Wednesday, 4 March 2009

celebrating the Adventure

We had a Board meeting for the ACF today . The Adventure Capital Fund was set up as an experiment to see if there was demand for investment loans into community enterprise . When it was set up the founders decided that they should have an evaluation process with action research so that we could learn as an organisation and and the sector draw the lessons from an experiment into loan finance.

Today's Board meeting had an oral report of the final results of the evaluation that has been carried out by a team led by Stephen Thake of the Metropolitan University . It was fascinating . But the overall conclusion was hugely positive. The ACF model has made a big difference . It works . And it is has been copied ; the engaged investor approach where ACF stands by the investee to support in difficult times , but is also prepared to step in and take difficult decisions like tackling bad governance.His final Report will be well worth reading.

So we were in somewhat nostalgic mood . We have appointed 4 new trustees so we had a short induction session on the history since 2002 . And decided we would have a great year of celebrating our 10th anniversary in 2012 !

I have been Chair for 3 years , taking over from Julia Unwin of the JRF. And what was interesting is that we also had a report of a Board appraisal process undertaken into the performance of the Board itself and its Chair. This too was very largely positive. Having a top performing Board and a first class Chief Executive is the key to organisational success . It was an interesting process ; I sat through a presentation where my fellow trustees were rating me and commenting on my performance . It was good .Indeed very good . They recognised my strengths , but also my foibles and areas where my skill set is more challenged .All Chairs should be put to the test like this .

I think any Board that aims to be good at governance must go through appraisal . But the proof of the pudding , as they say, is in the eating . If ACF had not been good it would not have won the tender to run Futurebuilders. And it would not have got the plaudits it has from the National Audit Office for the way it has tackled the task of taking on futurebuilders and getting cracking on new processes and change.

Now you are thinking this is all a tad too congratulatory . No organisation can be perfect , especially new ones. We have to learn and adapt . The evaluation will be likely to suggest some ways to improve . Leadership is all about learning. Adapting. I hope that as Chair I will always be up for change and taking on the difficult tasks . But also using the strength of the resource that is FBE and ACF to pour capital into our sector. In the recession it is the time for us to invest in our communities.

And changing the subject , I arrive home and pick up my copy of "Third Sector " , or do I now call it " Brolly News " ? I turn from the weekly Cook Sermon to the lively back page Matt Little , purveyor of High Class Gossip to the Third Sector. He reports that the Shaw Trust has been given " one to watch " status in the best companies accreditation scheme which feeds into the Sunday Times ( on the basis of their employee engagement ). As Matt writes , this may come as news to the GMB official, who ,after the removal of the CEO, warned that some staff, " were worried about the repercussions of speaking out " . Will the Charity Commission report into this be published before or after the results of the scheme are announced I wonder?

And on the subject of the Press , did you see my article in the Guardian today ? Click here if not. A challenging call to our sector to gear up to meet the challenge of recession and leading recovery. And for a more socially responsible business . My rallying call is one of optimism . the challenges are huge , but I am convinced we are up to them .

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