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 .

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