Sir Stephen Bubb

Sir Stephen Bubb

Saturday, 31 January 2009

Dawn of the Age of Unrest

That was the screaming headline in today's Times. A deep recession will inevitably bring social unrest and challenge community cohesion . How far this will affect the UK is unclear . However the message to our Government is that you ignore the social consequences of the recession at your peril . Just as in France, there is huge resentment at the way the Government is bailing out the financial institutions and rewarding bad behaviour in so doing . Whilst it is not the British way to take to the streets , that should not allow our politicians to think that resentment is not there , nor to fail to tackle social as well as economic problems.

I had a first hand report on the French troubles when we had our Euclid ( that's the third sector leaders network) executive committee conference call on Friday . Thierry , our President, said the situation is dire . There is huge anger at the way the banks have been rewarded and people ignored. i was also involved in a conference call for the Commonwealth's Civil Society Committee on Friday . I am a member and it was useful to discuss with sector colleagues from around the far flung Commonwealth how the recession is truly global in its impact . Our UK based NGOs are not only finding they must cut aid because of falling donations but they are also facing the consequences of a drastically falling Pound . And this just adds to the woes of the developing world and will inevitably increase social unrest .

It is all too obvious that the emphasis is on the financial sector and failing industry . It is now time for the Prime Minister to turn his attention to the social fall out and the way he could involve our sector. The third sector Recession Plan will give him the opportunity to demonstrate the Government's commitment to the sector. But he must also show he understands this is not simply about the sector and volunteers , or work at the margins .We must be seen as integral to recovery , not the sticking plaster on society sores.

In the last big recession of the early 80s we did see the effects of massive unemployment . I was elected to Lambeth Council in the wake of the 1981 Brixton riots . Clearly a major part of the problem for this flare up was the racial discrimination faced by Brixton's black community ; but as the Scarman report showed there were economic reasons too . Remember that this was the time of massive youth unemployment. The new Council also took a radical departure from the usual municipalist trait of local government of the time and realised that to regenerate Brixton you had to involve the third sector and black led community groups. The state had failed these communities . They were deeply mistrusted. Only the third sector had the confidence and the trust of people to lead . I am not sure politicians or business have yet realised that the sector is now the most trusted part of our state and society . I am going to blog about this more on Tuesday......

This is doubly true today . That is why the Government must realise that they need to work with and through the Third Sector . A strong and confident sector is able to tackle the rifts and divisions in our society in a way the State is unable. We will be at the front line of delivery of service to those who are failed by the system .

The Government's recession action plan is now 2 weeks away. ACEVO has been actively involved in the work to prepare this and I am hopeful it will be wide ranging .With my other Futurebuilders hat on we have also been closely involved in work to ensure our offers of loans are targeted and take account of the recession . And I do need to point out that we are one of the few financial institutions left still actively lending!

It is unlikely the Plan will be the last word. More support will be needed as we head into a deep recession . And I still do not get the sense that Government have understood that our sector can be the agent of recovery . ACEVO has James Purnell MP , ( DWP Secretary of State ), to speak at the launch of our acevo -DWP task force report on Wednesday . I will reinforce this message at the launch which I will be chairing .

I contributed £6 to the Conservative Party this morning ! This is not a sign of me hedging my bets on the next election , merely that they were running the cake stall at the Charlbury Library this morning . A rather splendid carrot cake. Perhaps baked by Mrs Cameron herself I thought ( Charlbury is David Cameron's constituency ). But then again that's hardly likely eh! She does not seem the baking type?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Mergers or Alliances and a quiz...

In a couple of recent Blogs I have been writing about the need for third sector organisations to consider merger , partnership arrangements or alliances. I thought it was worth highlighting one rather brilliant example that one of my members , Paul Jenkins of the charity " Rethink" sent me on Monday .

Rethink and MIND are leading a " Time to Change " programme to tackle mental health stigma and discrimination . This is a 4 year , £18 million programme funded by the Lottery and Comic Relief. the public phase of this was launched this week and it includes television ads which you may have seen . There will be more publicity with press and poster campaigns featuring celebrities and individuals who have experience of mental illness . the aim is to change people's attitudes to mental health which can have such a devastating impact on people and families.

And what is impressive is the big thinking. Over 4 years these 2 charities aim to reach 30 million people . And as Paul says these are 2 charities , whilst working in the same field of mental health have not had a history of co-operation . So it does demonstrate the opportunities , short of mergers , where charities can work together. I am going to collect other such examples from members , but if you have any , let me know.....

That IMF report . Depressing. Can we now be in any doubt that we had better be planning for a serious recession . And can we now see the Government taking the sector seriously in tackling the problems and helping lead recovery . With unemployment heading for 3 million , We need a job creation scheme that puts the sector at the forefront of creating jobs targeted on communities that are most at risk , and in industries , like sustainability , where the sector can play a leadership role . And if unemployment is heading up ,then serious , full tine volunteering that upskills must also be backed and resourced.

And we need attention focused on the social impact of recession . I understand that the banks need rescuing , that the car industry needs support . Yet still our sector , facing declining income and rising demand , awaits any real response . The Action Plan needs to be bold . I am meeting with my colleagues from the Institute of Fundraising , Charity Finance Directors group and ncvo tomorrow to talk further about how we work together on the key concerns.

Now its not all gloom ! ACEVO has been in party mood . On Monday we had drinks for staff with our departing Chair John Low , and tonight drinks with staff for our new Chair , Lesley -Anne Alexander . We had a half day induction session for Lesley-Anne to run through the business of acevo . I have to admit to a real sense of pride in the staff who were presenting ; confident and energetic , as Lesley-Anne put it. ACEVO has only 35 staff but you would assume many more . Indeed our output mirrors that of organisations treble our size. And we do that by ensuring the best and the brightest work at ACEVO. Its a fun place. And dynamic . Perhaps I may be the best known member of the staff , but the fact is we have a truly talented bunch at work behind the scenes. The work they have been putting into developing our response to the recession and plans to build support for members is inspiring . They deserve a drink .

And finally ; I have been writing an article for the Institute of Philanthropy on my favourite 3 books . So a prize of an autographed Bubb book for the first person to guess what these 3 books are....

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Auntie in a mess and social care

I have just been online to make my donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee appeal for Gaza. It is both a good thing to do , but also a blow against the disgraceful behaviour of the BBC.

The decision by the BBC not to broadcast the DEC appeal has been rightly pilloried. The 2 reasons they gave for not running the Appeal are unacceptable. It is not for the BBC to determine whether humanitarian aid can get through to Gaza . That is the job of the NGOs involved in this Appeal . It is a piece of monumental impertinence for the BBC to tell the sector how to do its job. And the question of " partiality " simply does not stack up . People are able to determine what is a humanitarian appeal from what is showing political partiality in a conflict. I have written to Mark Thompson to express my concern - in forthright terms! I have also asked Sir Michael Lyons , who Chairs the BBC Trust, to review the case immediately. I know both these guys . They are good . Lets hope common sense prevails. Mark is allowed an occasional mistake ; as long as he puts it right

DEC do a superb job . Brendan Gormely , who runs DEC , is a member and he does great things in pulling together the charities who form the coalition on causes like Gaza. The work of DEC is admired internationally , and indeed ACEVO helped export this model to Italy last year . It is a brilliant example of charities working together on a common cause , whilst maintaining their own identities and missions . It is a model of alliance and partnership working we may begin to see more of over the coming years in charities working in the UK. For example , as homelessness grows I wonder if we might see national appeals for support from the various key homeless charities?

I think the recession will generate more mergers in the sector , but as important , it will generate more partnership working where charities and third sector bodies working in similar fields join together on projects or campaigns. And there will also be more working in partnership with the private sector ( though this is still a largely unexplored are as yet ).

Lunch time was the presentation of the annual report on the state of social care in the UK by the General Social Care Inspectorate. People sometimes claim there is no evidence of the value added of the third sector . They should read this report. Yet again the third sector out performs the private and state sector in the delivery of social care services. Satisfaction with our services from the users out performs other sectors .

The message is clear . If you want citizen focused service then outsource them to the third sector.

And importantly there is a major reform underway in the provision of such care . Known as " personalisation" , an ugly word for a very important concept ; that people should have control over their own budgets for social care and be able to decide where money is spent.

So instead of the local council deciding what you need is a care worker to pop in for 15minutes on Wednesday every week you say that you want someone for half an hour or an hour less often , or you might want to spend this on enabling you to visit the theatre or distant relatives. Giving people control , enabling them to decide how best care is provided . Where pilots are going on the results are striking.

But the third sector may not be as prepared for this revolution as you would think . This could be a major opportunity for us . But the larger and more established charities will need to change and adapt. They will be tested as well as the local councils. Their services will be judged by the quality and personal approach they offer . Are we ready? The Chief Executive leadership role will be tested.

I think this agenda is hugely exciting for a sector that is innovative and bold. Chief Executives had better be prepared. So we need to aid the process. Our ACEVO Spring Conference on March 26th is devoted to exploring the issue .

https://www.acevo.org.uk/index.cfm/display_page/ProfDev_Events/filter_event_type/event_type_298/filter_date_searchtype/on/filter_searchtype/any//control_contenttype/event_list/display_open/events_1373

Under the bold heading of ," A Brave New World " the conference is going to explore personaisation . And it will also form the backdrop to more work we will do in ACEVO on this issue . It will be core to how we reform public services. And a personal service puts the third sector in the driving seat . Where we should be.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

fundraising in monasteries and Anglo French Summits

A Big Issue seller in Charlbury . A sign of the times? Anyway I buy a paper ; I think all of us in the Third Sector should do so. More controversially i always try and give money to beggars . I know that one of my greatly talented members , Jeremy Swain ( of Thames Reach Bondway ) advices against this as he argues it fuels drug habits ; but I am always aware of that verse ( interestingly in both the Koran and the Bible ) about entertaining angels unawares..

Big Issue is a brilliant scheme and we will all need to consider how we support more homelessness in the next few years. the recession is biting deeper . I was bemused to see that some charity fundraisers are arguing ; or so the screaming headline in " Third Sector " tells us that we must beware alarming donors. great timing guys , as this week we have news that the recession is deeper and more problematic than government thought , and some are advising of a long haul and a real possibility of a depression in the UK. So who are these donors who are out there not reading the papers or watching the news? Perhaps this is about fundraising in monasteries and nunneries where the Religious try to concentrate on heavenly ratter than earthly preoccupations? I suspect the British public are quite switched on to the difficulties charities face and we must be honest about the serious problems we may face over the coming years. So ACEVO will continue to argue for support from the public , from local councils and government. we will continue to bring the plight of the sector to public attention . And as for being alarmist , well some of my members are alarmed .

Of course we also want to present the positive side of the third sector . Our inventiveness and ingenuity. And the real opportunity to lead the economy and society out of a recession. We are key to recovery , as I will continue to argue. So King Canute , begone !

It was a frosty morning in Charlbury , and again it was a delight to take the Hound for a walk across the frozen fields. But the croissant and coffee afterwards were welcoming! yesterday I had my international team at the cottage for an away day talk through our strategy for the next 3 years . ACEVO has helped establish euclid , a third sector leaders network across Europe. we agree that we need to concentrate on pushing for a " social Europe " and that the recession across Europe will provide us with an opportunity to demonstrate the power of the wider third sector to support society and grow the economy. we work closely with lead umbrella bodies in France and Sweden .

One of our plans for this year is an Anglo -French Summit to explore the potential for a European Social Investment Bank. A number of the leading co-operative and mutual funds in France are really interested in the Futurebuilders model and are looking to replicate in France . And wider than this , we believe there is scope for this approach from the EU. I am off to Paris on the 9th February to meet the leading person from the French credit union to develop our strategy and approach . How powerful this would be if it came off . We need to drive up access to capital in our sector so that the opportunities to expand our service delivery ( and these will grow, even in a recession ) can expand . And how much more powerful if there is a EU wide bank . We need Banks that can lend , ( as I argued with Liam Byrne when I met him recently ). So the sooner we get the Social Investment Bank up and running here the better.

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Getting Good Governance

Good Governance is crucial to any organisation; and key to effective governance is the Chair- Chief executive relationship. ACEVO does a lot of work in this area , as all CEOs know that handling the Board and Chair is a top priority . I have learnt a lot about the relationship through both the CEO role here at ACEVO, where I am now working with a new Chair and through my Chairmanship of both the Adventure Capital Fund and Futurebuilders.

So lessons? I guess the top one is keeping a focus on the difference between the executive and non executive task . That is not easy because the boundaries can be blurred . And a general rule of behaviour; " no surprises".

To support our members ACEVO has developed a governance review tool. Its an online appraisal template for board trustees, chair and CEO. We developed it after extensive research and testing and have now conducted over 20 reviews. Click here to download information. They have been fascinating and we are now going to write them up in terms of general thoughts and lessons. I had a meeting today with Mary Chapman, who was until recently the CEO of the Institute of Management and an ACEVO member. She is helping focus our efforts and ensure an effective service.

One of the messages we are giving to members is that in a financial downturn, facing finacial problems for the organisation, then effective governance is even more crucial. So if you have a problem Board now is probably the time to sort it! And yes I know, easier said than done, but better a good Board than allowing them to get into problems and then blaming the CEO. We know from the example of the Shaw Trust (just where has that Charity Commission review got to I wonder?) that if there are fundamental flaws in governance then the consequences for CEOs can be dire. If its a problem then now is the time to grasp the nettle, talk to the Chair and think about review.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Job creation , recovery and Bubb preserved

Well , its official . I am to be on the British Library Blog Collection . They have written to me saying that they have a responsibility to preserve national documentary heritage for future generations. Their collecting responsibility extends to UK non print material including websites and so they have been selecting key sites to form the basis of the Blogs Collection . As they say , " the collection will be a valuable resource for researchers now and in the future. "



I have to admit to a modicum of immodest pride that my blog is to be archived. But of course it does rather raise the bar in terms of me carrying on blogging , and even being more discreet ( perish the thought! ). " Bubbist thought preserved for posterity . Can't be bad . Quite what future generations will make of the third sector, or me, remains to be seen!



I see that predictions on unemployment say it will rise to 3ml by 2010. Today it rose to nearly 2m. One of our commercial members has told us that whilst last year there were 70 vacancies per 100 people on job seeker allowance; now it is only 7 per 100. ( though later when I used this statistic with James Purnell he said it was wrong? ) . James , incidentally ,was in a undemonstrative grey tie , perhaps marking the gloom of the recession . Even I was in understated mode.

I am increasingly clear the third sector must lead on job creation . I am relentlessly pushing this message .The fact that Obama will have a major job programme will help convince the treasury I'm sure .

I have had 2 ministerial meetings today to talk through the role the sector can play. Both meetings were extremely productive and marked by a common sense of purpose . I also pushed this line with Nick Hurd for the Tories yesterday . We will see where it goes. I am optimistic though . The government does understand the fundamental point that the sector is a key social and economic player . The opportunity exists to use both the recession action plan and the forthcoming White Paper on public service delivery as a way of putting the third sector in a leadership role for helping recession and recovery .



A bizarre item on " Today " this morning with football teams bemoaning the loss of commercial sponsor hip. One chap was suggesting they will be looking for sponsorship from charities and hospices. I thought the system was the other way round; sports helping charities raise money?



But this has highlighted a real problem for us . At the ACEVO lunch I held for chief executives of the larger charities it was very clear there will be a drastic fall in commercial sponsorship this year. One charity in ACEVO membership raises nearly 75% of their income from the commercial sector and are now facing insolvency . So we are now seeing how far " corporate social responsibility " was for real and how far it was a PR exercise that is ditched when the going gets tough . I'm thinking of opening a Big Black Book in which to enter the names of companies that play fast and loose with CSR so that come recovery the sector will know who to avoid. In a crisis you find out who your friends are!



The morning though started with our own ACEVO Director's group . We are discussing our plans to support and advise members who are facing difficulty . One of the founding principles of ACEVO is that it is a network of CEOs and they can turn to each other for support at a time of crisis . Often a CEO cannot fully discuss worries or plans with staff or trustees and need the help , experience and guidance of other CEOs who have faced those problems . We want to develop a panel of such Chief Executives as well as beefing up the services we offer to members in crisis. We have a huge range of tailored services but we are not always sure members know about them all . So we need to up our communications and marketing .

We will also be putting on recession workshops for Chief executives; in fact ACEVO was off the blocks back in September when we and the CAF laid on such workshops. Leadership again . But leadership also involves working with others and particularly with other key sector leaders. joined up approaches will be needed form us all .

And the evening ends with a dinner at our friends CCLA ( suppliers of investment to the sector ) for a further meeting of our Tory task force under Harriett Baldwin, Deputy Chair of Futurebuilders. A group of members who are working on comments and advice on the Conservatives Green paper on the third sector. A lively discussion . the next meeting is an evidence taking session , then a meeting in Worcestershire and final dinner with Nick Hurd before we launch the report of our conclusions.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Obama ; and lessons for us

It was inspiring . Poetic. Beautifully phrased and powerful. A remarkable speech . We watched it as a staff group in ACEVO , with sparkling wine to toast the 44th President of the USA. I realised I had a meeting at 5pm but managed to rearrange . It was the one event of the year you simply just want to be part of ; even if only gathered around a TV screen.

And I hope people noticed that yesterday he and his wife spent the day volunteering . He is clear we must move on from selfish individualism to a society where we think of what we can give back . its an example to us too. its a message to our government that they must see the third sector as a crucial part of how we tackle the problems of recession and how we use the sector to fuel a recovery . It is no good pouring money into small business alone . We are a sector that can create value added jobs . We can ensure our communities stay together and are not torn asunder by the divisions of rising joblessness.

There are 2 big opportunities for Government in the next month . They will produce a third sector action plan for the recession and they will produce a White Paper on public service reform . Both can chart a way forward for our sector . But they will need to be bold . They need to chart the leadership role the sector can play ; central to economic recovery ; not marginal to it . Central to social well being ; not a by product . That will require strong political direction . I'm not sure the usual civil service circumlocutions will do . ACEVO has set the bar high for delivery of recession help . We want a £500m cash flow fund to support third sector bodies. We will judge the response overall , but we do need new money in the same way that the banks and small business have needed an injection of resources to weather the storm and enable us to help the victims of recession . And further than that lets look at how we can create jobs and full time volunteering opportunities and apprenticeships. We shall soon see ; but it is clear that Obama is looking to a major job creation programme . We need that here . And with the third sector at the forefront.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Annual Meetings and Change!

They were queuing round the block to get into the ACEVO Annual general Meeting ! Over 200 members all trying to get into Portcullis House and through the one security entrance . So we were 20 minutes late starting . But a good meeting . The one opportunity in the year when members get together to talk about the direction of ACEVO and reflect back on the year .

And this AGM was special as it marked the end of my current Chair's 4 year term of office , and the election of a new Chair ; Lesley-Anne Alexander , the CEO of the RNIB. John Low , my departing Chair has been a tower of strength to me ; wise counsel and strong support . He has been a guiding hand in the development of ACEVO to become the force it is today . Lesley-Anne will also be a strong Chair ; a different style and approach and so the CEO will need to adapt to that . But as I say at our AGM , it is the strength of the Chair and CEO relationship that makes the organisation drive forward . Lesley Anne's first outing as Chair is at the Parliamentary reception which follows . She makes a powerful speech stressing that in troubled times Chief Executives need the support of colleagues; and that is the point of ACEVO , the CEO network .

After all these years I have got used to speech making and do not usually need time to prepare , let alone over worry about what to say , but somehow an AGM , standing in front of the massed ranks of my Chief executive members is different. I have spent the weekend thinking about the right approach and then spend a troubled night working out how to deliver the key messages. I think it works OK. I speak about the ACEVO dual role in supporting the sector chief executive and our role in acting as a sector leader , articulating the chief executive voice to Government and nationally.

There are a range of questions ; I admit that the one on our depreciation policy was not one I was expecting , and thank goodness the treasurer knew the answer! But generally a very supportive response , and a great thank you from one member ( to a general rumble of approval ) for the work ACEVO has been doing on the recession . And our Parliamentary Reception proved the usual splendid draw for MPs and Peers. I was relaxed by now but did not fall into the trap of thinking that people who come to receptions are gagging to stand around for ages listening to me and others witter , as opposed to drinking and networking!

So after the trial of an AGM it was a relief to go to my first meeting of the Public Sector Chairs Forum , wearing my Futurebuilders hat . We have a talk form Ray Shostak , the head of the PM's Delivery Unit. A good guy; and he takes my points about how the third sector is crucial to a more citizen focused public service . There is to be a new White Paper on Public Service reform ; I see Liam Byrne MP to talk about this soon. I want this to be a clarion call for more diversification of delivery , with more outsourced to the sector . To achieve this we need a third sector that is better capitalised; and that is the key job of Futurebuilders. And will be of the Social Investment bank when it is established.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Communities and change

I spent yesterday in Stonesfield , a charming Cotswolds village next Charlbury ; famous as the home of the Stonesfield slate industry but I was there to visit the Stonesfield Community Land Trust,with Steve Whyler of the Development Trusts Association . It was started some 30 years ago by the dynamic Tony Croft , who at 70 still runs the show . Starting off by buying land and building homes at affordable rents for local people , it expanded into buying the Post Office and a pre school nursery, as well as another small homes development. And Tony is now active in trying to buy the Arlington Mill at Bibury and turn that into a workspace for arts and crafts. They have already raised over 100k through a community bond issue.

Of course the popular image of the Cotswolds is one of wealth , but there is rural poverty , and a serious problem that families who have lived in these village for centuries are now priced out because of the huge cost of house purchase . So this type of community action and enterprise is crucial to keeping villages alive.

Last week ACEVO held a lunch for some of our top third sector members to gauge their impressions and experience of what the recession means for them. CCLA , the third sector mutual investment company let us use their board room and Michael Quicke , their great CEO spoke about the effects of the recession . One figure astonished me ; he said that this year third sector organisations will loose around £800m through the drastic cut in interest rates. So it is not just savers who are loosing out . So charities face not just a dramatic drop in income but the value of their reserves ,where they have them , is also falling.

A clear and troubling picture emerges; income is dropping but people expect the worst effects to come through this year and next .There is worry over the effects of public spending cuts in 2010 , but already many local authoriies are cutting back for the next financial year starting in April .A range of councils are saying there will be a zero inflation uplift for their contracts , a clear violation of the principle of Full Cost Recovery . Already members are taking steps to prepare , by job cuts , not increasing staff salaries etc . One of my very wise members , ( the competion for this distinction is fierce ) , made an important point though ; he said that they are clear that whilst they must cut back, where they can they will try to protect their staff interests and ensure that they continue to invest in innovative ways of fundraising and generating income. There is strong support for my point about the sector being a vehicle for recovery and for value added job creation. ACEVO is now working up plans for how Government could make this happen .

One great piece of news in the week though ; our lobbying of Peter Mandleson and of BERR has brought gold dust . We have been arguing that the loan funds and support for small and medium sized business must also apply to third sector organisations , and on Tuesday i get a letter from Peter to say that the package he will announce the next day will make it clear that the third sector is included. The staff in acevo are dead chuffed . A great piece of lobbying on behalf of our members.

And amidst the continuing frenetic work on recession recovery plans we had the FutureBuilders away day . As Chair I am seriously lucky to have a Board of such talent and distinction . We talk through future plans and how we need to expand the amount of capital investment available to our sector . But we also spend much time on what we need to do to protect and enhance the capacity of the sector to lead recovery . Jonathan is developing a strong package of measures for help in the current recession and these will be announced soon. For example , one emerging problem is of serious cash flow difficulties , particularly in organisations that are in contracts with payment by results . There is still evidence of the public sector failing to pay their bills on time and so causing agro. So we need to see how we might be able to loan support .

We must also be clear that any sector body involved in capacity building must now adjust their plans to take account of changed circumstances ; that means us , the Lottery , Capacity Builders and the host of other bodies ( such as Foundations ) who can help us weather the storm . And I suspect that when there is attention being put on the need for mergers and alliances and partnerships we had better look at opportunities ourselves. Back office savings , economies of scale , being joined up ; these are the benefits of partnership . If the sector bodies charged with helping build infrastructure do not set an example we are in dereliction of duty and deserve politicians sorting it for us! I see David Blunkett in the Commons on Thursday and we talk of his plans for a one stop shop of CB, FBE and the Lottery . Its certainly one option and we should be discussing that . But whatever happens we must explore how we pool resources to support the third sector .

Now enough sermonising ; its time for the Hound's run through Cornbury Park to my favourite local pub in Finstock . Time for ale! Its my Annual General Meeting on Monday. Over 200 members signed up . I must spend Sunday preparing ; but for now I relax!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Jobs R Us


There has been a Jobs Summit today. Unions and Employers are there. But the sector? It is hard to get the Government to realise that the third sector is now a significant part of the economy. The broad third sector actually employs around 1.5 million people . We make a significant contribution to GDP. Yet the stereotype persists that we are small scale and mainly engaged in volunteering . Government has not yet caught up with the fact that our sector now earns more than it is given in donations. The figures (courtesy of my old friend Nick Aldridge) are that in 2006 charities got 30% of their income through grants and donations and 50% from trading or contracts. We are relatively big business these days.

So instead of thinking job creation as a private sector thing, we should be making the case that job creation can also occur through the third sector. And the fact is that in the areas the Government want to target; in particular, health, education and sustainability the sector is at the forefront of innovation and high quality delivery. So Gordon, why were we not at your Summit? Why are you not thinking of how our sector could be leading on the creation of jobs ; and jobs that are in meaningful and socially useful economic activity. Third sector organisations are SMEs too? And this is the sector that can expand volunteering "apprenticeships". There are a range of volunteering organisations with a lot of experience of full time volunteers going on into full time work. Now is an opportunity to look at full time volunteering as a way to gain skills for full time employment organisations like BTCV or Community Service Volunteers.

ACEVO is going to consult members on how we can lead recovery through job creation. This is the opportunity for us to be at the forefront of recovery. One of the things I have tried to do at acevo has been to get Government and society to see beyond a sector that is simply volunteers, or raffles; and sees us as a professional yet passionate part of both the social and economic framework of our country. We are more than just a sticking plaster on societies sores. We generate income and activity. We create jobs. And above all contribute to the well being of our society. So when I get agitated about all the attention being paid to banks and small business , it is because I believe that Government is missing a trick. Of course we need jobs in Nissan, but we also need jobs in regenerating our cities , in supporting the old and in promoting skills and learning for example.

And on a jollier note a nice email from my friend at the Lottery; Mr Wanless who sends me a Dilbert cartoon that is rather fun . See below! But I must stress this is not a reference to the practise at ACEVO! He also tells me he has a couple of new Duchamps....so no excuse for him appearing tieless at functions, as has been his wont of late...

Saturday, 10 January 2009

A frosty outlook !

Charlbury was presenting itself in all its glory this morning. I had taken the Hound Dog out for the early morning ablutions run in the fields around the cemetery . The trees and hedgerows were covered in frost ; a stunning vista , eerily silvern and atmospheric. This is where I intend to be buried , and I think its always refreshing to be reminded that even a Bubb does not last forever . So you need to make your impact while you can .

Polly Tonybee has written a superb piece in today's Guardian . It is a strong and pertinent warning that charity and philanthropy can never replace the welfare state Whilst third sector organisations will increasingly deliver services , the State must fund these. We can never return to a reliance on philanthropy. It is a particular warning to the Opposition , who see a bigger role for our sector. But they must ensure that it is paid for . It would be tempting for a Conservative Government intent on massive spending cuts to assume that they can cut sector funding and rely on philanthropy to fill the gap .We must warn them that this would risk disaster. And lets be clear ; this must be a warning to Labour too. As Polly says ,

" As donors turn off the taps in a recession , what a disaster if the welfare state were seriously dependent on haphazard generosity ".

And I liked her paean of praise for the sector.

" The randomness of charity is part of its charm,adding to the rich texture of society. How bleak were communist societies with no charitable tradition , no volunteering, no civil society. How desperate life would be without the impulse to give or volunteer-from raffles to sponsored runs,fetes to balls,tin rattling poppy sellers to hospital friends trolleys- for good or eccentric causes "

She also draws attention to a recent report from the Centre for Charitable giving . They are saying stories of donations decline are alarmist and risk becoming self-fulfilling . I really think this is both a nonsense and damaging to what we are trying to achieve . The picture at the moment is patchy , but it is clear some charities are feeling the effect of falling support ; clearly the picture will vary charity to charity . But we know from previous recessions that it takes time for the full effects to come through for charities . CAF research shows this.If this recession is a deep and lasting one ; people now talk of at least 2 years , there can be no doubt that giving will decline , the value of gifts will decline at the same time as demand for our services grows. And we will then face the effects of public spending cuts.Not to point out the dangers , not to warn the sector to prepare would be a dereliction of duty .

Leadership is about warning of future and present danger , arguing for support for those we help , not taking a Canute like, " I see no waves " approach . When ACEVO first raised the alarm ( and we were the first sector body to do so ) I read reports about how we were being alarmist , how our calls for support were gimmicks. As the recession unfolds I think we see that ACEVO's leadership has been prescient and important as we demand Government action and ask the public to continue to give and to volunteer. Leadership is surely about being ahead of the game ? Better to prepare for the worst whilst hoping for the best . And continuing to believe in the strength and determination of our sector's leaders to pull through .

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Freezing but empowered...

It was certainly a shock returning from a hot and beautiful Zanzibar to a damp and cold London . But the bracing air of the South Devon coast, where I spent the New Year, reminded me that England , though cold , has much to offer in glorious scenery.I was with most of my family in Hope Cove and I was able to catch up on Christmas pudding and all that Christmas stuff that didn't quite feature on the Zanzibari menus. I think it might be just possible to eat too much lobster . I had no less than 2 large Indian Ocean lobsters for Boxing Day in the beautifull Hotel Serena in StoneTown , Zanzibar ; but then I was clelebrating my Name Day !

And good to report that the Bubb clan was out in force volunteering over Christmas . No less than 7 Bubbs were helping at the Crisis centre in South London ( my lovely neice had 3 offers of marriage , 2 of them from men ) and 3 Bubbs were out with the sex workers on their Christmas Carol singing around Soho .My sister was commenting on the somewhat strange clothes of one of the carol singers who appeared to be wearing trousers with no covering to the posterior. Somewhat cold for a December as she said.

It is a pertinent fact for the Chancellor to ponder that Crisis reckon that the value that their volunteers represent to the economy is £4.5 million. This is a firm indication of the strength of our sector and why the Government must now come up with a £500 million emergency fund to support our work in tackling the recession . Alistair please note .

Back to work with a vengeance . A good break is always a time both for rest and for thinking. Reflecting on the recession it is now clear to me that the real challenge for the sector may well lie in the savage spending cuts that will be taking place in government spending from 2010 . The current Chancellor has been clear that the bank bail out and all the other financial measures taken will have to be paid for. And the Opposition have taken an even more extreme view on the need for cutting public spending . This is bound to impact on the sector , both directly in our income streams , but also indirectly in the effects on our beneficiaries and clients. We all know that how the system works is that the public sector generally looks after its own . Any thing that looks discretionary goes. We are often the " discretionary". And this is compounded by a cynical view that charities will just manage and cope because of our strong mission focus. This is when local council's get tested on their commitment to full cost recovery .

We are now in heavy preparation for our AGM and Parliamentary Reception on January 19th in the House of Commons.Over 200 signed up already . Hope they do not all have questions on the accounts! This year it is more exciting than usual as we announce our new ACEVO Chair . John Low , who has been a real powerhouse of support for the sector and ACEVO, steps down after his 4 year stint ends and a new Chair takes up the reigns. Our AGM will celebrate a hugely successful year for the organisation . Chief Executives need a strong voice at the centre to promote and to stand up for them in the current financial crisis. ACEVO does that . And we are also implementing a new management structure in acevo which will make strong use of both me and my talented deputy Dr Kyle and enable me to concentrate even more on the strategic direction and "thought leadership "role that acevo must play in testing times. We have also been able to promote talent .I think ACEVO is known for its talented and dynamic staff group. A real " can do " approach which works hard to help members.

And I am proud that some of the talent that ACEVO has nurtured is now out there in the sector in lead jobs ; Nick Aldridge at Mission Fish as CEO and Gail Scott Spicer , my previous Deputy, as Communications Director at the Scouts working with the excellent Mr Twine!I do not however encourage my talented people to go too quickly , or without permission!! We are , of course ,a small team but with huge ambition . It is always a privilege for a CEO to lead a team that is achieving.

Epiphany has come and gone and the cards are down . But there are just a few I could not put away and these attractive ones are still out . And I know this is sad , but the card from Tony and Cherie is still on my desk! I think that given the appalling events in the Gaza we are lucky to have a person of such talent and experience playing a leading role in trying to get peace. I heard Tony Blair on "Today "in the week . He really was on top form ; lucid , passionate and engaged. But whether that is enough to get a much needed ceasefire must be doubtful. That the Holy Land should be in such turmoil at this time is a tragedy. Many members are affected , either through the humanitarian or development work they do or through family links on both sides in Israel and Palestine.

But to end on a more cheery note ; you will be delighted to know that the Bubb Blog is to be saved for the Nation. The British Library have a web archive and they want to include my blog in that . Imagine; in 100 years time, a PHd student doing research on the third sector and ruminating over the Bubb opinions and thoughts. Just hope they have an old copy of Who's Who to hand to work out who all those people I meet are!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy New year ; it WILL be good!

It is said that the Chinese pictogram for "crisis" contains 2 characters ; danger and opportunity . So its my theme for the New year of 2009. There will be challenges for us all . But having just got back from Christmas in Zanzibar I am in a buoyant mood , fired up for the task of leading acevo and in giving an effective collective voice to the Chief executives of the sector.

Its also been a challenge coming from the hot sun of Africa to the slightly chiller clime of Devon . I'm down in Hope Cove where my brother Nicholas has a cottage. Its very beautiful ; just below the cliffs so ably looked after by the great National Trust ( run admirably by acevo member Fiona Reynolds ). My parents and younger sister Lucy are also here and the champagne has been flowing;even Sparkles had a lick!There were fireworks from the cliffs at Midnight . A special time.

So to all of you who plow through the blogger ramblings , have a good 2009. Best wishes.