Wednesday 25 August 2010

Founders and speaking truth to power!

Every so often you met one of those truly inspiring characters that epitomise our great sector. Jean Stogdon. She founded Grandparents Plus. Having had a career as a social worker she had noticed how attention was always paid to parents, ignoring the fact that significant child care is also carried out by grandparents; this being a growing trend. Little support and advice is given to grandparents and she met with Michael Young, that truly great social entrepreneur (founder of the OU and Which Magazine for example) and he was also struck by the need to support wider kinship networks. So the charity, Grandparents Plus, became Michael's very last venture with Jean before he died.

Now thriving with ACEVO member (Sam Smethers) as CEO and Jean still as Chair, this charity provides strong and effective support to grandparents. Good luck to them. And well done to Jean, an energetic 82 year old Granny!

Jean had come to see me to talk about "Founders Syndrome" as she is giving a talk about this! We swapped stories of founders. Who knows which famous charity founder used to lock staff in a cupboard if they disagreed with her?

And I love the story of Dr Barnado told to me by an academic. He had clear ideas on how to run his charity and was not to be put off by any demands to keep accounts and the like. He was often in trouble with the Charity Commission and with other charities like the Charity Organisation Society, a Victorian body with firm ideas on efficiency in our sector (now surviving as the Family Welfare Association). In particular Dr Barnado had clear views on the role of trustees i.e. he couldn't be doing with them. So at the first, and only meeting of the trustees the minute of the meeting allegedly records that "the Trustees resolved that they would meet again upon the death of the Founder ". I suspect many of my members might have similar views on trustees; though obviously not in ACEVO, he adds hastily.

And talking of charity founders let's note the recent sad death of Lady Anne Tree. She was the daughter of the late Duke of Devonshire, one of the famous Cavendish family, but is particularly noted as the founder of the charity, Fine Cell Work. She had been a prison visitor and had formed the view that while imprisonment was an inevitable part of the criminal justice system it should not mean stifling all creative life and if prisoners could be given something worthwhile, enjoyable and saleable it would mean "their long hours of lonely idleness" could become productive and stimulating instead. She hit on the unlikely idea of needlework! Through her connections she managed to get the idea into operation. But she was determined that the work must be paid; an idea a reactionary Conservative Home Office opposed. She bombarded Ministers with letters to which they never replied. When eventually a junior Tory Minister replied telling her that prisoners creativity was well catered for by making cuddly toys at Christmas she sent a furious reply.

It read, "it's sanctimonious shits like you who've let this country down".

A reply that became famous within the Home Office till Angela Rumbold MP finally met her in 1990 and gave in.

The charity (I don't think her Ladyship would have had truck with that social enterprise stuff) now employs 400 inmates in 30 prisons!

How fabulous is that! What an example. That's what I call "speaking truth to power". No mealy mouthed, oh I better watch my funding, for her. An example I may well have to emulate if the cuts continue!

I was thinking about this as I spent the afternoon at the Department for Communities and Local Government in various meetings on the proposed Localism Bill and on "The Right to Bid". I'm having to go to all sorts of meetings as many of my staff are off on exotic trips. My International Director is on "holiday" in China, my Deputy has just returned from three weeks in Tuscany (naturally), my Director of Strategy in Greece and Euclid director in Uzbekistan; he returned on Monday with a Taliban style beard (which I ordered removed; standards to be maintained, I don't want people thinking I employ hippies or Trots!).

However it's nice to welcome a new ACEVO Director; Katherine Hudson who replaces the wonderful Abby Wright- Parkes who escaped me after five years (how did that happen?). Katherine joins ACEVO Towers from Canal Mansions, aka NCVO where she researched membership. I'm sure she will enjoy the ACEVO magic and dynamism. She is interested in charity history so we are getting on well. I am admirably keeping control of my urge to garner gossip on her previous employer. As if I would!


High Heid Yin said...

Was this written by Bubb or Bogg? It feels more like the latter to me, I'm afraid. I really do take issue with your comment about "I don't think her Ladyship would have had truck with that social enterprise stuff". Well done for dismissing a whole sector that you claim to represent in one sweeping statement. My renewal invoice for ACEVO is sitting in my inbox right now...time to junk it I think.

Michele Rigby CEO at Social Enterprise East of England

Sir Stephen Bubb said...

Actually it is the comment I suspect Lady Tree would have made,not me! Of course I don't think social enterprise is nonsense. . My vice Chair and many members run superb social enterprises and indeed acevo runs it's own! A sad day when I am not allowed to use irony in a Blog surely?

Karl said...

Stephen, your new director can't possibly have any gossip as she is not responding to my invites for lunch! We miss KH very much.

Anonymous said...

That's right Stephen - if you drop a clanger, just claim you were being ironic.

I'm sure your members know you well enough to recognise how sincere that claim is...

Sir Stephen Bubb said...

Actually,members who know me do will know exactly what I think,as you say. So ,coincidently a member who does know me is the CEO of Social Enterprise London and she wrote in her Blog yesterday,

" Stephen is the consummate advocate who does not take himself to seriously which is why he has been spoofed and why he is very good company...we quickly got to the serious business of working out how to offer direction to our movement when all but the rhetoric seems disastrous for small,local based groups. "
Do read Allison's Blog. It is excellent.though she also tries to be lighthearted..

Andrew said...

May be the comments about the way that the coalition government minister is shaping up are ironic as well. The future jobs fund post of 30th April certainly was

Robin Bogg said...

Don't drag me into all of this...

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