Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Back to work: a growing acevo and meetings at Number 10

Spent Easter in Malta; where Easter is done with Catholic abandonment. A two hour Stations of the Cross for a start and an exuberant Good Friday procession where the statues come complete with velvet robes and wigs. Not to mention the hooded penitents dragging chains on Easter Day. I went to Pontifical High Mass in the Cathedral Church of the Sovereign Order of the Knights of St John. And then to Easter Communion at the Anglican Cathedral. Nice to see the mothers’ union selling jam and marmalade in the crypt afterwards. It was a great treat. And a spiritual uplift too.

Malta is a splendid place. The southern Mediterranean with English characteristics, such as punctuality! A relaxing time before getting back into the work fray.

Whilst here I have been keeping in touch. My trusty blackberry lets me know the news - like an email from Simon Hebditch to tell me he is resigning form Capacity Builders. A shame. He has had to put up with a lot of hassle and indeed, bullying from vested interests. But he tackled the dreaded hydra of the Hubs, this has been an inglorious episode in the history of the sector. A large sum of public money put towards building the sector's capacity and too much wasted in bureaucracy, consultancy and endless meetings.

Acevo argued from the start this was a doomed approach. We wanted an equivalent of the very successful improvement agency of local government. And after four years of patchy and sometimes less than satisfactory work we have finally got to an approach that might work. Good luck to the next CEO.

We have been recruiting new staff and our new FD started this week. He will be good even if he is challenging to a CEO who is high on vision. We all need challenging FDs to keep us on the straight and narrow

And soon we will have our new acevo North Director starting; Jenny Berry will be a star. We have taken the plunge with establishing acevo North. I have been keen on this for years as I have always felt that we suffer from a certain London centrism. We are establishing an office in Leeds and will build up our membership and events and lobbying. It’s an exciting development. And for me shows acevo again at the forefront of real advance in our sector. This is action not platitude. Less talk about the importance of regionalism and devolution -acevo gets on and puts it into practise.

I have always felt that recruiting a really talented team is crucial to your success as a CEO. And if you have talent you must give them space to perform and to grow. So delegate and support. I think acevo is known for the energy and talent of the team. One danger of having a strong personality is that your organisation can become too identified with you. So it is important to let others develop, to speak for the organisation and take initiatives themselves.

And it was good that whilst in Malta my deputy Dr Peter Kyle dealt with some of the flack from DfID after I had the temerity to tell them off for daring to offer a development fund which prohibited lobbying. I think they were taken aback at my trenchant criticism. (Perhaps saying they were "anally retentive" might have been a jibe too far? Though a sense of humour is always worthwhile even in government I think) My view is that you work closely with government. You praise where it is due. You give thanks for good deeds. You engineer change on behalf of your members through this. But when they do something daft you give them a quick kick where it hurts. "Pour encourager les autres" as was said when they hung Admiral Byng for incompetence.

Flying back on Easter Monday - I get back to do no less than 2 meetings at No 10. In fact acevo has given the Tuesday of Easter week off to staff to show appreciation of the brilliant work they have done in making our 20th anniversary year so successful and in winning all our tenders. But the Boss must work - though somehow meetings at No 10 don't seem such a drag to do on a day off!! One of them is about the third sector/trade union report we are to launch in April. It will be held in No 10 and with a star cast. It’s a great report, authored by Nita Clarke. Watch this space for more on this!!

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