Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Civil Power ; dutch style

That's the title of the Conference ; and a good one too. Increasingly governments are seeing the power of civil society and wanting our buy in . It is the theme of my speech to the Dutch Congress of civil society this morning. But that power has to be underpinned by a professional sector which is well governed and well led , with the capacity and infrastructure to drive change .
The new Dutch Prime Minister m who was due here this morning till he cried off . He has been talking of "the reinvention of civil society ." Rediscovering the role and responsibilities of the citizen and of communities . It is a hugely attractive proposition . It was what also underpinned the speech of Alan Milburn at our recent acevo Summit, You can read his speech by going to our website , by the way :

But there is a danger in this approach . It is not about the withdrawal of the State . The State must remain as the strategic director and the funder of our welfare , health and education provision , even if the sector plays a hugely expanded role. It would be all too easy for this agenda to be a disguise for major cuts in state funding of public services . That is why acevo has been a fierce proponent of Full Cost Recovery in contracts , why we want longer term contracts ; 5 years or more and why commissioning must be fit for purpose and recognise the added value of social and economic gain . And yes , FCR plus too , with the sector able to secure surplus as do the commercial sector , which we reinvest in our social businesses.

euclid ( our European third sector leaders network ) is coming into it's own . The NO vote in Ireland shows just how far divorced the Euro institutions are from European citizens . Does Brussels understand the power of civil society . Hardly. Many of them would barely be able to recognise a great third sector organisation let alone be able to engage seriously with the sector .

The value of international learning has been brought home well by the recent initiative of the Government to send head teachers on a "gap year " working in schools in Africa. The purpose is to aid development but also to widen the skills and experience of the heads. it is being run by the National College for School Leadership . research on this type of scheme has demonstrated the value and that people return more motivated and aware of global issues ,as well as developed learning skills.

I'd like to see more of this happening in our sector . Acevo is working with a number of African countries in supporting the growth of professional leadership bodies for civil society CEOs . there is already a Nigerian acevo ( we supported the training of its chief executive through a commonwealth grant ) and there are proposals for some other countries , like Uganda and Ken ya. I would hope one day we can organise such an exchange programme for sector CEOs to work in African organisations , and , importantly , for African CEOs to work here . Wouldn't that be fantastic?

And for amusement the photo above shows my Director's team outside my cottage for our strategic away day . What stars . What roses. English , not Dutch though !
From left to right ; Dr Kyle , the author , Jenny Berry ( our acevo north director) ,SebElsworth ( our Head of Policy ) Andy Hickey ( our membership Director ) and Richard Williams ( our Finance Director)

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