Wednesday 2 April 2008

Comradeship and Constitutional Reform

I see an article in Third Sector saying Stuart Etherington has come to the view that the Compact needs statutory powers. This is the view acevo has had for years. But I must not crow. Its excellent that we now have the same position, as this is powerful and will ensure we get the government to act. I expect to see it in the manifestos of both the main political parties.

Its always good for the 2 lead sector bodies to be pushing the same issues - and in fact we usually are, though I recognise that does not make good media. More interesting for a Bubb - Etherington battle. The fact that there are not any is too boring a fact. Of course that does not mean there are not differences of emphasis. And why not? We are not a Stalinist sector after all. More trotskite I guess (let a thousand flowers bloom).

And indeed there are still a few of the original Trots around. They had to go somewhere! One emerged in a very odd interview in the Guardian Society just before Easter. A chap called Andy Benson from an organisation set up to campaign against service delivery. (The National Coalition for Independent Action) The fact that this has been the core purpose of charities for hundreds of years has clearly passed them by and they seem to believe that third sector organisations should not be allowed to deliver services. It’s not as though anyone is actually forcing any organisation to deliver services. It’s their choice. But in the world of Mr Benson he feels the need to tell them they can't. Seems somewhat of a contradiction that a body whose name purports to support “independent action” is to campaign to prevent many sector bodies doing just that. Oh well! Takes all sorts as mother would say!

We’ve been expanding our links with peers in the states over the past few weeks. This is at the core of acevo’s internationalist approach and we know that there is so much that our members can benefit from expanding networks overseas. One particular organisation based in Washington DC, the Nonprofit Roundtable has done some great work on the social impact of nonprofits. Do have a look at

We’re looking to develop more sophisticated ways of supporting members in benchmarking their performance with peers in the states. There is huge value in being able to speak with one voice on issues such as these.

I also think there is a case for some constitutional recognition for the third sector. Its an idea that has been promoted by Professor Gerry Stoker at Southampton University, the constitution of the Republic of South Africa has formal recognition for their civil society. I know that this is more difficult without a written constitution but we may well get something like that. Gordon Brown has floated the idea of a Constitution of Rights and Responsibilities so it would be natural to underpin our role as a sector too. An idea. I am going to float that with members soon to see what they think.

The weekend was typically English. An awful day on Saturday up in the Cotswolds. But a glorious sunny Sunday and I went on a long walk up to Ditchley - which is about 5 miles from my cottage in Charlbury. Over the muddy fields. The first shoots of the coming spring now well in evidence. I'm walking a lot more now that I need to be more healthy. And I had to walk off the rather fine white burgundy of lunch. And I was naughty and ate the gorgeous bar of dark chocolate that came free with the Observer. Just because I have diabetes does not mean I am becoming a monk. And it is the octave of Easter so it’s allowed I'm sure.

Of course between the gardening and lunch I've had time for at least 40 emails. Keeps the troops happy. I've ordered more Blackberries for my staff so they can keep up at weekends with the boss's stream of consciousness. A Boss with no ideas is a Boss heading for the scrap heap!

April Fools day was my first in my new role as chair of FBE. So I spent the day in their office in Rathbone Place. It was interesting to see a couple of people I remember from my days at the Lottery Charities Board. It’s good to finally have the reins in our hands so we can drive forward at a pace. Getting investments out into the sector. Being clear on our mission to drive up service delivery by the third sector.

Wednesday is Third Sector magazine day. It’s always interesting to see what they cover. Perhaps they will mark the advent of Adventure Capital Fund taking on FBE with a look forward - talk about our plans. Find out what our vision is for the next 3 years. Not a bit of it. They appear deeply uninterested. Ever since the decision has been made the sector press have been lamenting the loss and uninterested in analysing why they lost and what it was about the ACF bid that made it the winner. There was a thorough and proper tender process. It was externally verified. ACF won it by a clear margin. You would have thought there was interest in the winning formula. Phah! Amazing that we take up the reins and not only is there no coverage about that, but no less than 2 pages on the thoughts of the departed CEO.

But my mood is improving as I head off for a dinner that FBE are holding for senior CEOs in the sector to talk through our vision and to encourage them to think about opportunities for investments.

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