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....

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