Friday 13 November 2009

Bubbian robustness, Blair and Rowan.

Bumped into Dame Suzi Leather (feisty defender of the Charity brand) on a pedestrian crossing in Westminster so we had a chat on the topic de jour; top salaries. She was pleased to see that I was defending charity CEOs with my usual " Bubbian robustness". I thought a rather splendid compliment! Earlier I had spoken to The Times for an interview on said topic. I gave no quarter. Indeed I am only surprised that Unite (or as my friend Robin Bogg calls them "Divide") have the brass neck to continue their attacks . They seem to have decided on an anti charity campaign - this week they have been attacking us as the " Trojan Horse" for privatisation. A few weeks back it was an attack on social enterprise. Well, an interesting way of making friends and influencing people?

I'm sure all their union members working in charities and social enterprises will have been delighted at these insults. But I do not believe all unions are on the same page and I am delighted we have a Trade Union general secretary as a member.

But enough. Let's move on. (And yes I know only yesterday I said I would leave off the topic; I lied!) I was actually on my way to meet Helen Ghosh, the Permanent Secretary at DEFRA. An impressive woman. Oodles of experience from outside the civil service as well as in it. She is a great leader for an important Department. We talk of the wider role of the sector in helping deliver sustainability, as well as the work of many third sector organisations in delivering services - members like the RSPCA and the Woodland Trust and my friend and ACEVO Trustee, Tom Flood of BTCV or Tony Hawkhead of Groundwork. This is as well as the many members giving voice to those who want a better and more sustainable country, a country that values its countryside and the beautiful farming communities that shape and define it.

Then it was off to John Low at the Charities Aid Foundation for a video conferenced Board Meeting of Euclid, our European network, currently doing so much good in arguing for funding reform at the top levels of the European Commission.

In the evening I went to a Lecture given by the Archbishop of Canterbury at The Tony Blair Faith Foundation. My good friend Ruth Turner runs it with flair and determination.


The Archbishop of Canterbury in conversation with Rabbi David Rosen

His Grace pointed out that the majority of the world's peoples are people of faith. Yet we often ignore those faith demands and cultures in our development programmes. He argued that religions often form the backbone of civil society in many developing countries. Is there a stand off between development agencies and faith groups? Religion arouses suspicion in the development establishment. We need to understand the rights and the faith of communities around the world

Let people be the "Agents of their own change."

I liked his quotation that. "the poverty of another is my poverty". Or a quote from a medieval monk that "our life and death are with our neighbour ".
I was also struck by his analysis of patronage. There is an inherent imbalance in the power relationship between a patron and client. And he argued that this imbalance of power is potentially corrupting for both patron and client. He was arguing about international aid but clearly the argument can apply here. In bad grant regimes in some local authorities for example we can see that happening.

He also argued that development must not necessarily be linked to economic growth. Well being and happiness are also valuable.

He commented that we can sometimes be sentimental about "community" in the West. We need communities that are " intentional". They have an intention and awareness of mutuality, shared learning and cooperation. That insight is so true when you think of communities that allow the torment of kids with learning difficulties or the poor woman in Cornwall who suffered years of abuse in her community and sadly recently died in her house when locals put a firework through her letter box.

It was an a most extraordinary tour de force of erudition and learning and a privilege to be there to listen.

He also made reference to the Mothers Union on three occasions. Excellent, as I said to him afterwards. My mother is a very active member and the key link between the UK Anglican Church and the Diocese of Burma. And Reg Bailey, the CEO of the Mothers Union is one of my members!

Back home exhausted. Three Lectures in a row this week. Think a lie-in tomorrow is well deserved (hope my Chair is not reading! )

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