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.....

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