Friday 15 August 2008

With my Chief Executives

One of the things like to do in August, when the tempo is slightly slower, is to spend time with members. So yesterday morning I was in South Wimbledon with Lola Barrett who runs The Grenfell Housing Association, a small foyer body based in South London. Lola is an active acevo member. A dynamic and committed black woman who has also played a strong role in the life of the community and third sector in Merton. She has also had a 2.4m investment from Futurebuilders (and before anyone who takes an interest in these matters objects, it was an investment last year by the previous regime!). We go and see the new premises they have bought and are refurbishing.

I have also been seeing various members this week; the CEOs of Alcohol Concern, Don Shenker; Jeremy Hughes of Breakthrough Breast Cancer; Hanne Stinson from The British Humanist Association and Roy Clare from The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

If you run a membership organisation its crucial to keep a feel for how members regard your work. We get very positive feedback - one member saying what acevo achieves is "amazing" but we also get criticism. But it is nearly always constructive and so important to consider and makes changes where you need to. And with 2200 members from the third sector it will never be possible (or desirable) to have unanimity. But on balance I think we get it largely right and that's certainly what members say to me.

I'm delighted to get a positive response from The Charity Commission to the letter I write about the Shaw Trust. The response is speedy and to the point. They say they are taking this seriously and they will be meeting Trustees. I'm pleased that this will be reviewed. We can rely on the Charity Commission to be thorough and to investigate fairly in the interests of good governance. This case does have wider implications for our sector and it is important that proceedings are transparent. I want to ensure we put down a marker that in the third sector we expect CEOs to be treated with fairness and respect. I'm not suggesting every single CEO will always be a saint, but proper process and a care and concern for the individual must be core to good governance. As I blogged recently we are looking at the wider implications of the manner in which The Shaw Trust have treated their CEO but in the meantime well done to the Charity Commission for their prompt response on this.

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