Thursday, 25 June 2009

What are we for?

Every so often you get an email that stops you in your tracks. That happened to me yesterday and reminded me of why ACEVO is there and what our root purpose is.

One of our core services for members is to provide support and advice, legal assistance and mentoring for CEOs who may be losing their jobs. It's a mixture of hand-holding, comradely support and practical assistance. I had a note from one member who has made use of our service and who was writing to say she has now resigned from her post with a settlement but wanted us to know how important our ACEVO help had been. It was a difficult and rather sad case. I won't reveal the details or the circumstances which were upsetting to all involved. But I was touched when she wrote to the ACEVO staff involved:

"You have got me through one of the worse periods of my career and probably my life too, giving me hope, courage and wisdom to keep my head up. I can truly say without this I would have probably gone under and come out of this a lot worse."

And as she says: "While its been hell, its also taught me a great deal. While it was shocking to learn what can go on in the Third Sector, its also a blessing to learn that ACEVO are there to support one of the lonliest roles there are - that of the CEO."

At heart this is what ACEVO does. Whilst the press headlines are of our policy work and our advocacy much of the essential day to day work is around support and help to each individual CEO. I have always felt it to be one of my core tasks. I try and help CEOs who face bad governance and get into problems. Sometimes that is done behind the scenes. Sometimes, as in The Shaw trust case, it has to be public. But in whatever way I can, I will ensure ACEVO does its utmost to help support the CEO in what is a lonely position.

It was also a good reminder to me that however much I enjoy the networking and policy development the core work remains at this level and where ACEVO can make a real difference to the well being of the sector's CEOs.

A contrast to part of the last few days work, which has been full of briefings following the Cabinet changes, I have now seen the remarkably effective Angela Smith MP, our new Minister three days running. It is clear she has a real commitment to a professional and expanding sector. Yesterday I saw both Angela and Tessa Jowell, MP. We talked through the strategic direction for the sector and I stressed the importance of a continuing drive on public service reform, to the growth in sector capacity and professionalism and the importance of breaking down the last barrier in funding; our access to capital. Clearly I pushed for action on the Social Investment Bank and the need for big scale access to capital and a big player in the market. A Community Reinvestment Act would reinforce that. Later I spoke to John Denham MP, the new DCLG Secretary of State , on that theme and the need for real investment in our communities .

I guess an interesting reflection of the role ACEVO plays - big scale big picture but also practical support and advice for its members.

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