Monday 30 November 2009

Back to the Board!

What a shock. Leaving the beautiful sun and the wonderful hospitality of the West Indies and arriving in a cold London!

But a very pleasant Trinidadian Sunday which started at the local Anglican church in St Ann's celebrating Advent Sunday and the start of the Church Year. I went with one of my fellow Civil Society Committee members, Canon John who has a church in Malaysia. Then onto a pleasant lunch with my Limrick cousins who were fattening me up before I got on the plane for Blighty. Told them I had been singing the praises of my cousin Matthew, the media star, to the T+T Minister for Social Development who I was next to at lunch on Saturday.

And the BA flight was full of returning delegates. Spoke to David Miliband MP, though let me be clear he was in business and I was not (don't want Tania from Charity Finance getting excited at this point). "You get around" was his fond greeting. Indeed.

It's a long flight so had both a biography and a couple of improving booklets, one on the Innovation Exchange, which I shall blog about later, and the other "The Ownership State" by the so called Red Tory, Philip Blond. His new think tank ResPublica was launched by David Cameron last week.

He makes some interesting points : he argues that whilst public services spending has seen a real terms increase of 55% over the last 10 years public sector productivity has continues to fall by 3.4% over those 10 years. By contrast private sector productivity rose by 27.9%. In his booklet he does not give a figure for third sector productivity but I have heard him say he believes the figure to be even higher.

His key thesis is that the public services need a new form of ownership. He describes this as social businesses or a new power for " civil associations".

Real improvements in services, " depend on harnessing two powerful forces. The insight and dedication of front line workers, and the engagement and involvement of citizens and communities ".

He argues that you will not achieve user involvement and staff engagement in current structures. He is right. But why he wants to create a new form of structure is unclear to me when we have third sector organisations like social enterprises , community interest companies or charities. His work suffers from an insufficient understanding or knowledge of the modern enterprising third sector. You do not need to invent new models. Use the ones there are and outsource more to it.

He argues, and this is a central theme of ACEVO's work, "not only do engaged workers and citizens promote better public services, they also make them cheaper. "

More on this theme tomorrow.

As there is no peace for the wicked, it was straight in from Gatwick to an ACEVO Board Meeting. Inevitably the subject of Andy Burnham came up. We also talked about how we can support members in an increasingly difficult climate, with recession and major cuts which may adversely affect organisations. These may be tough times for CEOs and ACEVO has to be there to support them. We also had a presentation on the recent Board appraisal that we have all undertaken, which we will be discussing in more detail at the next board. It is the second appraisal we have done and so are able to benchmark against the results last time as well as against the results of other organisations. Fascinating! All Boards should undertake regular appraisals of themselves. Naturally we used the ACEVO appraisal tool. Click here for details of this.

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