Sunday 29 June 2008

Edinburgh , irritating ancestors and Old St Paul

Edinburgh ; " the Athens of the North" as the publicity leaflets put it . I wonder if cities suffer from insecurity complexes? Why would you want to define yourself against some other European city? It's like those northern cities that describe themselves as " the Venice of the North " because they have a few mangy canals. Edinburgh needs no comparison . It is a marvellous City ; vibrant , cultured , feisty and a very joy to behold .

Having spent a day at the RBS international HQ its good to be able to have a weekend relaxing and soaking up the Scottish air ( and drizzle ) . The RBS HQ is a joy . Set in acre after acre of glorious Scottish countryside . The lawns are manicured to perfection . So much so that when I saw 3 errant leaves I felt sorry for them . In our 21 st century it is only the Dukes of Commerce that can afford this level of luxury when the real Scottish Aristocracy are opening up their attics to flog off the last remaining dusty heirlooms. Not that I am complaining as I size up the conference venue for a forthcoming acevo international conference.

I am staying at the New Club in Edinburgh ; a veritable institution to the crusty old Scottish Establishment .It's position on Princes St is unrivalled. My room has a glorious vista of the Castle. And the swimming pool enables me to swim off the excess of a good claret. I had intended to devote Saturday to the glorious artistic heritage of this wonderful city , but I discovered the June sales in full swing .I was distracted into Harvey Nicks in St Andrews Sq . Half price D+G and Paul Smith . In the end I find myself tempted by a beautiful Italian summer suit . A bargain . Now I realise shopping in Harvey Nicks is probably incompatible with a passion for social justice ( Mr Prog Manager where are you - no comments for a week ; come on now ) but I'm enjoying myself.

And then it is back to culture. I go to visit HMY Britannia .What a splendid sight . But moored next to Debenhams it somehow feels it has lost some of the magic. I last saw Britannia when I was in Hong Kong for the Handover . My banker cousin and family were leaving their brilliant house atop Victoria Peak and coming home in advance of the Chinese .Ii wanted to be there to see the historic end . So I watched Britannia sail away with the last Governor and Prince Charles .The previous day I had been at the last Communion service in the chapel in the Prince of Wales Barracks and went with the Priest to take the communion plate to a Chinese Anglican parish . But I digress.

The evening was at the Opera. The Scotish Opera were preforming Falstaff , Verdi's last Opera . It was great , though I could not help feeling envious of Stuart Etherington at Don Carlo at the ROH. I did not bother to text him to say I was at Falstaff , even in Edinburgh ! From the Opera I meet up with my Deputy ,Dr Kyle and partner and we go off in search of entertainment . Which we find Photo evidence will shortly appear .

Sunday is the feast day of Ss Peter and Paul and I go to Mass at the lovely church of Old St Paul's just off the Royal Mile. It was founded when the Bishop of Edinburgh, Alexander Rose was thrown out of his Cathedral of St Giles by the wretched John Knox and the dour pressbies in 1689. The Episcopalians remained loyal to their Sovereign Stewart Kings and the congregation of St Paul's played heroic roles in the risings against the Hanoverian.

In 1692 the Presbyterian religion took over and there was great persecution of the Episcopal Church . In that year my Great Grandfather x 6 , The Rev William Somerville was ejected from his living in the Scottish town of Carnforth in Galloway .William was the great grandson of the 6th Baron Somerville , one of the ancient Scottish families who fought for their Stewart kinsmen . He refused to abjure his oath to his Sovereign and was forced from the country .He took his wife and 2 sons and daughter to Ireland where he continued his Ministry . His son Thomas Somerville , my Great Grandfather x 5 was to become the Vicar of Union Hall where many years later my mother was born and baptised in the lovely Church of Ireland Parish Church there.

So I feel at home in Old St Paul's . The Mass for their title day is High Pomp .
Procession in streets , clouds of incense, choral Mass to setting by Herbert Howells and a sermon by the former Bishop of Edinburgh and Primus , Richard Holloway .It's a splendid sermon . He talks of St Paul as a , " driven and deeply irritating man " . I think now that's a leadership model to which I aspire. I suspect my ancestor William was like that . Refusing to kow tow to the Presbyterians and suffering for his principles. But he was probably driven and deeply irritating. Perhaps you inherit the irritating gene? I wonder what my staff think ? So I pray for my Somerville forebears who must have heard of the setting up of Old St Paul's back in 1689 .

Then as it is a Feast Day it is only right and proper to celebrate with a glass of champagne in the unusual Scottish sun sitting along George St before heading for the plane. Somehow I know the Presbyterians would not approve.

Friday 27 June 2008

Bad " Times " , the NHS and Edinburgh

On my way to Edinburgh, where I have a meeting with Royal Bank of Scotland at their brand new HQ. RBS are strategic partners with acevo and they have been great supporters. We are in discussion on developing leadership support across the third and private sectors.

I'm a great believer in learning across borders, whether that is the artificial borders that are thought to exist between leadership in our sector and commerce or whether across national borders.

Sometimes people in commerce think that those poor lot in charities need lessons in leadership, as we are sweet but clueless. In fact I find that we can often give them a lesson or 10 in how to motivate staff and volunteers , how to manage multiple stake holders and work with governments and in politics. They in turn can help us develop business process and help us build capacity.

Yesterday evening turned out to be fun! I was about to leave for the Gym. Early as it happens. so I could get home for the Archers. Then we get a call from No 10 saying they want to brief me on the forthcoming Darzai Report (to be launched on Monday).

Darzai has been looking at reform of the NHS. I had arranged a private dinner for some of our top health CEO members with the key No 10 advisor on health so he could hear views from the sector. It was a great evening with people like Victor Adebowale Telling them how it is on the ground. A key issue they rammed home time and again was how problematic it was to expand service delivery when we just can't pay public sector pensions

So I was delighted that when I finally got the call I was told a key recommendation the Government will accept is on pensions

The proposals are radical. They envisage PCTs handing over much of the delivery to third sector organisations. Staff in PCT delivery will have the right to set up independently as third sector bodies. And if staff transfer from the NHS they will remain in the NHS pension scheme. PCTs will be the commissioners of services but not bogged down in delivery which is so often better provided in our sector.

Apparently GB has been telling the press that he thinks we have not yet realised the full potential of the sector. They also envisage a bigger role for us in prevention and support for long term chronic conditions. They want to extend individual budgets and personalised serves and choice. If they carry a third of it through its a radical programme. But will the rhetoric be matched by reality.? Will the state establishment, so good at crushing reform move in to stifle change? Will the entrenched health professionals, the reactionary BMA try and stifle this ?

I am pleased as I have long advocated a major move of service delivery into our sector. I have hassled and cajoled government - with Blair and then Brown. I believe that in health we have much to offer. More than the private sector who do not carry public confidence or have our links. With patients and citizens.

So I quickly prepare An email of breaking news for my members and go home.

The Times carried a story on Tuesday that suggested my friend James Purnell was going to hand over large welfare to work contracts to the private sector. They completely ignored the fact that he has set up a task force to look at expanding the third sector's role. So a correction is clearly needed. I prepare an erudite and informative letter to the Editor. It goes off and for 2 days I have been waiting for it to appear. But no such luck. The Times has so clearly deteriorated in quality. The letters page was once a source of informed opinion. Its now gone downhill. Pop type letters and things you might read in "Hello". Putting right inaccurate reporting or aiming to advance the public policy debate is perhaps no longer their bag? Shame on them.

So I am publishing it here in my blog!!!

27 June 2008

Dear Sir

You report today (25 June) states that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions wants to encourage the private sector to run contracts for employment services. You don't report that he also sees the third sector (charities and social enterprises) playing a much bigger role as well. That was why he and I agreed two weeks ago to establish a taskforce, reporting in January 2009, to look at how the third sector can play an expanded role in providing employment and training to move people from benefits to work. In Australia, around 50% of welfare to work services for the long-term unemployed are provided by the third sector, and there’s no reason why we couldn’t have this level in the UK - which could mean up to £500m of contracts for the sector.

The role of the private sector may well be limited, as only third sector bodies can get to grips with the problems faced by the many on benefits; who face multiple challenges ranging from mental health to disability.

Yours faithfully

Stephen Bubb
Chief Executive

Thursday 26 June 2008

Breakfast with Cherie

Well, it was Sarah Brown last night and Cherie Blair for breakfast. I thought I would not mention the encounter when I was talking to Cherie though.

I also met the new CEO of Cherie's new Foundation; (Connie Jackson) she used to be an acevo member and told me she was digging out her old papers to join again. I give her my card!!

Cherie was speaking at a City Breakfast on 'Women in Business'. I had a good chat before she spoke. Frankly Cherie was one of the few people there I knew. The rest were bloated capitalists (well perhaps less bloated these days). She was pleased when I told her I had been reviewing her book on my blog!

Cherie made a powerful speech arguing we may have more women in senior positions but we do not have equality. She made the point that she believes in appointment on merit but How do you define merit?

One of the keys to equality is work life balance. Oh dear, I thought, I'm not good at this. Indeed I was puzzled this point was being made at a breakfast meeting! But people tend to think work-life balance is only working 9 to 5. Nonsense. Indeed Cherie made the point - she will often work a 12 hour day if she needs to work on a brief at a trial but the key is flexibility. Doing that each and every day would be killing. And she said "I like my sleep". It is absolutely my approach and why I do not resent working on a Sunday or Saturday if I need to. But if I need to be late in or off early I do that too. Acevo certainly does not get short changed overall!!!

And I am glad to say Cherie has agreed to give a lecture for acevo members on diversity. And on diversity acevo has an extremely good record across the piece in its own staffing which is both diverse and hugely talented - making the point that Cherie was arguing. You need a diverse team to prosper as a business. And we do!!

Tuesday 24 June 2008

do you know your full costs? No 11 and america !

Just back from a reception at No11. Held for the great social enterprise " Women like us ". They support women with children back into flexible work . I can't report on the wine as I abstained ( yes , shock ) but the ginger cordial was Delicious. I had an interesting chat with Sarah Brown , who was wearing the most magnificent gold necklace ; I complimented her - she said she was off for a dinner with Nelson Mandela to celebrate his birthday. Lucky her . We were talking about employment initiatives and I told her about the acevo- DWP task force on welfare to work and told her that James Purnell was doing a fantastic job ; to which she replied he is like" a man on a mission "on it. And that is certainly true ,as I told James when he turned up later on .

Earlier that morning acevo had had its first hearing to collect evidence for the task force that James and I have set up . David Freud ( author of the seminal Freud Report ) is the Vice Chair. We had an interesting discussion on the need to find capital to support third sector organisatuiions bid for contracts. We talked about whether bodies like Futurebuilders and the newly proposed Social Investment Bank could be a good source of funding for this. I told him about our ideas for a merged Futurebuilders and a SIB.

There is a worry that the HMT are going cold on the idea . Obviously the Banks must be lobbying hard behind the scenes to stop the unclaimed assets bill from going through. They must be keen to keep hold of the money. I made a note to myself that we must step up pressure on HMT not to back down and to go ahead with the proposed bank.

On this occassion James outdid me on the tie front . His was better and mine was very dull and un bubb like. Though frankly not the most appaling on display . What Alistair Darling thought he was wearing I do not know .

acevo has just launched it's brand new Full Cost Business Planner . This is the culmination of an in depth piece of work in acevo with us using the well known Full Cost Recovery template and expanding and developing it for organisations to plan their wider business .

We launched first with acevo North in Leeds and then in London . both events were sold out and standing room only . Huge interest in the planner . Its heading for the best seller list . Another triumph for us and a tribute in particular to one of my staff Orli Gorenski .

I speak at the launch and disturb those standing at the back by beginning my talk at the year 2000 . They feared I would plough on through the rest of the decade . But I didn't . There was food and drink at the back and I respect the importance of the need to feed Chief Executives .

acevo has seriously changed funding regimes with our campaigning on Full Cost Recovery . It was generous of Gerald Oppenheim , the Big Lottery Fund Policy Director to pay a generous tribute to our work on changing the funding landscape and getting FCR on the political map . The Community Fund ( the predecessor to BLF ) was the first major funder to implement FCR . They helped us change attitudes and have funded work on FCR training . But as I have always said , we both need to change funders policy and to equip third sector bodies to properly calculate their costs. That was why we worked with the fantastic New Philanthropy Capital to develop FCR.

But I remember the early days , the cynicism and the opposition to the acevo work . People who said it was irrelevant . Said it was the wrong model . Or they had a better method . Well they were wrong . As often the case acevo was out there in the lead .At the front pushing boundaries and forcing change . Its what leadership is about . And if you want a copy ;and you should , go to the acevo website and order the guide and the disk .

I am home early and get an email from my nephew Julian , the one at Keble , not Christ Church . He is in the States doing an internship at Dartmouth College , Hanover , New England ( one of the Ivy league colleges ) . An amusing sideways look at America .

As he writes ; " Things are bigger ; people , cars and portions especially .... the only thing that is small is my room and it's a bit grotty . But it does have a nice view- over a graveyard in fact , lest I succumb to delusions of immortality . .. talking of disturbing things , even here in wishy_ washy liberal Hanover , there are big pick up trucks sporting American flags and adorned with slogans like " freedom isn't free" and " support our troops " . This does not seem to be meant ironically . "

My Dean

The former Dean of Christ Church, The Very Rev Prof Henry Chadwick has died. He was Dean in the 70s when my brother Nick and I were reading PPE ( politics , philosophy and economics )
He was noted for the way he seemed to glide into Evensong in the College Chapel, eyes closed as if in deep contemplation. He had a huge brain, a collection of over 20,000 books, and his sermons were to the point, short but thoroughly memorable.

I had a very good piece of advice from The Dean at the end of my second year. It was "Collections", the annual review of your work. This took place in Hall and the Dean and tutors sat at High Table (if you have seen the Harry Potter films you will know that Christ Church Hall is very large and tremendously grand as it was used in those films). You had to walk the entire length of the Hall when your name was called, thus intimidating the hell out of you. You arrived in front of the Dean, peering ominously over the top of a large register in which in those pre computer days your triumphs and misdemeanours were written. On this occasion I had spent most of my year at the Oxford Union or politicking or simply enjoying the delights of a Brideshead type life in Oxford's premier College.

The Dean had a few choice words for me:

" Ah Bubb,

The lights are at amber; whether they turn green or they turn red is a matter for you.

Thank you."

It was somewhat effective. And they turned green. And beats the usual wordy guff you get at most annual appraisals. I have used this myself for errant staff. It is most useful.

And in case you are wondering who the dreamy, romantic youth is at the top of the blog it is indeed me, in 1975 , with my BA .

Sorting your Governance and "The Times"

Gym this morning. I am high on glucose after Rome (can't imagine how that happened) so a good hour doing all those rather ridiculous things you do in the splendid Oasis Gym at Holborn, just round the corner from work. And a day in the office! Remarkable. Spend time hassling staff and doing the post and stuff like that. But a good meeting with Martin Gray who is the guy who has been working with us on the acevo governance review tool.

Effective governance is a vital part of how the third sector operates and is held accountable, and third sector leaders have a responsibility to establish good practice – we exist in an environment where the need for good governance is higher than ever. With an increased role in advocacy, providing public services and ever tighter fundraising conditions, third sector organisations have become responsible to a wider range of stakeholders for multiple objectives. In a recent survey governance ranked in the top three concerns for acevo members, and 70% of acevo members agree that improving governance should be a priority.

Acevo looks to establish good practice across the sector and has developed a Governance Review Service to help CEO’s and chairs review and then improve the governance of their board. The process starts with an initial consultation, is followed by an online assessment, and then culminates in a practical feedback session, providing full anonymous, qualitative and quantitative reports on each assessment. So far 30 acevo members have undergone, or are currently undergoing, the process with their board and senior management teams. We’ve been through the process ourselves here at acevo and found it an invaluable tool.

If you haven’t already, I’d urge you to take a look at what the service could do for you – my Head of Policy,, would be happy to help.

Rosemary Bennett is the Social Affairs Correspondent of The Times. We have an agreeable lunch at Orso, the Wellington Street Italian diner, so I am able to regale Rosemary with my efforts to build the Roman third sector in general and eat for England in particular.

She makes a plea for me to tell my chief executives they need to talk directly to the press and not hide behind their media advisors or press offices. She says she has been used to talking directly to Cabinet Ministers or top City directors and its always puzzled why she can't ever get to speak to an actual charity CEO!

So you CEOs out there - get the message!

We also talk about the NSPCC and the forthcoming recruitment and I mention it is being handled by headhunters (an increasing trend these days). Rockpools, who now lead the field, are responsible for finding the best for this top sector job!

The power of the blog - one of my blog readers suggested I acquire a copy of "Building Jersusalem" by Tristram Hunt, which I have done, and intend reading it in Edinburgh this weekend. Thank you to reader - shows it is worth making comments on my blog!

Monday 23 June 2008

Building Futures , Miriam and the Archers

It was a struggle. Back late into home after a 3 hour delay on my dear BA flight from Rome ( yes , I know you have no sympathy ) .It was fun to discover I am on the same flight as Miriam Margoyles , star of stage and screen . Certainly now famous for her roles in the Harry Potter films. But what you may not know is her other claim to fame is she signed my nomination papers when I stood for election as a Councillor for the Clapham Town ward of Lambeth Council in 1982. She was my seconder as my proposer was non other than the novelist Angela Carter. This was Clapham darlings and only luvvies would do . I remind her of this ( Miriam not Angela who was not on the flight ) though she did not immediately remember this momentous event . It was certainly momentous for me as I got elected and the rest , as they say , is history.

I was chairing a strategic Board away day for Futurebuilders . At least it was only a bus ride away, at the Sofitel Hotel off Trafalgar Square . It is the first time all of the new Board directors have got together . So it is part induction day and part debate on how we drive the organisation forward . I'm not sure what I expected from a day with seriously strong trustees who each have oodles of experience of Chairing Boards and so have views on how it is done .But it was both highly productive and terribly productive . Particularly interesting is a presentation from Ernst and Young on their review of process and proposals for change.

A very clear message emerges of the need for culture change. But also that there are achievements on which to build . One trustee makes an interesting point about the need for balance between the need for change and reform and determining what has worked well before. We are clear we need to cut the bureaucracy and move towards an investment - deal making approach and scrapping application forms . We have committed to a one week indicative yes or a no and a 6 week answer . We know that making organisations go through a 6 month process only to be told NO is not good for them or us . We also have a fascinating discussion on issues like the default rate and interest charges which is led by our new Vice Chair Harriett Baldwin . It is clear from the Ernst and Young work we can make the process clearer and more timely without , as some have tried ti imply , making bad decisions or building up bad debt .

We are joined at lunch time by Campbell Robb , the head of the Office of the Third sector. Campbell is doing a great job leading the OTS. He wants us to succeed and we are clear we have to work closely with the OTS in delivering the contract. And I am clear we will succeed . I do not take on jobs to fail. And we have a focused and strong CEO who will deliver for us . As he says we want to build a real financial powerhouse for the Third Sector. So we will .

One fascinating part of my role as Chair is how different it is from the CEO role. It has to be for good governance . At the recent acevo Chief Executive Summit we heard from an organisation doing mentoring for CEOs that the single most common problem faced by a CEO is a difficult Chair . So I am trying not to be difficult . But a Bubb has always got fairly firm opinions and views . And no-one has ever suggested I'm a shrinking violet . So I am constantly having to tell myself I am only the Chair and it is the CEO running the show. One day perhaps we will be a case study . A case study of good practise I hasten to add.

I'm supposed to go onto the Foreign Press Association for a DfID reception and then to dinner with the talented Mr Fielding . But I don't . I'm knackered . I want to go home so I jump on the 88 bus and I'm back in the flat in Stockwell in a jiffy . Home in time for the Archers. How I love the Archers ( the mystery of the skull ) And as it is Monday it's a double dose of Coronation ST. Yes , you have read right .I rather enjoy Corrie , even if I don't get home for it many nights . It's all very well tripping the light fantastic around parts south but chilling at home and overdosing on soap is a very agreeable change. I water the geraniums and tidy the Olive tree . I have high hopes the olives will produce this year. It takes an olive tree at least 7 years to provide fruit so it is time .

" Dante, and the puzzling missing Pope "

" Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
Mi ritrovai per una strada oscura
Che la diritta via era smaritta"

Dante, as you spotted (and in English: In the midst of my life's path, I found myself in a dark place, having lost my way)

I used the quote in my closing speech in Rome at the launch of leader2leader. In Italian obviously. I was illustrating the need for networks to support and advise third sector leaders.(Yes, I know a little tortured but it is always good to flatter.) The role of a CEO can be a lonely one and often it is the support of fellow CEOs that provide a path through. It is why I suspect we will see more national networks of third sector organisations. And why Euclid will grow.
Anyway the Italians loved the Dante, even if my staff looked mystified! It was a great end to a wonderful day in the Parliament and then, as you would expect, off to a great dinner with our colleagues to celebrate in true Roman style with good food and wine. A typical osteria just off the Piazza Farnesse. It was great to raise a toast to the success of the launch and to wish them well in recruiting leaders from the sector to this new enterprise.

It was fantastic to have a number of compliments on my staff team. Apparently what really impressed the Italians was how young, dynamic and talented they were. They were expecting much older people to be presenting! My team really excelled. Very professional PowerPoints from Elizabeth, Erin, Seb and Pippa and all well delivered.

It is always rather special for a CEO when they see their team performing well and bringing credit to the organisation. But it is true that acevo has got a reputation for a talented bunch. We may be a small team. (Only about 35 of us) but, by goodness, do we punch above our weight.

.... I had pizza at the dinner (as you do). With a fine Frascati which made the subsequent wander round the moon drenched streets and piazzas of Rome even more enchanting. The mighty floodlight Bernini Dome of St Peter's looks magnificent seen from the Tiber in a full moon the majesty of the Roman Church watching over us.

Saturday was a chance to visit some of the places in Rome I have not seen before but with no particular plan and nothing so tedious as a tourist guide I pop in and out of churches: two Michaelangelo statues, St Peter's Chains , a George E Street Church (an architectural gem ), the tomb of Raphael and the 2 Italian Kings and a brilliant Fra Lippi fresco. But was it hot - 37 degrees! I heard that London was in drizzle. Excellent - always so much better to hear about bad weather at home when one is in the sun.

And the evening was at the Giggetto Restaurant in the old Jewish ghetto. Sitting outside in the balmy evening, overlooking the Portico d'Ottavio erected in 146 BC. I was with my partner, my Deputy and his partner, and my Head of Policy and his partner. We were serenaded by a wandering minstrel, and a mark of what a wonderful team we make is that we did not feel the need to talk shop. The food was great; let me just mention the artichokes cooked Jewish style and the lamb. And 2 bottles of Proscecco!

Rather late back at the hotel owing to the need for the youngsters to visit various bars and the Julius Caesar club where I left them partying till the small hours! I went to bed as I'm old and quite haggard enough.

Sunday and still no message from the Pope so my day was spent at the beach and a beautiful fish restaurant. Such a shame then when the BA flight is delayed by 2.5 hours. But I catch up on the Sunday papers. I spot that" the tie is back " (headline in the Sunday Telegraph). Apparently John Lewis report on a 17% rise in tie sales. Workers desperate to smarten up in a recession, as they say! Good.

Friday 20 June 2008

Rome, Castles in the Air

The Italian Parliament. Friday afternoon. I have been speaking at the launch of leader2leader, the brand new italian acevo. I blog to you from Parliament!!

Their vision? " The courage to dream; The network to fulfil it "

We have been working with colleagues in Italy for 3 years to develop this new network. Interestingly they have given it an English title as they felt using Italian would risk associating the new body with one particular faction or another in the complicated and political Italian third sector.

I begin my keynote address with a brave few words in Italian (tutored by our dynamic international director Filippo Addarri who has been with acevo for nearly 4 years ) and I take as my text a quote I used in my lecture at the CASS biz school last year. "If you have built a castle in the air your work need not be lost, that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. " Henry Thoreau

I use this to make the point that in our sector passion is not enough. It must be underpinned by professionalism. We have lots of visionaries. But without effective and efficient organisations ideas go nowhere. It is the core message of acevo. As I said in my lecture we are not the hippy sector any longer. So acevo works to build leadership skills.

Acevo has 7 members of staff here in Rome. (Invited and paid for by our Italian friends) You can imagine how difficult it was to persuade them to come! The sun is shining and the Eternal City is looking at its most beautiful. The Pope has not yet sent a message to me about meeting but I expect one any minute. and you will, of course, be wondering what tie I have. Well, on this occasion its a rather understated Australian number by Jimmy Pike - subtle but elegant and matches the gorgeous Dolce and Gabanna suit. You can hardly turn up at an Italian launch in their Parliament Building in dress down Friday can you!!

So let's have our dreams and the network to fulfil them exists! Acevo. If you are not a member then join. If the Italians see the purpose of a leaders network then so should you, ciao!

Stephen Bubb

Wednesday 18 June 2008

" Not so much a tie , more a work of art "

As I observed to Nick Herbert MP , who is the Tory front bench spokesperson with the Justice portfolio and who was admiring the particularly fine Italian designer tie I was wearing today . Indeed he thought it was not so much art but an "installation " . It was a rather fine line that I used on the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions , who I saw later in the evening and who was comparing his own somewhat dismal offering unfavourably with mine.

I had a meeting at Portcullis House with Nick Herbert to talk about Tory plans on prison and probation . I have not met Nick before and I was extremely impressed . Very bright and perceptive , with a clear vision of how the system has to change to put rehabilitation at the heart of plans to reduce crime . He was clear that the third sector has to play a larger role both in prisons and in working with ex offenders . I like his plans on establishing prison trusts and devolving powers down from national and regional control to the level of the prison and then incentivize Prison Governors on not only how they work on rehabilitating prisoners but also in keeping them from re-offending when they are released.

I liked Nick ; and came away thinking that these proposals can work and that the sector should work with Nick to ensure the commissioning framework to implement these plans works. Acevo will now bring together key members to look at how we can help ensure effective sector engagement . I am afraid that the Government are making a pigs ear of current plans for probation reform . They pushed through a radical new Bill to reform the offender management system and since its passage have simply caved in to the vested interests who oppose any attempt to deliver more services through the third sector . They even had a target of 10% external delivery and this has simply been dropped. Without consultation . And although acevo has protested in the strongest possible terms , nothing is happening . I wrote to Jack Straw asking for a meeting with leading members and he hasn't even bothered to reply. acevo played a big role in getting the NOMS Bill through . Members are left feeling they have been betrayed. So Nick , go for it .

Greg Clark MP, the Tory third sector spokesperson also joined us at the end of the meeting - it is a mark of how seriously the sector is taken now that some of the brightest and best of the Party are engaged with us in looking at how the third sector can play a bigger role in social and economic regeneration .

I then move on to another rising political star ; James Purnell MP, who is giving a speech on welfare reform . I have been so engaged with the Tories that I arrive late and have to stand by the wall ; but I arrive just in time for his reference to the third sector and how we have to be better involved in reform . He spots me and mentions how we both launched the DWP - third sector task force in Nottingham last week . What an entrance . What timing.

But in case you think it's been a lazy day chatting to politicians I have also managed a meeting with my acevo Director's Group and a staff meeting , a reception in the Lords for the Commission on Social Care , lunch with one of my members ; Fiona Blacke , who runs the National Youth Agency ,and a talk to the International Parliamentary Association in Westminster Hall . The later was interesting as I gave a panegyric in praise of civil society , the decline in respect for political process and the growth in our sector.And I was thoroughly shameless ; when a member of the legislature in Australia asked me about their own plans for sector engagement and what my tips were I told her I had been discussing the need for a Compact with Kevin Rudd the Australian Prime Minister who had assured me they were about to introduce one there . I said it needed to have statutory force. Such name dropping is just too delicious. And entirely effective.

To wrap off an interesting day I went off to dinner with Sir Rodney Brooke , who Chairs the Social Care inspectorate and we have an enormously agreeable meal at Bentley's the famous fish restaurant in Piccadilly. I won't describe the menu as I know this will only raise questions about my commitment to social justice , but suffice to say it met the high standards that readers have come to expect of Bubb . And I had earned it .

Tuesday 17 June 2008

Flying Hounds Full of Grace

Now that is an amazing title ; it is the name of the collective of designers and architects who are remodeling the main Arts gallery in Rotterdam , the amazing Boijmans Museum. I'm wondering if it is copyright because it's an incredible name for a third sector organisation . Perhaps a bit too left field for acevo but I would hope we might fit that description?
I was taking a break from the Dutch Civil Society Congress . They had broken for workshops which were all to be in dutch and , I shamefully admit it is not a tongue with which I am greatly familiar.
A gallery of some rare gems interspersed with yards of tedious still life's and bourgeois dutch burghers. I prefer my art with Saints in ecstasy , languorous St Sebastian's and luscious Madonnas. These were in short supply . Though there was a very great double portrait by Oskar Kokoschka ; so good I went back to look 3 times before my duties to the Congress pulled at my sleeve .

A rather fun plane journey back to London City Airport in a small aircraft . Flying low we had a great view on the approach up the Thames Estuary . And back in time for the ncvo annual reception in Portcullis House . Great to see many friends . A good talk with Stuart Etherington . I even got him a replenish of his glass of water . Yes , I repeat , a glass of water . In fact I broke my rule on the consumption of poor quality wine when I discovered the House of Commons Chardonnay was not that unpalatable. Especially when well chilled. Great to have a chat with both Greg Clark and Phil Hope . Consecutively. I wanted a picture of the 2 with me in the middle , but alas ,where are the sector press when you want them ??

But one reflection ; it is very clear that the UK has a much clearer and stronger relationship with Government than any other country I know of . I was talking about the Compact and the work of The Office of the Third Sector and our Minister with the Dutch . Although they have a strong sector , they have nothing like the links we have here. This is something we should be proud of .

Civil Power ; dutch style

That's the title of the Conference ; and a good one too. Increasingly governments are seeing the power of civil society and wanting our buy in . It is the theme of my speech to the Dutch Congress of civil society this morning. But that power has to be underpinned by a professional sector which is well governed and well led , with the capacity and infrastructure to drive change .
The new Dutch Prime Minister m who was due here this morning till he cried off . He has been talking of "the reinvention of civil society ." Rediscovering the role and responsibilities of the citizen and of communities . It is a hugely attractive proposition . It was what also underpinned the speech of Alan Milburn at our recent acevo Summit, You can read his speech by going to our website , by the way :

But there is a danger in this approach . It is not about the withdrawal of the State . The State must remain as the strategic director and the funder of our welfare , health and education provision , even if the sector plays a hugely expanded role. It would be all too easy for this agenda to be a disguise for major cuts in state funding of public services . That is why acevo has been a fierce proponent of Full Cost Recovery in contracts , why we want longer term contracts ; 5 years or more and why commissioning must be fit for purpose and recognise the added value of social and economic gain . And yes , FCR plus too , with the sector able to secure surplus as do the commercial sector , which we reinvest in our social businesses.

euclid ( our European third sector leaders network ) is coming into it's own . The NO vote in Ireland shows just how far divorced the Euro institutions are from European citizens . Does Brussels understand the power of civil society . Hardly. Many of them would barely be able to recognise a great third sector organisation let alone be able to engage seriously with the sector .

The value of international learning has been brought home well by the recent initiative of the Government to send head teachers on a "gap year " working in schools in Africa. The purpose is to aid development but also to widen the skills and experience of the heads. it is being run by the National College for School Leadership . research on this type of scheme has demonstrated the value and that people return more motivated and aware of global issues ,as well as developed learning skills.

I'd like to see more of this happening in our sector . Acevo is working with a number of African countries in supporting the growth of professional leadership bodies for civil society CEOs . there is already a Nigerian acevo ( we supported the training of its chief executive through a commonwealth grant ) and there are proposals for some other countries , like Uganda and Ken ya. I would hope one day we can organise such an exchange programme for sector CEOs to work in African organisations , and , importantly , for African CEOs to work here . Wouldn't that be fantastic?

And for amusement the photo above shows my Director's team outside my cottage for our strategic away day . What stars . What roses. English , not Dutch though !
From left to right ; Dr Kyle , the author , Jenny Berry ( our acevo north director) ,SebElsworth ( our Head of Policy ) Andy Hickey ( our membership Director ) and Richard Williams ( our Finance Director)

Monday 16 June 2008

Its Monday so it's Rotterdam

Early morning and I'm at the Gym. Punishment is good for you . Which will please one "ProgManager " who has left a comment on my Blog admonishing me . He suggests that whilst many in our sector are motivated by a desire for social justice ,I am "eating fillet steak and drinking Continental lager " . An interesting point . I am not sure I follow this argument entirely . Is the act of eating fillet steak incompatible with a desire to further social justice ? Would a cheap rump steak and a warm bitter be OK ?
Or is commitment measured only in misery ? This Calvinist streak to the English character is depressing . You would find such sentiments laughed out of court on the Continent .And rightly so . Look what happened when the Puritans were in charge over here. Beheading our anointed Sovereign , banning Christmas , singing and dancing round the May Pole. I am afraid I do not buy the line that you measure your commitment to the cause by your eating and drinking habits . Or have I missed something? But do feel free to answer me Mr ProgManager . A healthy debate is always excellent . And I enjoy getting comments on my Blog.

After the gym I am in at FutureBuilders. We are looking at the dispositions on our various committees ; audit , remuneration , nominations etc.There is such a pool of talent sharing out the roles is difficult. One tip I would give to anyone looking for trustees or senior staff. Use headhunters. Rockpools did a stunning job for us . David Fielding, their head of Third Sector practise, is a star . A real knowledge of the sector with a sure touch for what will fit . He found us our fantastic CEO , Jonathan Lewis and got us our trustees. He is now handling the appointment of the CEO for NSPCC , following Mary Marsh's departure. Ok , it costs , but it is an investment in getting the right people . Recruit in haste and repent at leisure.

Now I am at Heathrow . En route for Rotterdam where I am giving a key note speech to the annual gathering of the Dutch civil society bodies. I will be talking about professionalism and the need for the sector to grow and expand , both in service delivery and in acting as a voice and campaigner. It is important that we as leaders are open to new ideas , to different approaches and cultures . Leadership learning does not stop at a national border . I'm looking forward to meeting some of the Leaders of Dutch third sector bodies at dinner tonight. There is a strong sector in the Netherlands and they play a strong role in delivering focused services , especially for children and young people . I'll keep off the fillet steak tonight and test them on the connection between drinking Continental lager and social justice !

Sunday 15 June 2008

Depressed Saturday but happy Sunday

The Wood Farm Community Centre . Saturday 9.30 . A Diabetes Clinic for newly diagnosed type 2....a 3 hour romp through the facts and fiction. I did not mind the diet and exercise advice. But when we got on to alcohol it got problematic. I have no issues with the idea of 2 days alcohol free per week . It's the 2-3 units per day . And the powers that be have decreed that more than 6 units is binge drinking . Now forgive me , but presented with a bottle of 1982 or 88 Chateau Lagune , Beychevelle or Lynch -Bages ( on a charity chief executive salary I'm afraid Lafite is out of the question ) I'm hardly going to say oh , sorry , don't pout me another!
However I'm happy to pass on a tip ; one way of obeying the instructions is to cut out the crap . All that industrial strength wine you get served up at receptions. It is almost a duty to say no , I'll have water . Quality , not quantity is the answer.

But the day was fantastically useful . Lots of practical information on what to eat , the labelling on foods and how to ensure effective balance in life styles. invaluable . Frankly it's advice we all need . Why does the health service not spend more time and effort on health promotion ?

What strikes me about the day is the waste of NHS resources. It has taken me a serious amount of time to get the appointment for this session . My Doctor suggested it might be useful ; but after that it was over to me . He was disinterested in whether I attended .And there was no chase up . If I had not persevered I would not have gone . And I really had to hassle to get one laid on for a Saturday . I assume the health service bureaucracy believe we all have jobs ( or none ) where we can give up a day at the drop of a hat . Would it not be so much better to outsource this work to Diabetes UK ? They would ensure a targeted service . They would follow up and ensure attendance. I suggest this would apply equally to the many millions of people who have long term chronic diseases. There are 2.5 million people with Diabetes ,and another 1 million likely to be undiagnosed. Why not hand over the running of the specialist services to the many highly competent and dedicated Third Sector organisations who could provide the type of professional and dedicated service that is needed? Why not let the NHS concentrate on its core competences and make proper use of the specialist health charities. I make this point to David Blunkett MP, who is much taken with the issue and says he will raise it with Gordon .

The session over I walk into Oxford ( the session is in Headington) . I'm feeling guilty about the 2 chocolate souffles I had Friday evening so I reckon a 1.5 hour walk will make amends. And I ring my nephew Alexander to see if he wants lunch . He does . We go to the Bear , the local Christ Church pub. He is getting ready for the Christ Church Commem Ball that evening ; is taking his sister Amy. It's his final day at Christ Church so another chapter in the book closes. But we talk about his prospects and he is already thinking about prep for All Souls . He has had a poetry review published. I tell him to look out for Ralph Michell , my new policy Advocate in acevo . He is due at the Ball ; he went down last year having gained a First and then being persuaded to join acevo where intellect and brilliance are highly valued.

A very fine pint of ale sitting in the sun . Followed by another . Oh dear that's 4 units . And later on in my courtyard at the cottage its a lovely cooling bottle of white Burgundy ; another 3 units. So according to the health professionals I was binge drinking . I await the visit from the local constabulary . Saturday is the anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. I toast our fast vanishing liberties.

Sunday evening and its Islington . Dinner with the charming and vivacious Director of the Gulbenkein Foundation ; swapping gossip about dear sector figures. And plotting an interesting new initiative on service delivery by the sector. We eat in the Albion , a gastro pub of some eminence , just round the corner from the Blair's old house. But times have moved on ; the kingdom of Fife and Kikcaldy is the fashion now , and I suspect a dearth of gastro pubs in GB's constituency . But perhaps as well . I have oysters and toast Stuart Etherington of ncvo doing the same in Whitstable. And another toast for my Chair John Low , who has become a Commander of the British Empire in the Queen's Birthday Honours. Well deserved , for all his work with acevo and previously with RNID.

Friday 13 June 2008

Chief Executives rule OK ?

Our Annual Chief Executive Summit . Our Chief executive members coming together to discuss and to learn . This year we were overbooked. And this year it was an interesting combination of political discussion and learning about leadership developments.

It is a sign of how the sector has grown in influence that we had Greg Clark MP , the Tory third sector spokesman and Alan Milburn MP , the former Health Secretary, talking about their perspectives on the sector . Both gave good presentations . Greg had the first chance to talk to the sector's leaders about plans laid out in their Green Paper launched last week . His comments on the Lottery struck a piratical cord . Acevo has long campaigned for the Lottery to be established as an independent foundation . Freed from the constraints and controls it has as a Government quango. This is exactly what they need to do . Good.

Alan Milburn talked about how power needs to pass from the State to the citizen . How local communities and citizens can control services. He was radical in his approach and talked of a wide reaching extension of individual budgets , for example for the unemployed to control their training budgets . He had recently spent a day with our acevo members in Bradford and told us how inspired he was by their work . He sees a big expansion of the sector , not just in delivering citizen focused services , but in campaigning and advocacy as well . The citizen voice is no longer just articulated by political parties. A far reaching speech and further , I suspect , than Ed would go . But the thrust was spot on . And today's Third Sector email alert is full of his proposals , especially the idea of a Community Empowerment Act ; statutory backing for the Compact and the Commissioner and a settled place for civil society in the Constitution . Acevo strongly backs this.

A range of leaders from our sector and outside had interesting perspectives for us . I liked the story about Helen Keller , the deaf and blind campaigner. She was asked by a journalist ( American ! ) " what is it like to be deaf and blind " . Well . she replied " it is better than being able to see and have no vision ." Her vision of a better future for the blind and deaf led to the establishment of wonderful institutions here and abroad. One of those truly inspiring sector leaders who achieve so much from so little.

Then there was the CEO who said we all need to find time for ideas ....even 10 minutes walk in the park just kicking the leaves . One assumes an activity he does not just in the autumn. And the other CEO who said he has a quiet room for staff to relax in ...and even have a quiet nap if they need it . My deputy CEO , Dr Kyle, thought that a wonderful idea. But not one I shall be following up .

The event was buzzing . The only down side was a report I received of funny goings on in the Rockpools breakout session where they asked how many people read my Blog and only 3 admitted they did . Shameful . But I bet the others are closet readers.

And on the train up to Charlbury ; get a text from Stuart Etherington , recommending Don Carlo at Covent garden which he says is wonderful . I am pissed off , as I tried to get tickets but could not! He is off to Whitstable for the oysters . A fine man Stuart !!

So that was yesterday . Today I had my director's team up at the cottage in Charlbury for a strategic review of where we have got to and how to develop. An enlivening day . My neighbour made lasagne's for lunch . We have an interesting discussion on the role of the CEO. A suggestion on how to channel his energies and on the correct use of emails and to whom . We are even going for Investors in People accreditation I'm told . All very interesting . The roses , especially the climbers along the walls look magnificent . And as they are the old variety ; smell gorgeous. I am lucky to have such talent ( we are talking my Directors rather than the roses ) as they help me drive us forward . I see them off on the train , back to the smoke. And I meet one of my neighbours , running the local Charlbury and Woodstock Labour Party ; she is bemoaning the fact that they have lost their Treasurer. She went off and got married . At 86. Its the invigorating country air you know.

Wednesday 11 June 2008

History in Europe and St Pancras

Just back from Brussels. The first time on the Euro star from St Pancras' station . And what magnificence : the station is the embodiment of the glories of our confident Victorian forebears ; building Empire , pushing boundaries , erecting temples to engineering achievement . And to think some small minded and anally retentive planners thought that this should be pulled down . I pay homage at the statue of John Betjeman who saved St Pancras for the world. And a more earthly homage at the champagne bar.

It was a let down to arrive in the dreary apology for a station in Brussels . But we must not be sniffy . Belgium has only existed since 1830. Not much to it really , though Im sure it was a happening place under the Austro - Hungarians. I arrive for a Euclid Board meeting. Euclid is the new European third sector leaders network that acevo has set up with our partners in France and Sweden . It is based on the simple proposition that leaders need to develop leadership skills and share and support each other , and such support should not stop at hte national boundary . We are at nearly 500 members across 18 countries.

We are having our first Annual General Meeting at the European Parliament. I have been appointed as the founding Secretary - General . We announce the election of the first President Thierry Weishaut from France . This is an historic occassion . A new force for change in Europe. Building a Europe for people , not institutions. Developing the leadership talent of civil society . In my opening address I talk about the early days of acevo some 20 years ago . Small beginnings and when we celebrated our 20th Anniversary we had a reception at No 10 with the Prime Minister lauding the achievements and the role acevo now plays in leading the sector. I suggest that I will be back with euclid for their 20 th anniversary in 2028 to celebrate similar triumphs...( me and my carer that is ! )

We have plans for a range of events and are helping develop leaders in countries in Central Eastern Europe . We have been awarded a contract from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to build leadership in Montenegro , Kosovo and Albania. We are holding conferences in Paris and Slovenia. i have 2 exceptional and talented staff members working on our plans ; the irrepressible and Italian Filippo Addari and the guy who makes sure the detail is sorted , the quiet but impressive Ben Rattenbury. One of my Board members at the event asks me how do I manage to recruit such talent . More importantly, how do I keep them !

So have you joined ? Go to the aecvo website or the euclid website for more details.

But before the Board meeting on Monday evening I have an hour to spare and I go and sit at a cafe in La Grand Place ;the one place in Brussels that makes you feel that Belgium is worthwhile. A cooling beer and coffee , sitting in the sun . I sit and stare . A rare moment of untrammeled peace. No phone calls . Blackberry in my pocket.

And our Board meeting takes place over dinner at a great Brussels restaurant. Belgo Belga. The griddled fillet steak and the Alsace Red makes the pain of a discussion on amendments to our Mem and Arts seem relatively painless. My Chair , John Low is our Board representative and he displays a real flair for pan European discussion ; explaining the nuances of "restricted funding " to a bemused Frenchman .

My major article in " Third Sector " appears today . I am suggesting the sector needs to face the challenge of economic recession and grasp the opportunities of the unprecedented interest in out growing sector. That means we need to consider the advantage of scale. Mergers. Alliances and consortia. I float the idea of a major Social Investment and Development Bank . I suggest the national umbrellas also must embrace change and perhaps develop a " Third Sector House".And in time perhaps we'll have a G7 for the sector ? Those at the top of the sector's senior bodies must be thought leaders .

How will this go down I wonder.?We will see at the acevo Chief Executive Summit tomorrow.

Monday 9 June 2008

Inconvenient Truths

Getting forgetful...the price you pay as you get older I guess ? I was busy blogging about the new members of the FutureBuilders Board and forgot one of the new stars ; Chris Banks , who is the Chair of the LSC ,( the Learning and Skills Council ) the largest of our many quangos . He has a distinguished career in industry , lately as Managing Director of Pepsi UK. His obvious interest in up skilling and capacity building will be a great asset.

Chris Pond , who chairs Capacity Builders , is impressed when I run through my new Board members over lunch at Canary Wharf. We agree there is much more our 2 organisations must do together . i outline my ideas for a Social Incestment and development bank which he likes. I am building a consensus for this approach and it is benig discussed at the very top soon !

Another example of my failing powers was revealed on Saturday when I got a phone call from my nephew Alexander who said was everything OK for lunch Sunday ? Now perhaps the failure to recall my generous offer may have been connected to the imbibing of a tad too much Cotes du Rhone at the Trout last week ? But it was a delight to welcome him ( and his 3 fellow students from Christ Church , which necessitated a quick trip to our wonderful Charlbury co-op ) Alex and his friends are in their last week at Oxford . They have completed their 3 year studies and have taken Schools and next week go down . A serious landmark for them. So I join them at Leavers Evensong at Christ Church , which is also my old Oxford College.

The choir at Christ Church has a huge international standing . The setting of Byrd and the Gibbons anthem are sublime , and can only be sung by a top choir owing to the need for a quantity of counter tenors , a somewhat specialist talent these days . My nephew may be going down from Christ Church but not from Oxford . He is taking an Msc at Exeter College in September , and then , if his First is of sufficient quality may try for All Souls , the ultimate academic distinction.

Monday . What a happy morning as I was listening to the Today programme making my porridge. The UK's Children's Commissioners are speaking about the criminalisation of youth. Britain detains more children than any other country in Western Europe. The figures are a disgrace. 2900 under 18s locked up in the past year. 30 children have died in custody since 1990. What we all know , and what they confirm , is that antisocial behaviour legislation has resulted in more children being drawn into the criminal justice system .

Even the Times , in their editorial comments on a country where " an ASBO culture has criminalised thousands of youngsters for often trifling transgressions."

" Using a show of authoritative toughness to tame teenagers who are creating havoc by a show of street level toughness is not just paradoxical , it has also proved tragically unprofitable. "

And the Times rightly point that the answer often lies in the alternative approaches often spearheaded by third sector organisations.

So 3 cheers for the improbably named Sir Al Ansley-Green , the Children's Commissioner for England . Lets hope your report is required reading for the Prime Minister and Home Secretary before they embark on next weeks new legislative initiative on knives , drink etc . You sow what you reap . Chasing the next headline has its consequences. Leadership requires standing up to The Editors of the Sun and Mail .

And the sector's role in speaking out , telling inconvenient truth , being awkward , challenging the incorrect consensus remains as strong aas ever . We had the 6 monthly gathering of the sector's top 20 Chief Executives ,ably led over dinner at the Royal Commonwealth Club by Mein Host ; the affable Stuart Etherington . Clare Tickell argues we have to have courage to challenge if we are to remain true to our mission . It is our historic role and ever more necessary to challenge the political consensus that is drawing ever more people into the justice system . As Ed Miliband has said so clearly , we must bite the hand that feeds us .

I do that to the waiter who tries to give me a mango baked alaska . Just too too much sugar ; fruit salad thank you .

Saturday 7 June 2008

Harriett and wine

If you are a keen fan of the aecvo website you will have observed the rather tasteful photo of me and James depending on your tastes you can view the charming Secretary of State for Work and Pensions or my tie.

But to weightier matters . As Chair of FutureBuilders I have been heavily involved in interviews for our new Board members . And we have pulled of a coup for the Chair of our Investment Committee . Harriett Baldwin was , until recently, Managing Director at J P Morgan , the investment bankers . She stepped down recently when Gordon Brown was threatening an election as she is also the Tory parliamentary candidate for Worcs West, so will become Elgar's MP at the next election . She is the brains behind the Tories plans on social enterprise , having written their policy with Greg Clark. She was name checked at the recent Green Paper launch by Cameron .

As well as chairing the Investment Committee ( which has full delegated powers ) she will be my Vice Chair . A pretty impressive line up at the top ; we combine the best of knowledge of the third sector and investment banking. I have to say I took to Harriett immediately when we had a one to one ; she said quite brazenly that she was the perfect candidate for me . And she was right . I like someone who does not mess around . And for someone who has been in the Fortune top 50 chief exec list I doubt she takes prisoners.

But that is not all . We have just announced our new line up . It combines such talent as Jo Wiliams of Mencap , Rob Owen of the St Giles Trust, a local sector body in South London , the irrepresible Craig Deardon- Philipps , ( the published social entreprneur ) and Anne Longfields of the children's charity. Then there are stars from the city . Rupert Evennet , who chairs the incredible BTCV , the volunteering charity and was at Merrill Lynch , the former Chief of Virgin Media ( who is now running Lynx venture capital ) Rob Banner who chaired Rethink and was in banking and then Peter Clarke of Charity Bank who gives us continuity with the previous Futurebuilders as he was on their Board.

I wanted a diverse board which combined talent from investment banking and venture capital and great people from the sector. And we have managed to get sector people from small , medium and large charities and a social enterprise . But to confess. We have done this at the expense of a perhaps too large a Board. But in time people leave so it will work out I guess. A challenge for the Chair. It will keep me om my toes ; but that is good . I do not like the supine. Nothing better than intellectual challenge to sharpen decision making.

But as we begin a new week tomorrow I am dedicating this blog to our Home Secretary , Jacqui Smith , who I like and who I hope will battle with the Puritans in her department . Pablo Neruda was a great Chilean poet at the time of the heroic Allende Government . I heard him read his poetry at the Royal Festival Hall in happier times before the evil Pinochet. He wrote on wine. This one is for you Jacqui as you write your persistent drinking Bill .

An Ode to Wine ;

I love the light of a bottle of intelligent wine
upon the table when people are talking.
That they drink it,
That in each drop of gold or ladle of purple,
they remember that autumn toiled
until the barrels were full of wine.

Time for lunch.

Friday 6 June 2008

Ties and celebrating countryside

Ties; an inters ting item on the Today programme; apparently the sale of ties has plummeted by 50 percent in the States in the last decade . I think of my staff decadently lolling around in their jeans and T shirts as it is so called "dress down Friday " . When did I ever agree this , I wonder?

I , of course have a miraculous collection of ties , ranging from the aesthetically pleasing to the visually challenging . I have a great selection of Duchamp ties , the very Krug of the tie world . You can always tell a Duchamp the sector leading proponents are David Fielding of Rockpools , Davis Emerson of the Association of Charitable Foundations and Tony Hawkhead of Groundwork . I had a very pleasing tie on for James put his boring off red politicians tie into the shade and will have looked most pleasing in the photo in the Nottingham Evening Post.

As you can tell I am not in the tie less acevo office today . In fact I am visiting a member : James Money-Kyle who runs Plunkett , a social enterprise which promotes rural enterprise and , a cause after my own heart , the value of local food. They are based in Woodstock and we have an agreeable lunch where I celebrate a good visit to the doctors and a surprisingly good result from my 3 month blood test for the diabetes . So its celebration time with a Macon Lugny and a pudding ! A summer pudding no less. Oh how happy I feel .

James is a great example of a forward looking and dynamic CEO who is promoting a business and professional approach in the sector generally and in rural social enterprise in particular . It is an interesting organisation , set up to celebrate the life of an amazing Anlgo - Irish politician Sir Horace Plunkett. He devoted his life to promoting rural enterprise based on what he called the 3 " betters " ; better farming , better business and better living.

They have a grant from the Lottery to support local food , and have been promoting Farmers Markets as cooperative ventures . We have a Farmers Market in Charlbury and i love the opportunity it presents to but local cheeses and local meet and fish and proper organic vegetables. But often these are run under the auspices of a local authority . They ought to be run by the producers and consumers themselves ; a notion that Plunkett are busy promoting.

I always thoroughly enjoy getting out and meeting and visiting members in their organisations . It helps keep you grounded. And after a week of heavy and sustained activity it is a welcome relief . It is such a privilege running acevo , being at the forefront of policy making for the sector , pushing forward the demands and desires of our membership and getting change. But when you are in the lead on policy making it brings many demands on your time and energy. It has been exhausting this week . Not enough sleep . Not enough relaxation . So this weekend is 2 days of indulgence.

Bring it on .

Thursday 5 June 2008

Training with James

Up to Nottingham with James Purnell , the brilliant Secretary of State for DWP. We are launching the Third sector -DWP task force which acevo has set up with officials in DWP to look at how the Third Sector can support the reform of welfare to work. Our sector plays a crucial role in employment and training and we offer " unique value added " as James says at the launch .

I travel up to Nottingham with James and we then do the launch at a conference and move on to visit " Working Links " , a fantastic organisation with a range of contracts from DWP to deliver employment services . It is run by Keith Faulkner , one of my members who I expect to see but discover is in China on holiday ( celebrating his 65th birthday someone whispers ! ) . It is also a rather unique organisation as it is a private , public , third sector partnership .

Also on the train going up is Graham Allen , the MP for Nottingham and who unusually is the chair of the local strategic partnership . There is also a pioneering city wide welfare to work strategy. I've known Graham since the 80s and it is good to see him again .He is a great example of a dedicated constituency MP.

I should , of course, add that I am travelling in steerage whilst the SoS is in First , so I have to sneak in to chat once the ticket guy has gone . Although David Cameron obviously thinks we should be the" first sector " rather than the third , regretably that does not extend to him paying fior our first class travel . Still , once we are all making healthy profits under the new Tory policy of charities making profits then we might be able to upgrade .

The more I see of James Purnell the more impressed I am . He is great talking to the punters ( there are a bunch of third sector leaders here who give James a good talking to on the need for local and regional contracting ! ). He really " gets it " on the role of the sector and when I first proposed this idea he quickly spotted the potential . No long debates and internal discussions whilst the official machinery debated the merits and demerits. He got the point .He wants action . Now we must deliver that for him . it gives us great kudos as an organisation to have the SoS doing the launch . and acevo and Bubb get several great name checks . And a photo shoot afterwards of me and James looking at a hedge. So look out for me in the Nottingham Evening Post.

I get a chance to talk to Helen Vose of the Nottingham CVS, a good acevo member . She promises to pull together some thoughts for uor task force. It is being chaired by Tony Hawkhead of Groundwork who I hold in very high regard. We pulled off a major coup im getting David Freud as the Vice Chair and Stephen Timms , the Minister for Employment, is on the task force with a watching brief . High powered people delivering a high powered report ...we hope.

Of course we have had some interesting discussions on who should be on the group ! Nothing excites so much as a battle to sit on committees ! I'm rather more interested in the output. So fingers crossed for a great report out in January.