick is only half the story.  Business leaders need to be "awesome" as well, and probably short-tempered.

Jack Welch was charismatic during his long reign as a chairman championing shareholder value at General Electric.  But his reputation shrank almost as soon as he was out of office.
Like politicians (as Enoch Powell nearly said) the careers of most of those admired as "charismatics" end in failure.

Larger than life:

One charismatic business person of whom that was not true was the late Steve Jobs of Apple.  He was, I'll admit from my only encounter with him, utterly charismatic in how he behaved and what he achieved.

Jobs upended personal computing, the music industry, animated cartoons, and retailing.  But he was impatient and irritable, not nice.  Maybe that goes with the aura.

Francine Stock has zeroed in on one of the cornflake kings, W K Kellogg, who made a fortune out of his brother's cereal invention, which was launched out of his clinic in Battle Creek, Wyoming.

But where are the British charismatics? Fry, Rowntree, Cadbury - were those self-effacing Quakers charismatic? The question is naturally self-contradictory.

One genuine candidate is John Spedan Lewis who gave the John Lewis company away to the workforce and then sat at home writing awkward had-to-be-answered letters to the partnership's weekly newspaper, the Gazette, for the rest of his life.  A forceful man, a forceful idea.  No-one else I can think of in Britain gets near.

And apart from Steve Jobs, the only other candidates I have met were Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, superbly charismatic together as only movie stars can be.  They bent the air when you looked at them, especially her.

But do we need charismatic leadership? The media do: charisma makes good stories, larger-than-life people behaving quite unlike the rest of us.

The force-field of charisma and its impact on others is usually accompanied by huge self belief. Several of the American billionaires are convinced they will find a way of living forever, for example.
Falls from grace.

Charisma breeds a dangerous deference in underlings. It leads to diaries so packed there is no time for reflection, and no need for it either.  Self-confidence is fine for movie stars, but in the business world it stops bosses from being challenged, and from realising that their big ideas are mostly fleeting, insubstantial and troublesome.

A bad plan produced by someone temporarily regarded as charismatic looks good at the time, but when the wind changes (or the economy stumbles) it often turns to ashes.  And British business is scarred with repeated stories of seemingly just-for-a-moment charismatic leaders who rapidly fell from grace, and took their companies with them.

One is tempted to say: "happy the land that has no heroes." 

I'm not sure I buy all this but I shall be listening out!

Charisma: Pinning Down the Butterfly is a two-week series presented by Francine Stock starting on BBC Radio 4 on Monday, 24 August at 13.45. 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Kids Company – a watershed moment?

It’s not David Cameron or indeed Gordon Brown’s fault that Kids Company has gone under. Indeed I applaud them for their instincts in wanting to support a charity they knew was working at the front line with vulnerable kids not reached or known by local authorities. But politicians, the charity sector and the public must learn the lessons from what has happened – and support charities that provide crucial services properly.

Kids Company is an important case in point. Their founder, Camilla Batmangeilidh was a wonderful character but she was also clear on one thing: the frontline was where the money had to go. She was very opposed to spending on overheads as she thought all the money must go out to her kids. This is a noble idea but if you take the time to view their publically available accounts their overhead costs are alarmingly low – way below what any sustainable organisation should expect. When you couple that with rapid, government-funded growth, which emerged in the wake of significant cuts to government provided services, problems are inevitable.

It appears that this was made worse by what is often called "founder syndrome." Any chief executive must surround themselves with a top quality team to deliver essential administrative functions. Batmangelidh’s approach appears to have relied heavily on her indomitable spirit, force of character and charisma. Without the sufficient collateral support of good governance and sound administration, these things, are, simply, not enough.

As council social care is cut to the bone, Kids Company was a major player in town. The social consequences of their demise are catastrophic for the individuals concerned and costly to the exchequer. Yet it would compound the catastrophe if criticism of the decisions by government on the funding of Kids Company caused government ministers to micromanage charities with which they work, or out of fear, overlook them altogether.

In order to square this circle, we need a more adult discourse on what it means to run a successful charity in the twenty first century. There is a broad lesson for the media, which must be less hypocritical about what it wants from charities. Take the recent furore on charity fundraising, which arose as a result of charities outsourcing this part of their activity to keep overheads down and funnel more money to the front line.  The negative stories were understandable but must be coupled with the understanding that to bring these functions in-house costs money – and that money will not go to the front line. And yet you can then be sure that the next slew of negative stories about charity overheads are on the horizon.

We must not return to a Victorian-style philanthropy where we rely on the occasional good will of some philanthropists but do not have the temerity to complain about the causes of poverty, to create sustainable organisations that make a difference for the long term and to fund and lead them effectively. The right lesson would be to acknowledge that running an organisation that helps people in the twenty first century requires good governance as well as good intentions – and the Government must support good governance and high quality leadership in the charity sector if it is to prevent future catastrophes.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Using communities to tackle extremism

David Cameron's five year plan to tackle extremism must focus on curtailing demonisation and promoting engagement with communities.

In a recent letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, I warned that the group and individual banning orders to be introduced in forthcoming legislation could be counter-productive and hinder rather than help the fight against extremism. I argued that the key weapon in the fight against radicalisation will be to harness the often unsung civic spirit represented by the work of the 1,200 plus Islamic charities in the country.

The Prime Minister has hit the nail on the head today in identifying “the overshadowing of moderate Muslim voices" and “failures of integration” as central elements of the radicalisation that has so far taken place.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning former MI5 chief Eliza Manningham-Buller said that talk of one central Muslim identity and community is misguided, rather that there are hundreds and thousands of separate communities all of which must be reached. This is why it is so important that the Government, indeed all of us, embrace and celebrate the work done by Islamic charities across the country. This would go a long way to bringing the moderate Muslim voices out of the shadows.

I met only recently with Home Office Minister Lord Ahmed to develop these dialogues and agreed to draft some proposals for adoption by the Government.

Friday, 17 July 2015

Gove is right. Let's back him...

Michael Gove has wasted no time at all in pushing ahead with reforms since taking over at the Ministry of Justice.  So far, he has lifted the petty and silly prison book restrictions.  Well done on that.
In a speech today, Gove will focus on the role of education in rehabilitating prisoner s<>. 

“No government serious about building one nation, no minister concerned with greater social justice, can be anything other than horrified by our persistent failure to reduce re-offending.  In prisons there is a - literally - captive population whose inability to read properly or master basic mathematics makes them prime candidates for re-offending...
The failure to teach our prisoners a proper lesson is indefensible.  I fear the reason for that is, as things stand, we do not have the right incentives for prisoners to learn or for prison staff to prioritise education.  And that's got to change."
How right this is.  And it's a change that many ACEVO members will warmly welcome. He’s considering what would be a very radical overhaul of the prisons system: introducing an “earned release" system to encourage prisoners to improve their education while in jail.  I'm also writing to hi.  To encourage him to look at the rehabilitation revolution programme. It's been a huge disappointment for our third sector. We wanted to see programmes that galvanised the power of charities to prevent  re-offending and to tackle the revolving doors in prisons where half of all prisoners released return to prison in a year. 

I'm offering Michael Gove the hand of friendship in tackling his reform agenda.  He has shown exactly the reform zeal we need!