Sir Stephen Bubb

Sir Stephen Bubb

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Cup Cakes and Commonwealth

Day off so a chance to pop down to Brixton Market to stock up. This is a superb market and Brixton is one of the more vibrant and lively parts of London. I particulary recommend Julies - a glorious cafe where Julie makes the best cup cakes in London.

It's good to see that my neighbour, Paul McDowell, has been appointed as the new CEO of Nacro. He is currently Governor of Brixton Prison but takes over from the superb Paul Cavadino at the end of the year. Nacro has a long and distinguished history and is now closely involved in delivering services in prisons and outside. I'm glad to see that the absurd complaint against Catch 22 and Turning Point has been dismissed by the Charity Commission. If we are to properly tackle crime we need to invest in rehabilitation and to have a radical new approach to how we run prisons. The third sector's role in running prisons is one good way of ensuring a new approach and I'm sure Paul will help develop this aspect of the work of Nacro.

I guess there is no such thing as a "day off" for a CEO as I rush back with the shopping from the market to take part in a teleconference call across the Commonwealth. I'm a member of the Commonwealth's Civil Society Committee and we are planning for the People's Forum which takes place at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Trinidad and Tobago in November. One of the issues I am arguing we must press strongly is the discrimination against gay and lesbians in many Commonwealth countries. Trinidad and Tobago have vicious anti-gay laws - 25 years in prison max sentence. So we are looking to see how the Committee ensures the Ministers meeting talks about this. That should be interesting!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Blogging from The Hoxton Apprentice; Giving young people a chance

I am at the Hoxton Apprentice for a breakfast; with Peter Mandleson and Yvette Cooper and cast of youth and sector and business leaders! I'm attending with my Chair and we are here as representatives of the wider Third Sector to show our support. Lesley-Anne and I will be encouraging ACEVO members to play an active part in the "Young Britain " campaign.
I ought not to complain but having got to the Hoxton Apprentice at breakfast time I thought we might get breakfast. Instead there was an array of sticky buns and chocolate croissants. Not exactly the healthy option. And not a Cappuccino in sight, though the croissants are excellent. Yvette asked me to attend because she is concerned to have the third sector fully involved in a campaign to tackle youth unemployment. To read about it click here.

In the last two recessions literally hundreds of thousands of unemployed young people were left without support. Many communities had a generation lost to work and the effects of unemployment were felt for years.

There are various schemes aimed at school leavers, graduates and young unemployed people. This particular campaign is aimed at employers all over the country; asking them to act to give every young person help to find a job or training or work skills and experience.

The aim is to give young people leaving school or university a chance and to harness the talent for organisations. This will help young people get into the jobs market, and benefit our organisations into the bargain.

There are a number of ways for charities to take action:

· offering a volunteering place or a volunteer mentor for school or university leavers to help them find their feet in the jobs market
· providing work experience places or a work trial to help young people learn about work, make contacts and fill their CV
· offering an internship for a graduate
· providing an apprenticeship for 19-24 year olds
· bidding for one of the 100,000 jobs for young people in the Government’s Future Jobs Fund
· joining a Local Employment Partnership to make sure my job vacancies are advertised to local unemployed people.

So the campaign is to get as many employers as possible to commit to taking at least one of the actions to help young people.

The third sector is now a big employer. We ought to play our part and I am discussing with my Directors team how we can get involved. And I'm urging DWP to get behind strong full time volunteering initiatives where young people can volunteer on, for example sustainability projects which give them skills. Tom Flood of BTCV has great plans for a "carbon army" to galvanise young volunteers. It's a scheme the Government ought to be backing.

It was also fantastic news to hear the announcement of the first organisations who have won bids to run the Future jobs Fund. One of the successful bids (worth £35m) was frpm a consortium of third sector organisations , 3SC which was put together with the active support of Futurebuilders. Other successes from members are RNIB, Groundwork, NACRO (amongst others) at national level , and a wide range of regional and local TSOs. Great news.

Public Services Forum, French and compost

The Public Services Forum brings together Government, unions and employers. It has been meeting for five years but two years ago it was opened to employers in the private and third sectors, and I have been an enthusiastic member representing the third sector with Liz Atkins from NCVO - we make a powerful team!
Yesterday's meeting was chaired by Tessa Jowell and she arrived breathless from the Olympics site and enthused about how well it was all going. She even suggested the Forum takes a trip there; I enthusiastically endorsed the idea; be a great trip!

We were in reflective mode as we were discussing a report to the Prime Minister on the last five years. ACEVO has played a strong role; for example we presented our report on the links and relationship between the unions and the third sector. Looking forward I suggested that the recession and public spending cuts offer an opportunity for innovation and rethinking how we provide public services. I spoke of the need for more skills training through full time volunteering initiatives. I could not say these points were greeted with cheers from the unions in the room.

However Tessa certainly recognised the need for change and asked me to present ideas on the future for public services in the light of the drive for personalisation.

Continuing reform is the the reality and the unions need to consider how they will react, particularly to a Conservative Government. ACEVO now has a union General Secretary in membership, Community, and we have had good discussions with them on how to pursue a progressive agenda for public services. But most unions regard any change as an attack on their public sector membership; even unions with a growing third sector membership have problems facing up to our role. They retreat behind the " privatisation" jibe which is, frankly quite offensive to my members. But in a changing climate I'm hopeful we can get a better dialogue: as I'm now a member of the McLeod Review on employee engagement's sponsor group with key trade union figures we can develop this.

Lunch is fascinating. Jonathan Lewis and I are meeting Yaron Shavit who runs " Chorum" a big French third sector provider of insurance and health support to employers in the French social economy. He is also behind the set up of CIDES, which is a French capacity building organisation for their third sector. We are discussing scope for developing together and in particular the scope for a European initiative on an EU SocialInvestment Bank. This is hugely exciting. This type of innovative thinking is what the third sector can bring to the development of a healthy citizen focused Europe.

And in between times I managed to order my compost bin for " Clinks". Now my vegetable garden is getting on a surer footing I want to demonstrate my commitment to sustainability in a small way by recomposting waste food, the weeds etc! It looks like my attempts at lettuce have come to nought, as I was told this morning by Jonathan Bland of the CEO of the Social Enterprise Coalition (with whom I was breakfasting), because I had let them go to flower and ruined them. So you live and learn. Still, I had a magnificent Vine delivered on Saturday and it looks stunning against the breeze block shed; and next to my equally gorgeous olive tree (from Tuscany naturally).

Monday, 27 July 2009

Cuts and Age

We face a recession in the Public Sector.

Britain will face spending cuts of more than 16% to key public services, such as law and order and higher education, if Labour and the Tories deliver on their goals to protect schools, hospitals and defence, the Institute for Fiscal Studies warned last week . Politicians are been very coy on this. Gordon Brown has yet to accept publicly there is a problem and though the Tories are very much clearer on the fact that cuts are coming are simply refusing to spell out how or where they will cut.

Saturday saw Conservative Treasury Shadow talk of the need for major cuts but he did not address the conundrum of where and how. It is also a matter of concern that any swinging programme of cuts could feed into further recession. We now see that economic activity has declined more sharply than predicted. We can't afford moves that might excaberate the problem and throw yet more people onto the dole queues.

Into this debate our sector must jump. We can help lead and inform; making the case for radical spending shifts to prevention , to rehabilitation and delivery through sector innovation. We can demonstrate or ability to provide jobs , training and volunteering to the unemployed.

The IFS says Britain is facing a decade of pain that will see the tightest constraint in public service spending since 1977.

Talking to one of my Futurebuilders Trustees (he is a top Venture Capital boss) after our last Board meeting he said he they were planning on a long recession. He expects the effects of the recession to be exacerbated by a public sector recession and with interest rates going up. He suggests thee markets may react badly to a heavy Tory cuts approach which may reverse any signs of an economic upturn.

That is why sector CEOs have to look to partnerships and alliances to strengthen their organisations. Even mergers. I met Tom Wright last week- the new CEO of Age UK, the merged Age Concern and Help the Aged charity. An impressive guy. He has a clear vision of their future combined with a sound business sense. A fine exemplar as an ACEVO member. He says they will realise over £20m from the merger; money that can be ploughed back into serives for older people. We also had a good discussion about the increasing power of older people; a voice that is still largely unrecognised by politicians.

So beware those false sirens of "it aint that bad" and those polls and research which say people are crying wolf. That does not mean we become Cassandras or pessimists. There are opportunities for our sector. We can grab them. But we must also be realists.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

What a week....

One of the more lovely aspects of Charlbury are the Saturday coffee mornings. Today it was the Royal British Legion and I emerged with a splendid Victoria sponge ( free range eggs naturally ) and pot of home made marmalade. And back to the cottage for the mid morning croissant : purchased from The Good Food Shop . I'm recovering from a pretty heavy week ,and this is the place to be !

Funny who you meet on trains . returning from my dinner with M.Hugues Sibille I bump into My Lord the Bishop of London , the magnificent Richard Charteris. We recalled that indeed the last time we met was also on a train ! He was engrossed in Boswell's life of Johnston , in preparation for a Lecture in Litchfield. I took the opportunity to invite him to speak at one of our faith special interest group meetings . In acevo we have various such groups that bring together CEOs from various sectors ; others include sustainability and health.

He accepted with alacrity . I explained that in acevo we do these things in a civilised fashion over a lunch or dinner.

Rushing from the train Iwent straight to the Commons where I was meeting Yvette Cooper , the new SoS for DWP. An entirely charming and dedicated MP she makes a worthy successor to the marvellous James ( who I hear was asking after me recently ). We had a long discussion ;interrupted by 2 votes, .about how the third sector can play an ever increasing role in employment services ,especially with the impending crisis on youth unemployment. We talked about the new initiative being launched on Wednesday and how CEOs can be galvanised to play a part . I am also getting a group of senior CEOs together for a round table so we can discuss all this in more detail. We talked for so long I'm afraid I was 15 minutes late for the Board meeting of Futurebuilders , or the Social Investment Business as we are to become. I have a marvellous Board , full of talented and distinguished people . And of coure that means you get a lively debate on issues . No chance this Board will be bamboozled or led. They want to be clear on our vision and direction . There was a lot to discuss and we ran over our allotted time ; which meant the dinner which followed was somewhat delayed. Part of our discussion was on a recent Board and Chair appraisal . You will be pleased to know that my own appraisal appeared to be rather good . That was a relief.

Wednesday evening saw a grand dinner to mark the retirement of the current Chair of the RNIB ,Lord Low. As it was in the BT Tower at their revolving restaurant this was indeed a treat . And I had an interesting discussion on our sector and its strengths and foibles with Sir Mike Rake , BT CEO. Colin Low is being succeeded by Kevin Carey who I know well as he sits on my Futurebuilders Board. Kevin has progressive views on governance , paying trustees etc and I overheard him expounding these to Stuart Ethrington . This will have been good for Stuart!

And talking of Chairs , I had lunch with my previous Chair John Low at a new Conran restaurant in Fleet St , " Lutyens ". We were lunching with Jonathan Lewis , CEO of Futurebuilders and one of the sector's rapidly rising stars. We were talking about how we cooperate and build our sector and how we can promote partnership working in a sector that sometimes prefers the opposite.

I am one of the Judges for the Charity Times Awards and we met on Thursday to decide on the winners , to be announced in September at a sparkling dinner at the Grosvenor. I had to miss the lunch as I was due at a round table organised by the CDFA to talk about a campaign for a Community Reinvestement Act. A cause dear to my heart . it must be linked to the demand for a Social Investment Bank . The meeting was joined , by phone from the Middle East , by Sir Ronnie Cohen , the esteemed founder of the concept of venture capital . He made the point it is now 9 years since the recommendations of the Commission on Unclaimed Assets and little has been achieved .Time for action was his message . And a message it is time the Government heard.

But much of the week was taken up in the day to day management of acevo , meetings of Directors , sorting notty staffing issues , and trying to resolve problems and dilemmas . The sort of stuff that rarely graces the pages of my Blog , though are the life blood of any sector CEO. And often the more problematic. But the weekend beckons and I must return to the Hound for her morning romp in the Mill Field. Gathering strength for the week ahead!

Friday, 24 July 2009

On being " utterly horrified".

I am utterly horrified by what is happening in Darfur, the threat to the Burmese people and the wonderful Aung San Suu Kyi. Kevin Curley of NAVCA on the other hand has told Andrew Hind, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission, that he is "utterly horrified" that third sector organisations can now bid to run new and existing failing prisons.

He has attacked two marvellous national charities; Catch22 (the very charity that founded the probation service) and Turning point which does incredible work with young people at the very margins of society. Both charities are run by fine CEOs, Joyce Mosley and Victor Adebowale, whose work in our sector is regarded as of the very best. Thousands of staff and volunteers in these charities will regard such an attack with, dare I say " horror".

Let us examine and deconstruct his argument.

"He writes to the Commission to ask "whilst the purpose of a prison may include the rehabilitation of offenders the primary purposes are to punish people and to deter other people from committing crimes. I do not think these primary purposes are charitable objectives."

Curley has written to the Charity Commission again this week, in light of crime prevention charity Catch22 and Turning Point winning a Ministry of Justice bid to build and run two new prisons in the UK in partnership with private service provider Serco.

"It's fine for charities to provide education, training, advice, mentoring and support services within prisons," Curley generously says, "but not, in my view, to run them. "

"Whatever is said about using imprisonment to rehabilitate offenders the primary purpose is to incarcerate as a punishment. Even if that is a legal charitable purpose – and it seems most unlikely to me – it cannot be right for charities to do it."

The 1601 Statute of Elizabeth is clear that the "reformation of prisoners" is a core charitable purpose. It does not say this can only take place outside prison. Note the term "reformation" which in theological terms may well include punishment.

And It is clear that a charity "taking action to deter crime", which a range of charities have been doing for centuries is also a charitable purpose. The effects of crime scar communities and wreck families, harm children and old people create fear and unhappiness and deter social cohesion. Crime must be punished but must also be part of a programme that aims to reform and rehabilitate. Punishment takes many forms and charities over the last 400 years have been part of both punishment and rehab, though our role lies firmly in reformation. .

What these two great charities have done is form a partnership to ensure that they can carry out the work of such reformation in conjunction with a private sector organisation who will provide the basic management of the prison. It is a partnership that enshrines the best of the sector's skill in rehabilitation and commercial management skills. These contracts will ensure that our important work is protected and enhanced. What we know about current prison management by the state is that rehabilitation is never a priority and often suffers when there are staffing shortages or other problems.

This modern enterprising solution will provide institutions that ensure a better deal for offenders and help cut crime. These charities are to be applauded not attacked.

I am unclear what status Kevin thinks he has to tell these charities what they should or should not do. It is a depressing aspect of our sector that believes that even at a time of crisis it is appropriate to turn inwards and attack, not the common enemy of crime but another charity. The trustees and staff and volunteers of these tremendous charities have given this great thought and attention .

And perhaps Kevin might consider this; the probation service is part of the criminal justice system, responsible for "punishment" as well as rehabilitation. It was run for far longer as a charitable institution than as it is now, part of the state. Catch 22 were set up to do precisely that. They are continuing the fine tradition of securing the Elizabethan aim of "reformation " by joining forces to ensure effective modern penal establishments. Punishment and rehabilitation go hand in hand.

If these contracts and new management arrangements ensure that some of society's most vulnerable and dejected receive better treatment and society benefits with lower crime rates who is Kevin Curley to pronounce against them.

And amusingly we have just seen the Government's recently published strategy on " Building better Communities". It argues:

" the third sector should take the lead in developing new models of "cross-sector collaboration" with the private sector."

The report recommends forming partnerships with businesses that have a track record of winning government contracts and thus develop the commercial strategies of the third sect

And the last word goes to Joyce Mosley, one of our sector's great CEOs, who writes to me:

" I would like to point out that Catch22’s primary role in the contracts for Maghull and Belmarsh West prisons is to provide resettlement services to prisoners. This is something we have a wealth of experience in. Our relationship with Serco and Turning Point dates back to 2006, when we formed the alliance with the shared aim of reducing offending.

We have a commitment to making sure people in difficult situations have access to our services, and if that means having resettlement services based inside prisons, that is where we will be. There is nothing different about the resettlement services we will be providing at Maghull and Belmarsh West.

Our role in these contracts is absolutely in line with our charitable aims and is by no means a change of direction or focus for us. You will know that Catch22 was previously Rainer and Crime concern. Rainer founded the forerunner to the Probation Service in 1876, starting a long tradition in working with and in prisons to reduce re-offending and facilitate resettlement and rehabilitation."

I trust the Commission response will be firm and robust. I have dropped a note to Suzi and Andrew urging a tough response.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Volunteering and Regions

My niece Amy Bubb is now out in Zambia volunteering for Hope for Children. So showing a strong Bubb like appetite for the third sector. But good to note she certainly expects to enjoy herself. Her first mail home:

"Yesterday was incredible! To get to the jet boating we had to drive through lots of tiny tribal villages and the kids were all waving at us and chasing after our truck - they're adorable! And then we had to take a cable car over all the way down to the Zambezi river which was pretty exciting in itself! The jet boating was so so much fun - they drove at 90mph and did 360 degree spins and it was just insane! We all got so wet that it was like we'd all been in a bath! Then we drove to the waterfront where we got on the booze cruise, and there certainly was a lot of booze! And THEN while we were all watching the sunset enjoying our drinks, all these hippos suddenly appeared and this group of elephants started walking along beside the embankment! It was incredible! (Dad, I bet you're so jealous!) Oh and we've seen many a monkey etc... So it's all turning into a little safari! After the cruise, Lisa, John (the co-ordinator) and myself had some more drinks in the waterfront bar until quite late, and then when we went to join the others back at the hostel, we decided to check out this Zambian nightclub which was...interesting! Lots of crazy African music mixed in with some Beyonce and Justin Timberlake! So we all got down with the locals......"

Must be a genetic Bubb link here; doing good, fun and drink!

ACEVO has been working with ippr north on a report on 'regional engagegment with third sector' It was launched yesterday, a PDF of the report can be found here:
http://www.ippr.org/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=684 <http://www.ippr.org/publicationsandreports/publication.asp?id=684>

They argue the voice of the third sector is not being heard in shaping communities at regional level. They, ippr, call for Government action to give the sector greater influence.

The survey on which the report is based, found that over 80 per cent of charity leaders thought that decision making at the regional was important for their work, but over 60 per cent thought the sector’s voice in policy-making at the regional and sub-regional levels was not very well established.

Because the role regions now play in shaping communities is changing with new powers and functions, the Government should include the third sector as key stakeholders together with quangos and partnerships, such as the Regional Development Agencies, regional local authority leaders’ boards and city-regional partnerships.

But importantly they argue if the sector is to play an important role in decisions about economic development, planning, housing and regeneration, they need skills to do so effectively. These include strategic thinking, building strategic alliances, looking beyond immediate local issues and being clear about which policy debates to enter, and why. They also need to develop key messages providing a more coherent voice for the third sector and understanding and responding to small ‘p’ politics.

Our Director of ACEVO North, Jenny Berry, was heavily involved in this work. It makes a strong case for the continuing need for professionalism in the sector. The reason ACEVO set up its ACEVO North office is to work with our growing membership there and to promote the ACEVO professional message. This report will help strengthen our work in ACEVO north. And ensure CEOs working in the North have a strong voice!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Government and backbone?

So we now have the Government's Banking White Paper. You might say it is hardly worth rushing to read this wimpish document but I couldn't possibly comment. And the banking and financial institutions have shown their response by a rushed return to bad practice: bonuses are back as though nothing ever happened. I think this is what is called taking the p...?

A radical White Paper would have seen a stronger regulator (the FSA having done a pathetic job preventing collapse should have been summarily removed) and announced immediate steps to establish a Social investment Bank and introduce a Community Reinvestment Act.

My friend that great Canadian, Andrew Robinson, of CCLA (investment advisors and investors By Appointment) pointed out to me that the Bank of England once had within its remit the need to ensure "financial fairness". No longer. The FSA has no such obligation (and it shows). The Treasury does but little evidence of how it does this. Did this aspect issue in the White Paper?

What is happening? We have a "consultation" on a SIB which majestically glides over how much money will be available and ignores the issue of using unclaimed assets to set up the Bank as both the DWP-ACEVO task force and the Unclaimed Assets Commission recommended.

I realise logic and politics are sometimes strange bedfellows but what is the point of asking questions about the role of a Bank without saying how much it will have. If it's a pittance (i.e. £50m) then very little you can do apart from some micro finance, if it is £250m as Ronnie Cohen and we believe, then you get leverage with private capital and can make larger loans. For example Futurebuilders has recently invested c£5m in SCOPE and been in discussions with another big charity on a £10m loan. On the back of a £400m investment fund we have levered in £50m from the private finance sector.

Can we now assume that the Government have backed off making the Banks cough up any of the unclaimed assets or just a small amount to fund youth projects?

What a waste. Here was a chance to leave a radical legacy - a Bank that invests into our communities and social enterprise, money that comes back to be reinvested and supports strong sector growth and capitalisation .

Perhaps I'm too pessimistic and I will be surprised. I do hope so. I know Angela and Liam are strong backers of the Bank, and indeed a Community Reinvestment Act. Let's hope they have the strength to take on the vested interests of the FSA, Treasury and Banks who have fought a fierce regard action against all this. Indeed one of the FSA officials who came to a sector event told us they were strongly opposed to a CRA, thus putting themselves fairly and squarely behind the right wing of the Republican Party and in opposition to Obama who thinks the CRA has been a great success in the States.

Last night I was at dinner with M. Hugues Sibille, the Managing Director of Credit Cooperative, one of France's bigger banks, but part of the social sector. We were discussing how to take forward the idea of a European Social Investment Bank. We are to set up a Steering Committee and Hugues has had a bright idea on a Chair which we will pursue (no names even in my blog!). There is great interest in this idea. Indeed we will be talking to the Young Foundation who are also looking at how the EU might invest in social innovation. So an idea that has origins in the UK is now taking route in Europe at the time when our Government seem to be back tracking ?

Access to capital is the next big battle for our sector. Not the final frontier, but close too. Will our friends in Government join us in this battle?

Monday, 20 July 2009

Rowing and Showing

Well, what could be more appropriate - a photo of some of my staff with their umbrellas. Umbrelling in an umbrella body. What would Robin have to say I wonder?

A good Away Day up in Richmond. And if it was a trifle inclement at least it was not Doncaster in December (as my staff reminded me). Our last Away Day was planting trees in Ed Miliband's Constituency- we planted over a hundred - which may just offset my disgraceful use of airplanes! The Oak Trees Ed and I planted are flourishing I'm told.

But I digress; back to Richmond. I gave staff a tour de horizon (as we say in Euclid) and then we had a brilliant session on customer care. We are developing new standards about how we interact with our members. A great facilitator made us work for our lunch and as a reward Bubb said, bother charity finance, let's have wine. And frankly they needed it. For the rowing I'm afraid they had to do without my coxing skills (I did Cox for my College but then I was a skinny youth and now I'm impressively girthed) so I decided not to risk it, and I had developed an appalling headache so I was now convinced I was well on the way to swine flu! Of course it soon passed. As did the snuffle, but made me wonder, who will be the first umbrella leader to succumb? With all that networking Stuart must be a top tip - though both he and I are fortunately not in the age group most affected. Thank goodness for being old!

A short weekend in Charlbury as I had been asked by my friend the ex-Mayor of Lambeth (Clrr Meader) to go to the Lambeth Show on Sunday. This marvellous annual extravaganza takes place in the magnificent Brockwell Park. It was good to catch up with old friends - a trillion years back I was an esteemed Lambeth Councillor. They all look so young these days! I met the newly elected Princes Ward Councillor Mark Harrison- a mere boy at 23, though greatly charming and brainy. Several of the old lags suggested I think about standing for the Council again; in retirement as they amusingly put it. I thought about this for a few seconds but only in the context of wondering if I might also nail my tongue to the Marquee post.

There are a large number of third sector leaders living in Lambeth; at the chicken end are Nick Wilkie and Matthew Thomson and at the Rooster Jon Davies (runs Families need Fathers) and Deborah Arnot (runs ASH, the anti-smoking campaign). Jon and Deborah came into the office to see me recently; they are a third sector CEO couple! Deborah ran the hugely successful anti- smoking campaign which culminated in a smoking ban in public places. She demonstrates the power of the third sector at its advocacy best. Her negotiating and campaigning skills are second to none!

Sparkles clearly enjoyed her day out at the Show. She managed to acquire a rather charming claret streak from a spilled glass and proved adept at cadging from plates of food unwisely left on the ground by talkative Councillors. Anyway here is me and Hound with the current Mayor of Lambeth ! No umbrellas in sight!







Thursday, 16 July 2009

Engaging staff.....and parties

A sluggish start to the day owing to the high jinks at the ACEVO birthday and media party. Champagne flowing into the early hours courtesy of our friends, The Strand Partners, in their stunning Mayfair office. The ACEVO staff know how to party.... including our glamorous Head of Media whose stilettos were fighting a losing battle with the decking of the rooftop.

But I had to be up early for the launch of the McLeod Review of employee engagement. The Report "Engaging for success" argues strongly for effective strategies to achieve engaged employees. To read the Report click here. Nita Clarke was the Vice Chair of the Review - she wrote a powerful report for ACEVO on the sector and trade unions.

I have been asked by the Secretary of State to join what is described as a "sponsor group" for the Review. Tasked to ensure the recommendations are carried out. The Group is made up of some powerful figures like the Cabinet Secretary, the DGs of the CBI and IoD, Brendan Barber from the TUC, and Rona Fairhead CEO of the FT. I am flying the flag for our Third Sector.

The aim is to produce tools and advice to encourage engagement. We know this is crucial in our sector as we now employ 1.3m people. At a time when member Chief Executives know that recession and spending cuts pose challenges to maintaining staff levels we need to put extra resource and effort into engaging staff.

When we have to implement cuts or redundancies this will demotivate unless there has been strong involvement from staff - maybe through a union where these are involved - or through consultative mechanisms. Some CEOs think that this is so difficult its better not to involve staff. But people come to work in our sector mainly because of a commitment to the cause. So being up front with your problems is the best approach. Staff are better at coping with bad news than we sometimes think! Relentless communication at all times, but especially in bad ones is key.

The Report says:

"Engaged organisations have strong values,with clear evidence of trust and fairness based on mutual respect , where two way promises and commitments- between employers and staff-are understood and are fulfilled. "

It's a useful reminder to me a day before we have our bi annual staff Awayday. I'm doing an overview of the business and then we are talking "customer care". And as we are a jolly lot we are then going rowing! You need employee engagement for rowing. Though the CEO will be cox- leading strategically but letting others do the physical work!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Prime Minister, Gulbenkian and Board

Just back from an interesting session talking to the key folk in Brook, the sexual health charity, run by the dynamic and engaging Simon Blake, their Chief Executive. He had asked me to give an outline of where the sector is heading and our opportunities against a background of recession and looming public spending cuts. I was clear about the need to use this to radically review the role purpose of the organisation and think of different ways of doing things and how to form mergers and alliances.

One engaging discussion was around commissioning. It was clear that some of the Brook contracts Commissioners still feel that, even having been awarded the contracts, that they are able to come back and ask for information like the pay grades of staff or the spend on stationery. Questions that they would never dream of asking a commercial company, and if they did they would get a dusty answer. I said we need to be robust in this. The contracts being awarded, quite a lot of this information they are requesting is simply not relevant. And actually some of it may be commercially sensitive. If that information is handed over it is of course then potentially subject to dissemination or freedom of information requests. In any case I am not sure why public sector bodies need to know this sort of thing. The usual approach - shall we look at what they are spending and see if we can cut it. Why do they need stationery anyway? This sort of practice is something we simply have to stamp out.

Went to Brooks straight from my ACEVO Board meeting. My new Chair, Lesley-Anne Alexander, who is the Chief Executive of RNIB, is getting into her stride. Her greatest moment came when she spoke about the need for a "veneer of transparency". Previously we had been talking about "shades of grey". When we find the veneer of transparency we shall we marketing it.

All this activity on the back of a fascinating evening. It started with champagne with our young Chief Executives Special Interest Group. We were meeting in the incredibly brilliant new headquarters of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (charming and exotic Andrew Barnett, an active member!). We were having dinner there in their very first week of opening. The building, in Hoxton Square, is stunning. Designed by a top architect it also displays some great art work by British and Portuguese artists. These are marvellous offices. We should all have offices like these. If only. Nick Hurd was speaking at the dinner and I had a good chat with him about the Social Investment Bank and his thinking on that, but I had to run along as I was then going on to dinner in the Prime Ministers' office. Along with a number of Cabinet Ministers we were there to dine with Professor Amitai Etzioni, the academic and progenitor of the communitarian idea. Professor Layard from the LSC (the guy behind all the "happiness index" stuff) also spoke. We were examining the role of civil society in a 21st century. My contribution was along the lines of communitarian is all very well but actually what we need as third sector is power. Power to grow. Power to deliver services. Power to influence change. Power to speak on behalf of communities large and small. I was the sole third sector voice in this interesting gathering and I hope I gave a good account for us. I am certainly following up some of what I am saying with the newly appointed Head of the Prime Minister's Strategy Unit. And so to bed. I have to say I am feeling somewhat jaded and I need to go off to ACEVO's birthday party and media do. Champagne and string quartet. And all provided by our commercial partners. The problem is I am not sure whether I am going to get to drink any as there is also a potential that I will be on "Newsnight" this evening talking about youth unemployment - that's if I don't get ditched in favour of some politician.

Interesting to read about the staff's activities on "Twitter". To read the article in Charity Finance, click here.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Caritas in Veritate

An interesting Encyclical just published- it's worth a read. And in particular the point Benedict makes about the role of the third sector (and he uses that term David Cameron please note).
He argues "When we consider the issues involved in the relationship between business and ethics, as well as the evolution currently taking place in methods of production, it would appear that the traditionally valid distinction between profit-based companies and non-profit organizations can no longer do full justice to reality, or offer practical direction for the future." So he talks of a broad new composite reality embracing the private and public spheres; one that does not exclude profit but considers it a means for achieving social ends.

A fascinating comment and rather apposite in the context of the launch today of a seven year independent evaluation of the Adventure Capital Fund. This looks back at the early days of this new Fund, which was a brave experiment, with Government funds, to put capital investment into community enterprise. The report concludes this experiment has worked. To read "Investing in Thriving Communities" click here.

And the ACF pioneered the concept of a loan fund for the third sector. The ACF has now developed into a powerful social investment business harnessing funds of over £400m to invest in community and social enterprise and delivery of services. It has also laid the grounds for a Social Investment Bank, which we need to see set up with the unclaimed assets money.

When I spoke at the launch I made the point we should learn the lessons - not just in the UK - but wider. I believe we have established there is a strong market for capital in our sector. We know it can achieve real dividends and a social return. So if it works here we should now argue for a European Bank, and as our ambition must not be limited; for a World Social Bank.

The establishment of ACF was a triumph of ideas and ambition. Its what makes me proud to be in the third sector. Our ambition should be limitless. What the Pope outlined provides a powerful backing for new models and support for different forms of enterprise. As a result we are drawing up a briefing on the investment bank idea for the Vatican; one of the advantages of having a highly networked Italian International Director in ACEVO is that he has links at useful levels there.

I also announced at the launch that the FBE Board is looking at proposals to undertake a scoping exercise on a European SIB. It will be led by the Centre for Social Innovation at Heidelberg University. We are already discussing the concept with other European partners and I meet one of the major French mutual banks the week after next to discuss it.

In the meantime ACF-FBE have won the £70m contract to deliver community builders. It's a programme to invest in the development of community anchor organisations. It is good that we now have a vehicle in the Adventure Capital Fund that, together with Futurebuilders, is now able to bring real scale and impact to developing the capital base of our sector. We have been able to put together a social investment business that has assets of nearly £450m. But I suspect we are still in the early stages of development and need to build this market, with a range of players and banks able to meet investment need. Access to capital is the next big frontier for our sector.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Progressive austerity and "Communications Power "

A fascinating DEMOS event saw the renowned Prof Castells talking about his new book " Communications Power". It's a detailed expose of how Governments use communications to control attitudes and perceptions and the growing counter power of people communication through medium like twitter or mobile phone images.

He made a rather striking point to illustrate how Governments can manipulate minds. In the States , three years after the conflict in Iraq, 60% of people believe WMD were found and that Iraq was linked to Al Qaeda and the 11-9 attack.

I had a word with Richard Reeves, the magnificent DEMOS Director (on the eve of him turning 40 I might add). We were talking about cuts and my Guardian article and opportunities it throws up. He said he had written in similar lines in the FT. "Progressive Austerity". I tracked the article down and its worth reading. Click here to read it.

We know how important good communications are. One of the areas of work for ACEVO and the Impact Coalition must be how we influence public perception of the third sector. We know its economic and social power. The public still tend to think of us as small scale, doing good at the margins and amateur and voluntary. As we take on the work on the Coalition we have been thinking about how we embark on changing perceptions. It's a key task as we continue to make our case or a roll out of public services and the progressive austerity idea.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Time for a root-and-branch review of public spending

Cuts can lead to a new vision for third sector. To read my article in today's Society Guardian please click here

Talking with Tories.

Tuesday was a day with Conservatives. We had an ACEVO "Learning with Leaders Lunch" at CCLA (top purveyors of finance and asset management to the sector) in the City. David Willetts MP was our guest. And an amusing and insightful lunch it turned out to be. He has a huge intellect and was thought provoking in his analysis of attitudes to youth and intergenerational links (he is writing a book on the later). He believes one of our problems as a country is that there are few vertical links just horizontal; so youth have no ability to learn from other generations. It was Chatham House so I will not be induced to repeat the curtain twitching comments! I knew David at Oxford and it has been good to keep in touch over the years. He is a real asset to the Conservatives and a good friend of the Sector.

Someone in my office( since kicked) had suggested we might do this lunch without wine! This naturally caused consternation at CCLA who wondered if I'd become a Calvinist, but I'm delighted to say prompt action by their CEO Michael Quicke saved the day with a delightful Puilly Fuisse which Willetts and Bubb greatly enjoyed.

Then it was off to The Commons to meet Edward Garnier MP and Dominic Grieve MP, who have the Home Office and Justice briefs for the Tories. Again it is clear they see a big role for the sector in delivery and we had an interesting exchange on Private- Third Sector partnerships. I suspect there is huge, but as yet unexplored potential in partnerships to run prisons and probation services. The two big charities NACRO and Catch 22, both run by great CEOs, are up for that. ACEVO is planning more work here to explore potential and research what is there now. There is a real energy and determination behind Conservative plan for prisons and it is exciting to contrast it with the "keep a lid on" day to day crisis management of the current Justice Ministry team. Now is the time for radical reform but there is little strategic thinking going on in Government on crime. The Make Justice Work Campaign, on which I've blogged, shows the potential for radical change. It's a shame Jack Straw MP is not jumping at that. So let's see if the Conservatives will grasp this nettle?

And to round off the day I meet another Tory candidate who has been doing various bits of consultancy in the sector and work for Michael Gove MP. He wants to come and do some work with ACEVO so I've signed him up after an interview at the Red Lion Pub (he's Cambridge unnaturally).

On my return back to Brixton, the Heavens opened and the wind rushed through my inadequate Brolly (how good it is to be always armed with an umbrella as my friend Robin Bogg would have it). I was soaked to the skin. Was this God's disapproval for excessive intercourse with the Tories?

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

So what's in a name? Benn and Bubb

I hope we are not about to embark on another game of "what shall we call ourselves"? Not content with the diversion of expenses, some appear to want to move onto a spot of navel gazing following the comments of David Cameron. I guess anything other than actually thinking about how we move a sector through a recession into recovery and braced for public spending cuts.

I think the term third sector is good partly because it avoids all those arguments about whether we are social enterprise or community, voluntary or charity or non profit or civil society. I've probably used them all in my time. In other European countries people use different terms so I go with the flow. Whatever. Will a single life be improved by changing our name?

As you have probably noticed we in ACEVO like the term third sector. But that didn't mean we wasted time or money on moving from "ACEVO" to "acets". And we won't change it with the next turn of the fashion wheel and become acecs or acenp or acevcs or .... but you get the picture.
Is this a debate that will grip the public imagination ? Will anyone care?

So we will be taking a rain check in ACEVO on this and get on with the job. I had an email recently from a prominent sector figure who asked "is there anything that ACEVO is not leading on at the moment?". A huge compliment. But very much a compliment to a highly talented and dynamic staff. If you look around at what is going on, it is ACEVO staff at all levels who are involved and getting stuck in. They have a level of enthusiasm and creativity that is inspiring for a CEO. And the sector has noticed that talent at the many meetings and events, the consultations and articles and in the sector press.

Any CEO knows that part of the leadership job is to catch, retain and motivate talent. I've come to realise that old fashioned sterile public sector type approaches to recruitment can be fairly useless in catching talent. You need to search. (Using headhunters like Tribal for the Top Jobs to talent spot.) And when you have netted a brilliant person you make sure you coach and develop them. I'd argue it has been one of the secrets of my success leading ACEVO. That, and being able to move on people who are not performing. You cannot afford to carry passengers if you want a top performing organisation. If nothing else it really gets in the way of being able to motivate and promote the talent you have hired.

It means stepping back and allowing your people to lead as well. Be in the press. Speak at conferences. Be the front person. That is why you will see ACEVO people much in evidence and not always the CEO!

On Friday it was Tony Benn at Kensington Town Hall. Last night Prince Charles at Clarence House, but I admit of the two events Tony Benn stole the show. I was speaking with Tony at the 25th anniversary celebrations of "Staying Put", a plucky West London charity dedicated to supporting old people in their homes rather than in care. It was rather a thrill to see the printed invites proclaiming - "Guest Speakers, Tony Benn and Stephen Bubb". I was but a warm up act. Benn was spellbinding. A great orator of charm and wit. He makes his political points with aplomb and conviction. It was a privilege to speak with such a true star. He had the audience eating out of his hands. And at 83 shows there is real wisdom in old age. He announced he was in favour of huge spending cuts.....Trident, ID cards etc. He has a point!

Monday, 6 July 2009

Back to cuts....

So the Sunday press is full of further debate on cuts. Steve Bundred (CEO of the Audit Commission) writes in The Observer that:

"cuts are inevitable and perfectly manageable. We should insist on a frank and intelligent debate about how and where they will fall, which will then enable everyone to make sensible plans."

The Sunday Times says civil servants are working on proposals for a massive 20% cut in public spending.

Some interesting feed back on my "cuts" arguments in Friday's Blog. I lunch with Matthew Thompson, the dynamic, charming and sometime maverick CEO of the London Recycling Network and he puts it like this; it's the "fat people" who have most to worry with cuts not the "thin people". And he was not referring to the girth of his lunch companion! Its a good point.

We have to hope that in any debate on cuts and taxes we see civil servants and politicians looking at radical solutions. Matthew Taylor, writing in the latest RSA magazine says:

"If we are not to face the depressing and socially divisive prospect of year on year salami slices being taken from every major public service we need new thinking".

And I hope that any debate on cuts also looks at taxes. We will see a Banking White Paper this week. There is rumour that Government will back down on taking strong action on bonuses and astronomical salaries. This is wrong. If we are to avoid a repeat of the crash and instill a greater sense of fairness in how we handle taxes and salaries at a time of spending cuts we need to see Government accepting that radical change is needed. What would be more outrageous than to see cuts in spending and job losses whilst the financial institutions return to the bad their bad old ways, big bonuses and outrage at suggestions they pay a fairer share of taxes.

Matthew Taylor also argues that "necessity is the mother of invention" so the need for cuts ought to spur innovation in our public services. We must hope it does. Sector Chief Executives know that in facing difficult times we have been inventive in devising new ways of working and seeking out new opportunities. We will need that innovation and dynamism in the decade ahead.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Embracing Cuts?

Of course it is clear that whoever sits in No: 10 there will be significant cuts in public expenditure. As citizens we should be prepared to take part in the coming debate. More taxes or cuts? Or both? And if cuts where should they fall?

Spending cuts will affect our sector. Grants will be axed or shaved. Programmes cut back or abolished. Contracts not renewed or prices slashed. The danger is our default position will be to fall back on the "no cuts" mentality of the 80s. Argue that the cuts should be elsewhere but our sector must be ring-fenced.

This approach is both intellectually bankrupt and doomed to failure. We need to engage in the discussion about what should be cut and where. We will need to justify our spending too.

In Canada, when the new Liberal Party won the election they had a root and branch of spending, asking do we need to spend this money, what value does it bring and does. The State have to deliver it. I would expect a similar approach from any new Conservative regime.

So let's start to prepare our case now. The recession should have pushed us to consider our own cuts, opportunities for new contracts, mergers and alliances.

So now let's look at the way the public sector provides services and argue how we can do them better and more cost effectively. Why perhaps we should even say "we can do it cheaper".

I realise this rubs against received wisdom '"no to services on the cheap" will be the cry. But actually I believe in many areas our services are both better and cheaper. Look at end of life services. We know that it is cheaper to provide care at home than in an expensive hospital bed. Marie Curie can make a plausible case that this is both more cost effective and its what people want. Yet our system ensures many have to die in hospital when a funding reform could gear up Marie Curie and others to provide that care. And I am not suggesting we abandon FCR. Indeed its clear even with proper funding we can be better.

We know that many of the long term condition charities could provide better care and promotion than the health system where money goes disproportionately into acute care.

We know vast sum are wasted on prisons and care for ex offenders is starved.

So let's argue for sensible cuts where that could lead to better services and reinvestment in TS solutions. Let's campaign for more service provision by our sector. And importantly let's get our case together on our value added and our impact. This will carry more weight than a thousand placards or anti cuts campaigns.

I'd be interested in a debate on this. Whatever your view we have to prepare for leaner times.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Euclid, The Governor and the Garden Party

Well, there was me expecting lunch round the campfire and we end up at The Governor's Residence (above). Not exactly hippy! We held our Euclid Board at The Governor's - she is appointed by Government and it was interesting to chat to her. She was the Leader of the Swedish Green Party till recently a strong supporter of the third sector. It was amusing to discover that they don't particularly like the term " civic society" as it was a description favoured by the neo cons and free market right wingers who want to replace the State.

The Euclid Board went particularly well - we are thinking through our longer term strategies and positioning. But the roundtable iself was fascinating. We had the presentation of a research project on the role of the third sector in promting local democracy. This raises fundamental questions about what democracy is? Is there balance between elective democracy and participative one. On paper we all have equal access through the vote. But not enough real power if decision making excludes citizens. So Robert Puttnam's book, "Making Democracy Work"(1993) argued civil society builds social capital. He studied the Italian introduction of regional government. In those regions where there was a strong history of civil society engagement, the regions worked better.

How can we shape decisions in local communities - civil society must play key role in this process. Voting not enough.

So we assume we are making democracy better. But aren't many TSOs very middle class? Exclusive? Self selecting? Is it good or bad for democracy? There are there good and bad organisations.

So our presentor talked of "bridging or bonding" organisations. Bonding orgs (where people of similar outlook and background) don't necessarily contribute to democracy and might work against it as they oppose groups different from them. Class, race and gender issues arise. However bridging ones (those that cover differing communities) do.

This strikes a cord. It is assumed by the sector that all community groups are good per se. But we know of community groups who have campaigned against the siting of mental health facilities or migrant centres in their locality. Groups that work against multi-cultural approaches and try to keep their community white or Protestant.

Internationally, in the Balkans many community groups of like ethnic composition oppose others not like them.they have added to ethnic division.

So this was a challenge to lazy thinking that all local or community groups must be supported and must be favoured. Its the same when some sector leaders try to argue that large charities or national TSOs are bad and out to strangle local groups.