Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Futurebuilders and vivat bacchus

Future Builders is a 215 m. investment fund set up by the Government to support third sector organisations bidding for public service contracts. The reality of funding for the sector is that it is , as a candidate for our Board put it , "deeply dysfunctional ". Most organisations are cut off from the normal loan funds available to the public and private sectors. That means whenever a third sector body wants to invest they spend all their time fundraising ( and that assumes they are the sort of cause that attracts funding !).
So 3 years ago Future Builder's (FBE ) was set up as a loan fund. (It was a fund championed by the then Chief Secretary of the Treasury , Paul Boateng MP . I was on Lambeth Council with Paul's wife Janet in the 80s. They are both now in South Africa where Paul is the British High Commissioner. And I had a rumbustious dinner with them last year in Cape Town . He is highly amused I am now FBE chair ! )
The FBE fund now gives the chance for the third sector to access capital . A noble experiment. As the Chair I need to help ensure the organisation delivers and grows.That means great governance. And for the last 2 days we have been selecting new trustees. A stunning line up of candidates ; from the very top of the investment and banking industry ; top names from such as Merril Lynch , JP Morgan ,Ambro ,for example , and who are teemed up with well known people from the third sector. My colleague Trustees on the panel are highly amused at the prospect of me chairing a Board of such expertise and experience. I am sorry I cannot yet reveal the names . But I am looking forward to doing just that . We used headhunters , Rockpools and they have really come up trumps for us with the sort of people many CEOs would be giving their right hands for . But we have them!
I report back to the Board of FBE this evening. We have also been reviewing the whole process for how we get investments out the door. We are looking at scrapping application forms . We must remember we are in the investment business and learn from how the commercial and venture capital sector do business . Focused . Efficient . Effective. Customer centred. But delivering a bigger role for third sector service delivery . We have a presentation from Ernst and Young on the re-engineering work they have undertaken .It is great to hear how staff have been heavily involved in the process as it is clear they want to ensure we achieve our mission.

Amusingly I rush straight from the Board which I chair to a dinner at CCLA for acevo chief executives to discuss strategic planning and the job of the CEO.We are producing a guide which we will launch at our Annual Conference. So I change hats in the tube. Just who is responsible for strategic direction? Is it shared ? Is it a Board job , or the CEO. One suggestion is for a survey of all acevo CEOS and Chairs asking them and comparing results!My dinner colleague Nick Aldridge unkindly remarks on how I might fill in my 2 forms and whether the answers would necessarily tally. Cruel . Jackie Ballard makes a forceful contribution on her expereinces from the RSPCA and from the RNID. She stresses the role of the CEO and their need for a "manifesto "about what they want to achieve , and a clear eye on the organisation's vision.

I am abstemious on the wine ( Shock - hold the front page.) but that was because the previous evening I was taken to a Wine Society tasting by the Editor of the Guardian's " Public " magazine ; a brilliant publication for public service managers and tackling some of the key strategic issues that affect the public ( and third ) sectors. David Walker ; for it is he , also regularly writes in Guardian Society . And to continue the Guardian theme ,is the partner of Polly Toynbee , another Guardian columnist and occasional flirter with the Tories . Or rather this may be them flirting with her ? There are 57 wines on offer for tasting . This might well have rendered me unconscious and at the very least made for a less than coherent blog. Some unkind souls might argue it usually is ? We clearly needed to ration , and what better method than the tried and tested capitalist system of Price. So we look at the accompanying order form and work through the most expensive. And exchange high level banter on weighty matters of state and . as the evening progresses , gossip .
I get home to read in The Times that the legendary American winemaker Robert Mondavi has died . His Californian wine estate and his superb wines acquired a huge international following.
His Obituary recalls a favourite toast ;

" Wine has been with us since the beginning of civilisation . It is the temperate , civilised , sacred and romantic mealtime beverage "

May he rest in peace.

1 comment:

alex said...


Did you ever read the e-mail I sent you the other day with a proposal on how one might take out bureaucracy of third sector funders and seekers of cash ?
It would be an option to explore it at a minimum ?
Any chance of a reply ?