Monday, 22 June 2009

A la recherche du temps perdu

Even in Sardinia I pick up some great email responses to my article in The Guardian responding to a recent Adam Sampson think piece. Adam's was a trip down memory lane - to the 70s to be precise! The sector has developed exponentially since then in its professionalism and effectiveness. Although its nice to hark back to more carefree and innocent times, (as Adam does) with our placards and megaphones; how much better things are today for our clients and beneficiaries. As I say in the article, what is more important to the homeless : a job and a house or a lovely campaign march down Park Lane? To read my article click here.

And as one of my correspondents reminds me, one of those 70s rebels is now First Secretary of State! But how far our sector has travelled. And it is good to reflect too on the way ACEVO has grown, mirroring the growth of our member's businesses. In this last financial year our income has grown by 44% and our expenditure by 32% so substantial productivity growth. This has marked some real expansion in services to members; notably our recession support website and our advice and support networks. It is only through impact that you can truly measure your value as an organisation. ACEVO does not exist as an end in itself but as a way in which the voice and the role of the CEO can be promoted.

So we are judged through the impact we have in promoting better contracting or in policy promotion , in professional development and in arguing for governance reform. In the last few months our role in devising the £1 billion Future Jobs Fund is a remarkable testament to the vitality and strength of ACEVO - and a particular coup for my brilliant Head of Research Ralph Michell.

At base it is the determination of the third sector CEO that makes us strong: so it was the ideas of the CEOs who made up our ACEVO DWP task force that helped us to devise this new Fund. It was that group that pushed for sector capitalisation through a Social Investment Bank. That means we will not always be popular. Our sector has its vested interests. Its reactionaries. But a CEO has to be at the tipping point. Arguing for change and not being fobbed off : "divine discontent" should be our motto! It goes with the Madeleines a la Proust.

And I wonder when one of our sector journals will be drawing up the league tables of umbrella bodies impact? Would that not tell us more than train journeys' tables?

I get an email invite from the talented and beautiful Richard Reeves - he of the Think Tank Demos - asking me to bewail his 40th birthday with him. "What people describe as virtue is in the over 40s merely a lack of energy", he says quoting Voltaire. But in my view over 50 is the thing to be. As one gains in age one is better able to pass off one's prejudices as wisdom. And being 40 is neither here nor there, as I tell Richard.

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