Friday 11 May 2012

Boards, lunches and lectures!

A full on day Thursday! Starting with a press review on the coverage I was getting on “Forgotten Britain”. Good coverage, especially in the Guardian who had also done a lot of work with ACEVO members to get their stories about the increasing problems that beneficiaries are facing. These were stories emerging from the roundtables we have been holding with members to uncover the scandals of Forgotten Britain and our increasingly marginalised communities. It is part of our job as a leadership body to use ACEVO's huge media profile to get attention to member stories. And good on the Guardian for the work they did to highlight the horror stories.
Then straight into my ACEVO Board. A good meeting, though I was a little under par I thought, in response to some of the debates. Good job I have a talented Director's group to back me up. And indeed correct me on occasion, as when I insisted we didn't do all that exit interview stuff, only to be told of course we do. Oh dear. A strong debate on membership recruitment and retention; a challenge in recessionary times. There was strong support for the hard line and massive profile we have achieved on the charity tax fiasco.
A mad dash for me, my Chair and some of my trustees to an ACEVO learning with leader’s lunch. We were very privileged to have Steve Hilton speaking. Steve very rarely does this type of event but I have been able to develop a good relationship with him over the last year. He is a strong supporter of what we do, whatever the stories and views on him.  It's "Chatham House" and I'd love to tell you some of what he said, particularly on hot topics "de jour". But I shan't. I'm discrete after all (that's irony for you). I wish him well in his future work at Stanford and hope we see him back. He had a strong message for us to continue our advocacy for the ideas behind Big Society, like the need for more open public services. I intend to do just that and it was a theme to my evening lecture....
And as always we had a good lunch, courtesy of the wonderful Andrew Barnet who runs the Gulbenkein Foundation and has been a member of ACEVO for ever. His HQ in Hoxton Sq. is very trendy; lots of great art (and indeed some naf abstract stuff) and good of him to support us lunching there. I'm not a puritan on this matter and I believe if we provide a good repast we get good debate.
And then to Deloitte for the ACEVO 25th anniversary lecture. Yesterday I put up the details so you can read and judge for yourself. Worth though, bringing you some of the comments from Sir Nick Young and Baroness Hayter who responded to my comments.
Nick reminded us of what the sector was like back then. He joined the sector 27 years ago from a good and well paid job in the Law. He regrets the move not a jot and spoke of his pride and joy in working in our sector. He said it was absolutely true that back then people did, as a matter of routine, wear woolly jumpers and open toe sandals. He said a mark of the growth of our sector can be seen in the “woolly jumper index". Not one in the audience at all. And back then it was clear we were marginal not central to society and policy development. We are now heard strongly and not in the incoherent way we behaved back then. So he agreed with me that our role now must be to step up to the plate and be prepared to criticise the Government when they damage our beneficiaries.
But he had a strong message for us. Whilst the staffing and leadership of the sector has become so much more professional, our governance arrangements have not moved on. We have modernised our infrastructure but our governance is still in need of professionalising.
Diane Hayter, Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, who today has taken on the front bench role for Labour in the Lords on the Cabinet Office (so including us!). She was one of the founders of ACEVO when she was CEO of Alcohol Concern.
She said back then there was a glory in being amateur. Professionalism was seen as a sell out. Indeed, there was little acceptance of leadership, which was seen as hierarchical and elitist. Back then there were plenty of collectives rather than CEOs.
Strong evidence of the progress we have made in 25 years. So plenty to celebrate and we adjourned for celebratory drinks. Nick is right. It is a joy to be a third sector CEO. I love the ACEVO job. We have a great and wonderful membership (yes sometimes they can be demanding!) who provide ACEVO with the power to argue our case nationally.
I was talking about “Wind in our sails". I had been forbidden to use a rather splendid quote from Dolly Parton by my Policy Director but I used it in debate anyway. “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails." A third sector Leader has that job. Being innovative. Finding different ways to deliver. And sometimes tacking our sails to the prevailing winds and sometimes standing against them!
Home late. Happy.

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