Thursday 11 November 2010

Leadership- a Bridge over Troubled Waters!

The cuts have created a sense of doom around the sector. Doom and gloom are not the best way to lead organisations so I wanted to use my speech to today's ACEVO annual conference to point to the sunny side of the road.

It's always a great occasion when we have our national get together. This year we decided on a different approach to the Conference; rather than having the usual line up of politicians we have gone for using our own Leaders and on expanding a range of workshops and seminars rather than the set piece plenary sessions. And time for networking obviously!

If I may be indulged, this is a precis of the key points from my speech to the largest gathering of the year for third sector leaders,

I used the theme of, "Leadership- a bridge over troubled waters". Oldies like me will remember that wonderful Simon and Garfunkel song. And no-one would say we are not in troubled waters. CEOs have to use their leadership to bridge the troubled times and bring us safely to Jordan's shore.

I said:

*While sector leaders face "turbulent and tough times ahead", the opportunities for the sector to deliver more public services could see it increase its income in key areas by up to £2 billion.

*We should be in no doubt that the coming years will hurt for many of our beneficiaries and many of our organisations. Some will go under, many more will contract.

*But there are opportunities amidst the gloom. Opportunities for our organisations to do more, to deliver better services for our beneficiaries, and to do so despite the contraction in State spending.

*Taking just those areas the Government said in the Spending Review that it would consider setting proportions to be outsourced and two public service areas where the Government has been equally clear it sees a significantly expanded role for the sector – offender rehabilitation and public health - ACEVO estimates the sector's income could grow by up to £2 billion a year by 2015, despite the contraction in overall spending.

*Another example; community health services, where the NHS spends £7 billion a year, of which only around 7% goes to the third sector; or services for offenders, where the Government spends £3.5 billion a year, of which less than 5% goes to the third sector.

*These are areas where the potential of our sector is almost entirely untapped. If the Government translates its words into action, we will see significant expansion of the third sector's role in these areas.

*What do we want from Government? We need them to be more transparent on what they commission from the third sector and to collect relevant data so that it is able to monitor the degree to which it has been successful in opening up services to third sector providers.

*If the Government is serious about this agenda, it will need to measure and monitor the proportions of services delivered by the third sector. Otherwise it will be shaping Government policy and spending public money in the dark.

So I conclude on the need to be hard-headed about the years ahead. There is no getting away from the fact that the cuts will hurt, hitting many of our organisations and our beneficiaries hard. But we must not be blinded to what opportunities there are by the bad news that there certainly will be. We need to see those opportunities and seize them.

*And that is why Leadership is so crucial for our sector CEOs. We point the way ahead. Whilst we warn of danger we are optimistic for the future and we set the that tone for our staff, our volunteers and supporters and, most of all, for our beneficiaries.

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