Tuesday 1 July 2008

Forces for Good!

Jackie Ballard, the Chief Executive of the RNID recommended I read a new book on third sector management "Forces for Good". An American tome (but none the worst for that) it looks at the experience of some of the top American non profits and what makes them successful. They look at the "myths" of non profit management and what they believe are the top 6 practices of the best.

I have just written a book review of this for acevo's network, our leadership journal. We are relaunching the Journal in a few weeks time so I had better not jump the gun or Agnes, the Editor, will have my guts for framing . But I thought it worth making one observation. It argues that the best non profits see business as powerful partners, not as wicked enemies and they also work with government in advocating policy change as well as often delivering services.

I believe this is true of the best third sector organisations in the UK too. I saw Victor Adebowale recently at the Social Care reception. He is an unashamed advocate of service delivery and partnership with Government. Turning Point do great work at the margins of society amongst our young people. The vast majority of his money is from contracts with the State. Yet he is a tireless advocate of a radical approach to young people's issues. This is true of so many of acevo's members. Martin Narey of Barnardo's or Clare Tickell of NCH are other examples. They work with Government and yet argue for change and against reactionary tendencies in government. But it is reasoned and evidenced argument, not mindless oppositionalism .

It is suggested that taking money from the State damages our independence. Those who argue this point do so from a position of emotion not fact. They produce no evidence to support the contention yet, on the contrary, the fact that so many of our organisations do now deliver at the front line gives us unparalleled access and knowledge to influence and to change policy from the inside. it is worrying that sometimes voices in the sector, and you see this so often in the letter pages of Third Sector, seek to deny the legitimacy of elected Government. Whatever the faults of our elected democracy local councillors and government are not enemies of Satan and have a right to determine the way we are governed. We, on our part, should be using our skill and knowledge to influence and guide that process by working with the State. Comments like "supping with the devil" when taking money from Government are an insult to the democratic foundations of our country and those making them should observe the role of civil society in Burma or Zimbabwe, for example.

acevo has always taken the view that as the Chief Executive representative body we work with an elected Government, of whatever complexion, to further the role of the Third Sector. Criticise where necessary. And loudly when needed (as I have done). We also talk to the Opposition to help ensure any of their policies will be evidence based and we will continue to work closely with the senior civil service and with Ministers to advance the Sector.

My niece Miranda is at acevo for a week on work experience from her school in South London. It is one of the schools run by the Independent Day Care Trust whose CEO is an acevo member. Miranda is put to work sorting the Store cupboard amongst other major duties but it is not all fun as I take her with me to a Sue Ryder Care reception in the House of Commons. Acevo gets a name check at the reception as they mention the vital importance of Full Cost Recovery and in particular to the recently published Full Cost Planner we launched to help third sector bodies plan their cost basis in strategic terms. Tomorrow she will be coming with me to a meeting with Jack Straw and then a reception with Boris at the London Mayor's HQ - if Store duties permit! And who knows perhaps Miranda is a future third Sector Leader. Leading Forces for Good!

No comments: