Friday 8 April 2011

Are we up for it?

An interesting lunch with members in Manchester talking about the CEO leadership role. One of our conclusions was on the importance of looking forward and grabbing opportunities.

And then this morning I speak at a breakfast session for the Directors roundtable, a major international leadership development body , which pro bono helps leadership learning. I was speaking with Connie Collingsworth, who is the General Counsel for the Bill and Melinda Foundation.

Both events made we wonder about whether our sector has the strength and capacity to rise to current challenges.

There is no doubt that longer term , when we have struggled through the cuts and austerity our sector will grow. How far it grows is partly a matter for us.

Are we fit for purpose for growth?

# Scale

Some seem to have a problem with this ?
There is no doubt that scale matters in service delivery. The work programme shows that. The lack of Third sector primes is hugely disappointing. But that ought to move us from whinges to action- and that means developing alliances of small and large organisations and consortia to bid.

# Big v Small

Arguments about small is beautiful , big is bad are juvenile and damaging. There are sector bodies like Locality that know the strength of partnership. Is it time that all organisations in our sector looked at this message; is there is a particular role for leadership from national bodies here ?

We have a task ahead of us and need to recognise that our capacity at local level is week. Capacity at national level must also be strengthened but more alliances , rationalisation and merger might strengthen both ? One of the comments I get from local councils and health bodies is that they would like to do more through the sector but face a weak and disparate infrastructure locally, and uncertainties about how to engage with national organisations . Of course this is partly an excuse for their inaction, but is there a hint to us there to get better?

If we are to build a sector capable of massive growth we need to develop those consortia of local and national delivery organisations. That will require existing local infrastrucutre bodies to work with nationals and larger charities. It will mean national organisations looking to local opportunities and partnerships ; and yes closer working of national infrastructure bodies!

We will also have to grow the loan finance systems through social finance and banking reform.

This also will require strong leadership nationally. I do sometimes despair when I read articles like a recent one in Third Sector denouncing loans. Telling organisations not to take loans is unhelpful ,especially when this may be the way to secure a more diverse income stream . Access to capital is the biggest barrier we face to growth.

I suspect that just as the sector will grow dramatically in the long term, so will the infrastructure of our sector at local and national level . Recognising some of its weaknesses is crucial to doing something about it?

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