Wednesday 30 April 2008

bloggjng and debunking journos

bosses who blog.....there is a great piece by Patrick Butler in today's Society tackling this issue. It was flattering to see me described as an enthusiastic blogger.And also amusing to see that there are some sector chief executives who consider the obligations of confidentiality and impartiality do not allow them to blog. .On that basis you'd never write an email. Come on guys , get real and lets see you blogging.And as for the comment that some charity managers worry that blogging is too egotistical need to get out more. " it privileges the voice of the chief executive at the expense of the organisation's collective voice, " so they argue. Just wait till they become CEOs and they will soon change their tune.And this prissy comment merely illustrates a failure to understand how the leadership role of a CEO must be used. We are running charities to make a noise, get attention ,drive change and influence; you use every trick in the book . And that includes exploiting the value of a CEO and their ego. We are not running a get a grip you " charity managers " ( or alternatively pursue a career as a missionary or a monk)
And I open up my copy of the in house magazine " Third Sector " to see a profile of me which also talks about my blog ; where John Plummer the journalist suggests it " shamelessly name drops, chastises and amuses " Well I certainly hope so...
And talking of monasteries I see that Nick Seddon , the journalist who I chastised recently has been at it again.
He apparently thinks that all the bosses of the top charities form a champagne quaffing elite whose views are only of "incidental interest " or even " objects of scorn" .So Martin Narey and Clare Tickell , whose views dramatically influence governments on child care , Jo Williams and Bryan Dutton , who have played a major role in shaping the disabiltiy agenda , Mary Marsh and Elizabeth Hoodless , Tom Flood and Kate Allen ,Bob Reitemeir and Bridget Warr , John Low and Joyce Mosley...the heroes of our sector to name but a few; are dismissed out of hand by Mr Seddon because they run large charities.Well if I was one of the many thousands who have been clients or supporters of those charities Id say your pretty insulting.. Thank God for these people and these wonderful charities.

This knee jerk ,lets have a go at large charities makes my blood boil .
I'm having lunch with Mr Seddon soon . But he gets no champagne and while I eat the turbot he will have toast ( burnt )

Monday 28 April 2008

Rogation, Bristol and Diabetes uk

So while you were all lounging about in bed on Sunday morning I was pulling on my boots to go out on an 11 mile walk.Yesterday was Rogation Sunday-the Sunday on which the boundaries of Parishes are "beaten " , a tradition that has been carried on since medieval times .So early morning I joined a bunch of folk from my village to beat the bounds of the parish of Charlbury. At one time they would bump choir boys on prominent boundary marks , or role them in briars and ditches or even throw them into ponds to ensure people did not forget where the boundaries are . A practice that is not now common , at least in Oxfordshire. As well as beating the bounds , this is also the time for prayer to ensure a fair crop.
One advantage of our walk on Sunday was that we were trekking over land that is normally not open to walkers. I'm afraid I only managed to get as far as lunch at the Ditchley model farm ; where I found the allure of my blackberry and a chair in the garden a little more compelling than another 5 miles trekking! And not having any choir boys to bump dampens ones enthusiasm I suspect!
Today was the 4th of our Future Builders open meetings , this time in Bristol. We are getting great feedback from the many people attending. Our message about reforming the processes to make them customer focused and ensuring effective and timely investment decisions is going down well. But even though we are only 3 weeks into the contract we hear the siren calls that speed means dodgy debts. I'm not sure a process that took , on average 5 months , if you were lucky , and with an overall strike rate, for all applications , of 7% is something that the sector should be shouting about ? We have to do better . And we are working with our staff and with our customers to make real improvements. I know from my acevo members that there is nothing that pisses off your average CEO more than time and effort put into applications , waiting months and then being told NO.
Part of our new FBE contract is a KPI on customer satisfaction so we will be judged on how we are doing by our clients in the sector. This is as it should be.We hope all parts of the sector will work with us to help drive change that benefits the sector.The series of meetings have been great and I have written to my colleagues in NCVO , the Institute of Fundraising, CFDG and NAVCA suggesting we join hands in running another series between us so we get maxi mun coverage.
Sunday evening also gave me a salutary reminder of what the core of the acevo CEO job is all about . I had an email from a member in some distress. They have been battling with a seriously bad Board of trustees , and he related a sad and sorry tale of fraud and bad practice . he is now out of a job. he wants my help , which he will get. One of the real advantages of a professional body dedicated to the CEO is that we can support our members in distress. I'm not sure what we can do to help here but I always regard this as something I tackle myself.
Over the years I have had a range of similar such calls and I always try to do what I can .By supporting a CEO we do what we can to improve the overall health of the sector's governance. I remember once being taken to task for daring to say that the sector is complacent on governance. If only people could see the stories of bad governance I see. It is one of the reasons acevo has developed a suite of services to support CEOs and their trustees . In particular we have launched a governance review service that we have been rolling out across sector organisations. My rather splendid Head of Policy Seb Elsworth is leading this with great success.
In the post today was my induction pack from Diabetes UK. i have joined the organisation , led by their acevo member CEO . When I joined I promised him I would be no trouble! The pack was great . This is just one of the real values of the third sector; an organisation that brings together people who have this particular chronic condition ; to provide mutual support and to campaign for effective treatments and research. When our health service is dominated by the interests of those who run the illness service we lack effective health education , preventative services ,adequate screening and healthy living advice and support.
But lest I be thought to be critical of the NHS it was instructive to hear a programme on radio 4 about the 60th anniversary of the service and the inspiration that Nye Bevan drew from the work of the Medical Aid Society, a third sector organisation that existed to provide free medical help based on need not ability to pay.In the arguments about third sector service delivery it is a pity many in the sector ,with somewhat short historical memories, forget our sector has been providing health services to the people of this country for over 1000 years.

Saturday 26 April 2008

Friday lunchtime is one of acevo's learning with leaders lunches. We have Campbell Robb of the OTS to speak. the Office of the Third Sector is a major innovation by this Government. When myself and acevo Board members met with Tony Blair 2 years ago we argued strongly that the Government needed to have a unit at the centre of Government responsible for a holistic government approach to the sector. he agreed with this and so set up the OTS in the Cabinet office. So sector affairs moved from the dungeons of the Home Office , where no one paid them much attention , to the centre of Government. And the real bonus was that Tony appointed Ed Miliband as the very first Third Sector Minister. A real force for good , Ed is one of the most impressive politician i have known for many a year. He cares passionately about our sector and we remain in touch on key issues. The OTS and a third sector minister is the first such office in any Government worldwide. When we criticise governments we must always remember to give credit where it is due....which brings me to the subject of Nick Seddon .He is a columnist with the Third Sector magazine...appearing on the same page as dear Mr Knight on whom I commented recently. Nick is a grand chap.A good journalist . A bright and engaging guy. But his journalism sometimes takes wing and arrives at very odd places. He has launched a full frontal attack on the Government and the OTS. Its a barmy piece.And there will be a response to it in the next issue.
What particularly gets my goat is the absurd comments he makes on the award of the FutureBuilders contract to the Adventure Capital Fund ( which I chair ).
Some of the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the award of the contract to ACF is truly pathetic. The tender process was rigorous and fair. It was independently validated. The ACF won it clearly.And if the best bid wins then the sector wins . What is Nick suggesting , that they should have given the tender to the loser? Or is he saying the process is corrupt? And if so what evidence? This wallowing around in the gutter of despair is short sighted.
It has been argued that the PastBuilders record should have been taken into account. On this basis of course it is hard to imagine how you could run a sensible other words lets not bother to check out if there are organisations who might do a better job.And frankly this is a double edged sword . Was the record a good one?

At a recent acevo conference one of the speakers was saying that when they loose a tender they spend a day going back over the bid and working out where they went wrong so they can improve for the future. What they don't do is sit around in a huddle bemoaning their fate ,assuming there was nothing wrong and it was all a conspiracy . As a sector we need to be professional about this. Good tendering results in better services for those to whom we deliver. Lets get a grip shall we.Pity Nick dint check this out before assuming its all hell in a hand cart.

But to lighter matters. i was at Covent Garden on Wednesday to see a new ballet. I take a seat 9 in the cheap bit of the stalls ! ) to be warmly greeted by the guy next to me " hello Stephen , you don't know me but I'm an acevo member." And it turns out I am sitting next to the CEO of the Association of British Orchestras. It is a great strength of acevo that we are broad third sector , and have a strong membership in particular amongst professional associations. They join because of the comradeship of an organisation and network of CEOs. Underneath all the very active representational work we do is the underlying support we give for the professional and leadership development of the sector's CEOs. its vital work ...for example 2 years ago we produced a guide to benchmarking for professional bodies.We think the first time it was done across the third sector. And then on Thursday i get a phone call from the soon to be appointed CEO of the Institute of Learning , another professional body . She is joining us too .

I'm now sitting in my lovely village Library and conscious that the Might and Majesty of the Charity commission is weighing on my shoulder. A bizarre article in Third sector reveals that I have not had permission to start my blog . I am going to have to admit to other offences. I did not ask for permission to get a blackberry or to start texting. I guess Andrew Hind will now be closely perusing my blog to see whether I am promoting charitable benefit . Will I have to stop telling you about my father's birthday , or trips to the ballet ? I think we should be told . Now its time for a pint of fine Hook Norton ale in my local village pub.....

Thursday 24 April 2008

europe, trains and up north

A Europe of peoples , not institutions...i made this point at our recent euclid conference in Budapest. And on Monday Stuart Etherington made the same point when he spoke at a conference organised in the FCO to look at the role of civil society in the EU. He made a powerful plea for the sector to recognise the major advances in the Reform Treaty for civil society and for our third sector institutions .He said the way forward has to be by the EU involving its citizens in the development and policy making of Europe. This has to be right . And we must ensure that euclid , ncvo and other third sector bodies here in the UK lead this debate.

But Tuesday is a day off. It's my sister Sara's birthday and we are taking my parents and my other sister Lucy down to Kent -where my father is to spend the day driving a steam train . As you do when you are 80 .....
The train is at Tenterden and so the rest of us find an agreeable restaurant and sit in the sun with a fine Pinot Grigio , admiring the glorious Church Tower. I'm gently dozing off when my blackberry goes off...its Joyce Mosley telling me that they will be announcing the merger of Rainer and Crime Concern , with her as CEO. Great news .Joyce is a good CEO. And obviously an active acevo member....difficult to think of how you can be a great CEO if you do not also belong to your professional body - n'est pas ?

And to continue the bibulous theme we go off to visit the vineyards of Chapel Down. A great English wine. And a great champagne....nothing too good for the workers , as Nye Bevan would say. Father greatly enjoys his steam train. And my sister drives me back to Brixton , though via a truly marvellous village church in the middle of the Kent countryside where all of the stained glass windows are by Marc Chagall. Its stupendous , and a truly magnificent moment of calm and reflection .

But now it is Thursday and I'm back from the very successful acevo north conference in Manchester. A good turnout but an impressive line up of speakers talking about the importance of strategic planning for sector CEOs .Patrick Diamond who is the Director of strategy for the Equalities Commission speaks of the iniquities of commissioning based only on an auditors approach and which misses the social impact of tendering. He talks of the vital role the sector must play in achieving true diversity in our country. He has to be right. Our role in achieving social cohesion , giving voice to the voiceless and delivering citizen focused services is crucial and yet often overlooked by policy makers and those in government.And one speaker makes a very pertinent point...." as we get older we realise all we need is a circular wardrobe."

The Conference is Jenny Berry's debut as acevo north director.She is fantastic .Full of enthusiasm and energy and no nonsense about putting acevo north on the map . There is a great buzz amongst the members . They have been arguing that too much of what we do in the sector is London centric. Now we can start to put that right; Jenny will make her mark...and on the national scene as well as the North. She is a great asset to acevo and to the sector as a whole....

Sunday 20 April 2008

reaching 80

Reaching 80....its a proud milestone and one my father reached on Saturday. So my borther and my 2 sisters held a party for him and my mother in the church hall in their village of Orsett in Essex. Lots of friends from Kent where I grew up as a kid in a village on the North Downs which has now been gobbled up in the urban sprawl of the Medway Towns but was a great place to roam when i was a kid. My father was a Headteacher , and you can still tell!
\one of his friends told me he had been at a meeting to hear Nye Bevan , back in ther 40s. Now that is a name to conjure with , though unknown to anyone outside the ranks of old labour these days .A mesmeric orator. The founder of the NHS. And a devoted drinker of Bollinger ( nothing is too good for the workers ) No wonder i rahter liked him.
And another of my father's friends , who is now 95 was saying how good Gordon Brown was and how he was clealry governing for the future and how bad it is that politics is dominated by the transient demands of today or tomorrow .

A rather fun time and the champagne was flowing . Im not sure the sugar content is entirely compatible with diabetes but lifes too short to worry about that.

Friday 18 April 2008

Budapest and Battles

The Hotel Gellert in Budapest is a marvellous art deco building ,elegant and slightly faded but with a wonderfull thermal spring turkish bath . I was there at 7am this morning soaking away the champagne of last night. It is a Euclid Board meeting and a euclid conference. euclid is the European third sector leaders network. We set this up with partners in France and Sweden , and although only a year old is getting noticed. So last nights reception had a delegation from the European Commission and even Prince Hapsburg . The CEO of the big Hungarian bank CIB is our partner and I met the charming CEO .. Intesa SanPaulo is also supporting us , and its one of Europe's biggest banks. About 200 people are here from across Europe. Our key mission is the leadership development of sector leaders. So often organisations seek money for projects but fail to ask for money to develop their leaders .So our message is that without strong leadership organisations fail. euclid is unique in that it is a people based , not organisation based project. A Europe of people not institutions '
Yesterday I had tea with Her Britannic Majesty's Ambassador. Always good to get a run down on the political and social context of the country.An urbane and charming chap , as British Ambassadors usually are !
The acevo and euclid staff are real stars. i am somewhat intolerant of poor performance and so I have tried to gather around me in acevo a bunch of talented and enthusiastic staff . There are some real stars. It is the reason acevo can out perform and achieve.Indeed its a comment you often hear about acevo - We have a very dynamic team .I1m lucky , as I could not achieve what I do without them. talent is key. Never put up with second best in your staff.

And in the background we are fighting a number of battles.The Ministry of Justice are trying to wiggle out of their commitment to drive up the service delivery role for third sector bodies .acevo fought hard for the offender management bill and we feel betrayed. They seem to want to drop the 10 per cent target as they will not meet it. So no deep philosophical objection to targets , just a wimpish and abject failure to achieve. Officials are beeing weak so acevo has been ramming home the message that you drop targets at your peril . And if you do it is because you have a better plan. So we have swung into action. There have been high level discussions and we think we can get this back on track.We have to. Probation services need an injection of the power and focus of the many brilliant third sector organisations that are in acevo. They are a great lot, committed and passionate about their task.
For me this is a great indication of acevo's strength. As CEOs we might have a short whinge , but then we get stuck in and get things changed. While others moan , acevo sorts stuff, our motto I think.

And we are also in behind the scenes discussion on the debacle on the DCLG strategic partnerships strategy. This needs sorting .It will be .Hazel Blears is a good Minister. Strong and deeply committed to the sector and our values. I'm a great fan. So I will work with her to sort something better.

And let me leave you on a lighter note. Do you read a Mr Knight in Third Sector each week . He authors a column which gives us his views on the meetings he has been too, books he has read and even conversations with taxi drivers. Recently he wrote on blogging. For Mr Knight this is only for the most serious discussions . No humour allowed. He berates my blog , apparently he says no one is interested in reading about whether I get a dog or the fact I went to No 10 to talk about the trade unions. Lighten up Mr Knight . I do so hope there will always be scope for irony and self deprecating humour , as I was saying to Prince Hapsburg only last night.

Indeed I understand my blog is favoured reading with FBE staff and at Regents Wharf ( only last Monday one of my staff was taken to task for a comment I had made in my blog ) and ,amazingly it was followed up with instructions from Regents Wharf on what we should put on our website. The power of the blog.

I have to leave the conference in Budapest early . I'm back to London tonight as my father is having his 80th birthday party tomorrow. Hope I live that long!

Saturday 12 April 2008

Points North

I'm sitting in the small but rather lovely library in our village -Charlbury. Just returned from points north ; undertaking a regional roadshow " taking FutureBuilders forward ". We started in Birmingham and swept through Manchester, Leeds , and finally Newcastle. Since working for the Association of metropolitan Authorities i have retained a strong affection for the great metroploitan cities of the North ; the grand and confident Victorian architecture redolent of Empire and Commerce and civic pride. And today these are cities that have found a new role. my hotel in Newcastle look out over the brilliant engineering masterpiece of the grand Tyne Bridge and now also the new stream line pedestrian bridge leading to the restored Baltic Mills and the wonderful egg like concert hall in Gateshead.
As i remind the folks at the Newcastle road show my Great Grandfather William Daglish was born in Newcastle.( later my father reminds me my grandmother Anne Daglish was also born there , but William , a ship builder left with his young family to work in the Chatham dockyard and so i cam eventually to be born in Kent , the most gorgeous of English counties.
The roadshow are a great success.we outline our vision of change.What is hugely popular is the promise to cut the bureaucracy and move to a 1 week no or tentative yes and a 6 week definite yes or no for our customers. given the process was 5 months or more previously you can imagine how popular this is.
Will we achieve it? Well one of our 3 KPIs is a customer satisfaction index so we had better !
We also make clear its investment and service delivery On mission . Getting stuff done , as the CEO tells people.
i also meet up with the staff in our Newcastle office and have a good interchange. I think they suspected 2 heads...the issue is that good people got trapped in interminable process. They look keen on change. we will work with them to drive through that change. We are now into deal making .We are not a grant maker and so much of the current process must go into the shredder.
And it is clear a lot of people coming are into just that. It is also fantastic that people have been contributing ideas as well.
We are going to set up a tender ready fund , a fund to help organisations bid for contracts. And we will look at other ways to support building capacity to win contracts. A tool to self assess whether the organisation is ready for more or bigger contracts for example.
next week I'm assesssing the applications of people for new places on the FBE Board. We have attracted a very strong group of candidates , people from the very top investment companies ( and even some well known names ) and good sector CEOs from service delivery backgrounds. Just what we advertised for in fact . Well done to our search company Rockpools and to their partner David Fielding who has led the search .This is going to be one powerful board.I am not a member of the Investment Committee so as to avoid any perception of conflict We need to avoid the situation where on the previous Board the DCEO of ncvo was a member and was fully involved in investment decisions ( though im sure he would have declared any interest with ncvo members organisations ).Although I think this matter can be exaggerated conflicts are often more about perception than actual . We know in the life of public affairs how careful we all must be. We in fact will have delegated powers to a very experienced Investment Panel ( this is another change we have made ) so I will not even see papers. Though obviously the link through my role in acevo as a strong advocate of sector service delivery is a fantastic asset. It means we have a Chair with unrivalled knowledge and experience of the task of FBE. ( he says modestly )

And how good to see that Third Sector magazine have finally got round to publicising what we are planning , as opposed to rolling around in the gutter of despair.A front page story . Great .I'm having breakfast with Stephen Cook on Tuesday so I shall thank him ( though still expect him to pay for breakfast )
And here we can work with Capacity Builders. Already we have made a link with the CB programme on income generation which acevo is running.
It was cool to see that Capacity Builders Board will be discussing links with FBE . taking this forward i'm sure there is scope for a serious development and investment bank for the sector.1 billion pounds. Lets be ambitous for our sector.

And while the tours were on going i was putting the finishing touches to the acevo budget.its not all tour and glitz in a CEO life. Sometimes its the hard slog of the fine detail .acevo is really motoring at present , but that requires a CEO to remain vigilant ( I'm like Gordon brown in this ! )
I have also been putting the finishing touches to an idea to promote a third sector university. This would be the first big idea in the university sector since the OU. And the OU would be a great partner.We are a sector of 1.5ml people and 6 ml volunteers. IT is increasingly the sector of choice for graduates. We are increasing in our professionalism and our strength.
as a chief executive body .We must always be thinking about how we promote our role and our image.The 21st century is the century of the third sector.

And to end a rewarding week we get news in acevo from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office that they have awarded euclid , out third sector european leaders network ( of which I am the Hon Secretary General ) a 150 k grant to undertake leadership development in Eastern Europe , particularly Montenegro , Kosovo and Albania. This is stunning news. It means we will be working with the world's 2 newest countries. It is so clear that emerging democracies need a strong third sector. This will only happen with a developed third sector leadership . We must train and develop the nascent leaders of the sectors in those countries. That will both be a privilege and a challenge.

Saturday 5 April 2008

progressive governance summit

For the last 2 days I have been at a summit on " progressive governance" . This is an event that has been put on by the Policy Network ( an international think tank based in the UK ) for the last 8 years and devoted to the advancement of progressive policies amongst world governments. This year the event consisted of a one day interactive conference and then a Foreign Office sponsored Summit hosted by Gordon Brown and involving 15 heads of government/state on the more progressive side of the wire!

A number of us from the third sector had been invited and so there were various CEOs attending like Oxfam , CAFOD ,Action Aid ,the barrow Cadbury trust and Diane Hayter ( who is chair of the Labour Party but was one of the founders of acevo ).

What was depressing was that in all the discussion on the key issues we face ; how globalisation can be inclusive , how to tackle climate change , poverty and trade and the threats to democracy and accountability , there was little reference to the role that the third sector or civil society organisations must play .

That is apart from me raising this in 2 interventions in both of the plenary sessions.

It was particularly good that the final plenary of the conference on Friday consisted of a panel of Gordon Brown , the new PM of Australia , Kevin Rudd , the PM of New Zealand Helen Clark and the President of Chile.

In fact Gordon brown was the first leader to raise the collective power of NGOs and the growing ranks of such and the need to work with the sector . This gave me the perfect opener for a question to the 4 leaders which was how did they expect to tackle the challenges of the 21st century through government and political party action only and without the active engagement and involvement of the third sector and organisations in civil society : and if they believed that to be necessary what plans did they have to secure engagement.

to be fair to the panel they all tackled the question . Helen Clark talked of the role the third sector plays in a wide range of services and how " proper funding " was essential ( music to acevo ears ! ) .Kevin Rudd talked of the " nascent " power of the sector which was growing and was turbo charged by new technology. The President of Chile said that they ensured that in all policy development and new laws they has extensive talks with stakeholders.

i had a brief word with GB afterwards to say thankyou for ensuring that the role of the sector was put on the agenda , and how that is essential but often overlooked. And i also had a word with Kevin Rudd. They are now developing a Compact in Australia and are talking to the sector about engagement. Last year i had been in Australia and had extensive meetings with sector representatives and also spent a day with the key people in the Labour Party there talking through their manifesto for the sector - i told them that a Compact was essential but that it had to have teeth to tackle failures to observe it and needed to be in legislation .Although I had been talking to the Deputy Leader he clearly knew I had been there and started talking about further developments on service delivery through the sector.

David Miliband also mentioned the sector role in his dinner speech at the evening event. ( good to see Ed Miliband there too - our Minister and champion within the Cabinet.)

The Saturday Summit was less satisfactory in that the discussion was limited to the heads of government and we sat around the room as back fill for the camera shots....we were certainly not to speak !

I'm afraid the role of the sector was largely ignored until Bill Clinton made an impassioned speech about the need to engage the global " NGO community ",. he said it was not possible to tackle the challenge of climate change and poverty without working with that community . This was a very powerful contribution and Gordon Brown , sitting next to him was nodding emphatically.

And afterward Bill Clinton was the only leader there to work the room. I got to speak to him and he was interested in acevo 's work . he mentioned the role of DEC here in bringing charities together ,. he said there was a need for us to work together. A good point . I told him acevo had been instrumental in the setting up of the Italian DEC.!

It was Charles Handy who said that the 21st century would be the century of the third sector. but listening to these leaders it is clear that they think it is governmental action that will secure change, In reality it is difficult to see that in areas like climate change there can be sufficient global consensus without the galvanising of civil society and third sector organisations.

But just as in the UK the Government and opposition have got the message about the sector i believe over the next decade messages from people like me and other NGO Leaders will get this heard more clearly.As Clinton said a more broad based consensus is needed,and that is our job.

Friday 4 April 2008

Bubb on 'Faith & Globalisation'

It was a fascinating evening - I went to listen to Tony Blair give a lecture in Westminster Cathedral about Faith and Globalisation. He talked about his own personal faith, but also the role that faith must play in driving change and shaping values for the good.

It was a fascinating insight into what drove him as a person and how important faith was to him. It was also clear he found it frustrating not to be able to talk about faith when he was PM.

He spoke about the Inter-Faith Foundation he is setting up. One of the core aims is how faiths can promote the Millennium Development Goals; this is an issue that should be central to UK international policy.

I also strongly believe in the importance of faith and it is good that TB is championing this.

I'd been invited as one of Tony's personal guests so was sitting at the front of the Cathedral. I had a great chat with Cherie afterwards. I also met up with Ruth Turner; she worked with TB in No. 10 and was influential in persuading him off the importance of the sector role in public service reform.' She engineered the famous meeting between TB and me and my board when we presented our case for more delivery through the third sector. This discussion led directly to the establishment of the Office of the Third Sector, so she has played a good role or us. We talk about the Foundation and how acevo can help promote its work. We will talk further. And on the way out I bump into Hazel Blears.

But now I'm off to the Progressive Governance Conference being organised by GB and No 10. No less than 15 heads of state will be there. I am the only third sector representative there so I have my job cut out to ensure the role of our sector in driving social and economic change is recognised!!

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Comradeship and Constitutional Reform

I see an article in Third Sector saying Stuart Etherington has come to the view that the Compact needs statutory powers. This is the view acevo has had for years. But I must not crow. Its excellent that we now have the same position, as this is powerful and will ensure we get the government to act. I expect to see it in the manifestos of both the main political parties.

Its always good for the 2 lead sector bodies to be pushing the same issues - and in fact we usually are, though I recognise that does not make good media. More interesting for a Bubb - Etherington battle. The fact that there are not any is too boring a fact. Of course that does not mean there are not differences of emphasis. And why not? We are not a Stalinist sector after all. More trotskite I guess (let a thousand flowers bloom).

And indeed there are still a few of the original Trots around. They had to go somewhere! One emerged in a very odd interview in the Guardian Society just before Easter. A chap called Andy Benson from an organisation set up to campaign against service delivery. (The National Coalition for Independent Action) The fact that this has been the core purpose of charities for hundreds of years has clearly passed them by and they seem to believe that third sector organisations should not be allowed to deliver services. It’s not as though anyone is actually forcing any organisation to deliver services. It’s their choice. But in the world of Mr Benson he feels the need to tell them they can't. Seems somewhat of a contradiction that a body whose name purports to support “independent action” is to campaign to prevent many sector bodies doing just that. Oh well! Takes all sorts as mother would say!

We’ve been expanding our links with peers in the states over the past few weeks. This is at the core of acevo’s internationalist approach and we know that there is so much that our members can benefit from expanding networks overseas. One particular organisation based in Washington DC, the Nonprofit Roundtable has done some great work on the social impact of nonprofits. Do have a look at

We’re looking to develop more sophisticated ways of supporting members in benchmarking their performance with peers in the states. There is huge value in being able to speak with one voice on issues such as these.

I also think there is a case for some constitutional recognition for the third sector. Its an idea that has been promoted by Professor Gerry Stoker at Southampton University, the constitution of the Republic of South Africa has formal recognition for their civil society. I know that this is more difficult without a written constitution but we may well get something like that. Gordon Brown has floated the idea of a Constitution of Rights and Responsibilities so it would be natural to underpin our role as a sector too. An idea. I am going to float that with members soon to see what they think.

The weekend was typically English. An awful day on Saturday up in the Cotswolds. But a glorious sunny Sunday and I went on a long walk up to Ditchley - which is about 5 miles from my cottage in Charlbury. Over the muddy fields. The first shoots of the coming spring now well in evidence. I'm walking a lot more now that I need to be more healthy. And I had to walk off the rather fine white burgundy of lunch. And I was naughty and ate the gorgeous bar of dark chocolate that came free with the Observer. Just because I have diabetes does not mean I am becoming a monk. And it is the octave of Easter so it’s allowed I'm sure.

Of course between the gardening and lunch I've had time for at least 40 emails. Keeps the troops happy. I've ordered more Blackberries for my staff so they can keep up at weekends with the boss's stream of consciousness. A Boss with no ideas is a Boss heading for the scrap heap!

April Fools day was my first in my new role as chair of FBE. So I spent the day in their office in Rathbone Place. It was interesting to see a couple of people I remember from my days at the Lottery Charities Board. It’s good to finally have the reins in our hands so we can drive forward at a pace. Getting investments out into the sector. Being clear on our mission to drive up service delivery by the third sector.

Wednesday is Third Sector magazine day. It’s always interesting to see what they cover. Perhaps they will mark the advent of Adventure Capital Fund taking on FBE with a look forward - talk about our plans. Find out what our vision is for the next 3 years. Not a bit of it. They appear deeply uninterested. Ever since the decision has been made the sector press have been lamenting the loss and uninterested in analysing why they lost and what it was about the ACF bid that made it the winner. There was a thorough and proper tender process. It was externally verified. ACF won it by a clear margin. You would have thought there was interest in the winning formula. Phah! Amazing that we take up the reins and not only is there no coverage about that, but no less than 2 pages on the thoughts of the departed CEO.

But my mood is improving as I head off for a dinner that FBE are holding for senior CEOs in the sector to talk through our vision and to encourage them to think about opportunities for investments.