Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Community, Leadership and knife prodding

"Community Banks Boom"; the headline on CNN news today. Apparently the community bank sector here is growing rapidly. They make a point of knowing their customer, or "old fashioned banking" as a manager said on the news piece. And they support and invest in their local communities. So they are trusted.

What a great start to the day. Let's see more of this approach. As the Chair of the Adventure Capital Fund I have seen at first hand how valuable an investment into local community enterprise can be. Wouldn't it be great to see a real growth in community banks in the UK. Attacking the big banks where it hurts. And no nonsense on bonuses.

And "breaking news" on bonuses. $50m has now been given back by the AIG executives! And the money will go to charity. So how about a move to force our guys to do the same? I made exactly this point in my SKY interview in February.

ACEVO has a lunch coming up with Yvette Cooper MP, Chief Secretary at the Treasury. We shall lobby her. Here was that Congress threatened to legislate to tax the bonuses. Let's see our Government being robust too.

One rather brilliant campaigning non profit, "ACORN" had the great idea of organising a bus tour of the "rich and shameless", i.e. a tour of the houses of the AIG executives. A great media coup. It all added to the pressure for an act of redemption by the bonus takers.

I also got the lowdown on how the Social Reinvestment Act has worked. This is legislation that requires Banks to reinvest in poorer communities. It has ensured a strong banking programme to put money and loans into deprived areas. We need that legislation here. That statutory obligation, plus a Social investment Bank could ensure a surge of capital into our sector to help us create jobs and support recovery. Let's see Government taking this more radical approach. If you take over the banks let's see them reformed. This is what the Treasury review on banking should be looking at. Are they?

Had five meetings today, starting at Georgetown University to talk about a research project on leadership competences.

Good to see Andrew Watt, now working at the American Association of Fundraising Professionals, but better known to many when he was at our very own Institute of Fundraising. He has been in The States now for three years and gave us a great run down on the sector here, over our Bison Burgers! I spot he is a regular subscriber to our very own "Third Sector" magazine so he keeps up on the gossip. I give him more.

The US voluntary overseas aid effort is bigger than the entire French aid budget; an interesting fact from the CEO of "Inter Action" which is the umbrella body representing all the major US relief and development NGOs.

We meet the national body, Grantmakers for Effective Organisations,who are interested in how to develop a Full Cost Recovery tool in the US, based on the gold star ACEVO model.

And our meetings concluded with a great meal but, not so much because of the food (and a superb Sonoma Valley Sauvignon), more the company. An inspirational guy, Jeff Nugent, the CEO of The Centre for Inspirational Leadership, who came up through the community banking movement. He takes us out to talk about their leadership programmes for the NFP sector. They train both current Leaders and emerging ones -especially in the black community. I'm so impressed I ask him to come over to speak at our Annual ACEVO Leaders conference.

We talk about the work of Saul Alinsky: the Guru of community organisations who taught Obama. I have brought a copy of his "bible" for community activists, "Rules for Radicals" over with me. I recommended this book to Liam Byrne MP recently. His work is sadly unknown in the UK, even in our community sector. Have you heard of Saul Alinsky? I'm going to get him better known!

He does rather win me over by telling me about a major new management book which unpicks the myth of the three year strategic plan. It's no use. You need to confront the challenges of the immediate and judge them by your core values and mission. Intuitive leadership. It's a model that appeals. We talk about how those organisations that understand the need to change now that we are in recession will survive. A three year plan, drawn up in the good times, probably needs junking. But trustees are often strangely attached to three year plans. I prod Seb, my Director of Strategy, with my knife - he is rather fond of three year plans himself and lovingly tends our own. But a brilliant guy for all that.


Anonymous said...

Go Alinsky!

After yonks tracking the blog and mainly getting enraged I have found something we can agree on. Next time you are in Leeds can we have a coffee/tea/chateau lafitte?

Check out an Alinsky primer here: www.infed.org/thinkers/alinsky.htm

sandy horwitt said...

I am Saul Alinsky's biographer ("Let Them Call Me Rebel," Knopf). Yes, it is important to know more about Alinsky's intellectual journey and politics. I am also the chair of the Alinsky centennial committee. The centennial kickoff was held six weeks ago at the University of Chicago and more Alinsky centennial forums will be held in the U.S. later this year. I'd love to come to England and talk about community organizing from Alinsky to Obama and beyond as part of the centennial celebration. Let me know if you and your colleagues are interested.--Sandy Horwitt

“We the people will work out our own destiny.”

Stephen Bubb said...

Sandy , this is fascinating . can we touch base on this . i am keen to get his writings more widely known . perhaps you could email me ; stephen.bubb@acevo.org.uk , and let me know a number to ring . Im in the States till next Monday so can ring you some time and lets tlak potential .

And Progmanager , yes you too . id love to meet up . As we now have an office in Leeds I would very much like to meet . email me too .

Janet F said...

Good luck with that meeting with Yvette Cooper, another in the line of MP's accused of feathering their nest through legal, but barely moral, use of second-home allowances - I wonder how she views those in the banking industry claiming similar defences?

carl allen said...

But see Fast Strategy by Doz and Kosonen

Mark said...


Please leave Alinsky alone! He was explicitly writing for radicals not liberals. Radical comes from the latin for root, and the point is to address the roots of social problems, not trim the foliage into a more appealing display.

He was a revolutionary. He advocated working 'within the system' as a tactic, not an end in itself.

Just taking the stuff about community organising in isolation is dishonouring his memory, and indeed working against his end goal.

To see Alinsky bowdlerised in this way - used as an NGO tactic and even recommended to an MP - makes me sick to the stomach. It's the same myopia that led people on the right to hold up Orwell as an anti-communist idol when he hated capitalism as much as Stalinism.