Friday, 28 November 2008

ACEVO's Annual Conference

In Docklands - at the Excel Centre - for our Annual Conference. It's the biggest gathering of third sector CEOs and Chairs in our sector. Our focus is on strategic planning; the top job for a Trustee Board and Chief Executive.

In the way we do things in ACEVO, our conference always marks a publication to provide the background for discussion. "Creating change: Chief Executives on governance". Click here for a link to ACEVO's publications.

The value of the document lies in the examples and tips from Chief Executives themselves on how to do it, rather than giving hand me down plans. Jackie Ballard, the CEO of RNID, was closely involved in putting it together and she gives a keynote speech on how she implemented new strategic plans in RNID. Her top tip from the speech is that any plans have to meet 5 tests; Simple, Clear, Credible, Motivating, Unique.

We had two respondents to Jackie. Harriett Baldwin, who is the Tory spokesperson on Social Enterprise and the Chair of FBE Investment Committee. Harriett was previously Managing Director at JP Morgan and talked from a private sector perspective. Her key point was the need for energy behind the process as well as "buy in". And Stephen Remington, who runs Action for Blind People, made the same point about how there has to be energy and dynamism in the process. And we are a sector who ought to value the loose cannon - or as Stephen said, "for at least 3 days in the week!"

And one of the key lessons from the book; you have to communicate well.

Inevitably our conference turns to the recession. How long? How deep? What effects on us? We have a couple of economists and an insolvency practitioner! Mixed messages. But the key for me is that a Chief Executive has to review any business or strategic plan to take account of the problems a recession throws up, as well of the opportunities. As I said at our annual black tie dinner last night, in introducing Kevin Brennan, the Third Sector Minister: the Chinese character for "crisis" consisted of 2 pictograms - one for danger and one for opportunity.

But the highlight of these events is always the chance to talk to members - to gossip and reflect. And learn from your peers!

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