Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Gaudeamus Igitur : 25 years of sector leadership

Yes. Let's celebrate. 25 years of ACEVO, but more importantly 25 years of the voice for CEO leadership.

This month's issue of " Network" , our ACEVO leadership journal carries a fascinating article by Baroness Hayter who was one of the great 10 who founded acevo ( acenvo then) back in 1987. Read it here.

We have grown. Developed. Undoubtedly now a strong voice for sector Leaders to Government, to business and to our own sector. Now a national presence and a regular in the media promoting our sector leaders.

The core purpose remains as it was then; a network for CEOs to share and to provide mutual support and encouragement and to give collective voice for our sector's leaders.

And in austere times it's good to have a reason to celebrate. In February my chair and I start a series of meetings around the country to review and reflect.

Yesterday was a blockbuster day; starting off with breakfast with the Big Society Network and then onto the Riots Panel enquiry. I listened to a presentation by Gracia McGrath of ChanceUK. A brilliant charity run by a wonderful ACEVO member ( who I have forgiven for stealing one of my treasured staff! ). She talked about their experience of dealing with excluded kids and how damaging it is for kids to be removed from school and education - particularly if this is happening at primary level. She said it was noticeable that 30% of those arrested in the 10-17 age range had been excluded from school. And she pointed out the real lesson. Her programmes cost 4k a year to run but save the country millions.

And then onto chair the Boards of the Social Investment Business and the Adventure Capital Fund. I managed to do that in the alloted 2 hours we have given ourselves to conduct business. I'm a strong believer that meetings that drag over 2 hours lose impact and value. With discipline and firm chairing you can do what you need to do in that time and we always agree up front on what the strategic issues we need to discuss are and then spend proper time doing that, rather than extensive discussion on the minutes or signing bank mandates and the like.

There are those who seem to think there is a linear relationship between time and scrutiny- so a 4 hour meeting must be better than 2 hours. Clear nonsense. A 4 hour meeting has been badly chaired and is less effective because people get tired and irritable.

As chair you need to do 2 things well; ensure effective oversight of the executive ( though not doing their job) and ensuring strategic direction for the business. And last night , despite a packed agenda, we had a great discussion on the future funds and loan schemes we might develop. There was also a discussion on what are charmingly termed C4C ie "cause for concern". That means organisations heading for the buffers and so not paying us back. Crudely speaking. And that may not be their fault but wicked councils withdrawing contracts. The issue for us is how far do we bail out or extend loans. Whilst each case is different and we have an engaged investor approach we have to be rigorous in expecting organisations that take a loan to pay it back cos that's the system. We aint a grant maker! Loans not paid back mean another organisation denied a new loan.

And finally my younger sister Lucy and I are having fun organising our aged parents' Diamond Jubilee. As Mother was born in Union Hall , Ireland we are going over there and will have a gathering of the Limrick clan to celebrate. We are staying at The Castle, Castle Townshend, a beautiful spot in a charming village with many historic anglo- irish links. I'm corresponding with the Townshends and I reckon Anne Cochrane- Townshend , current chatelaine of the Castle is something like my 7th cousin ( the anglo- irish are all related in some way!) My Somerville Great Grandfather x 5 was the Vicar here and our gathering will no doubt be graced by the ghosts of ancestors past.

Much to celebrate. And later our AGM and annual reception in the Commons will reflect on the challenges for leaders that lie ahead...

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