Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Back from Birmingham

Exhausted . Sleep deprivation (though entirely my own fault) and drinking and eating the wrong things . But it has been fascinating to be at the Conservative Party Conference , particularly as the world financial crisis unfolds. Arriving Sunday I spend the evening at various of the third sector events and receptions . I pop into the Barnardo's fringe ; they have Nick Herbert , who is a particular favourite and who has been pushing what I regard as a good and radical agenda on crime , prisons and rehabilitation . I speak to Martin Narey , who is a fantastic CEO and a person I admire for a no nonsense approach to sector issues. I have a quick word with Nick Herbert and we agree to meet up to pursue this agenda . I am going to arrange a round table with leading CEOs in the crime sector to talk through the role we can play and how this can be expanded.

There is also a fringe by the LGA with EricPickles , who I know from local government days . It's packed out ; Eric seems a popular lad! Then onto the reception for the main children's charities (Barnardo's , Action for Children , The Children's Society , Save the Children and NSPCC). There is a slightly curious contribution from Michael Gove. He is a great speaker and writer but his main point seems to be that the charities carry on " nagging" . He means this positively , but it is slightly odd to talk to third sector bodies who between them deliver a substantial proportion of the country's children services. Yes , campaigning is important . But these days our role has moved on to the development of policy and delivery . We only nag when we need to and as a last resort . Nagging is important at times , but not as important as changing children's lives for the better through effective services and good legislation . I chat to him afterwards.

The Guardian party is an interesting affair. Not quite as jam packed with prominent shadow ministers and thinkers as was the case in Manchester when you could hardly move for Cabinet Ministers . The Telegraph party the following night was much more promising ; though they were not serving champagne. Frankly , if you can't get good champagne at a Tory Conference , the country must be in a state . I am glad to report however that the Bell Pottinger party was afloat on magnums of Mumm.

I go into the Conference for the debate on crime. There is a huge contrast with the same debate in Manchester . There is constant reference to the role of third sector organisations ; it comes up in questions and speeches . They even showcase the work of 2 charities ; notably Rob Owen of the St Giles Trust , who is on a panel on the stage . Rob is an acevo member , and as a former investment banker , is an FBE non exec. Damien Green and Nick Herbert are speaking. Nick's speech is impressive . I find myself agreeing strongly with about 75% and strongly disagreeing with25% (especially the cheap jibe about the Human Rights Act , though I guess that is just a bit of red meat for the bigots). He is clear about the need for a strong programme that puts rehabilitation at the heart of prison work . He points out what ought to be glaringly obvious; that much crime is committed by people who have already been in prison . He argues that prison reform has to be a top priority for Government and pours scorn on the unprogressive record of government . It is astonishing how far Labour have moved from a progressive approach on crime and rehabilitation . And crucially , at Manchester there was not one single mention of the third sector's role . Not one. We were invisible to Labour but prominently visible here . If Labour do not get a grip with this agenda they will pay the price. The same thing happens in the afternoon when Chris Grayling makes clear that he wants third sector organisations playing a crucial role in delivery and showcases the work of the sector. At least in this case James Purnell is also a big fan of a bigger sector role.

I go to 2 sector fringes; CAF have an interesting session on philanthropy and whether we should encourage a 1% norm for giving . As the Tory spoke on culture , Richard Hunt argues our level of giving is only 0.7% in the UK but is 1.7% in the States. If we could encourage people to give 1% of their income to charity we make millions for our sector . Many disagree with this approach . I am torn . What is your view?

The ncvo fringe takes the courageous step of being held well away from the Conference , so me and my colleague Peter take 35 minutes finding the venue. As a consequence there are plenty of sector people there , but practically no one from the Conference . Is this a missed opportunity ? We have a strong message to give to the Conservatives ; we don't do that well by debating amongst ourselves. Greg Clark is there and spends a good few hours with people there so that is valuable. Greg is good; he takes time to listen and explain and he clearly wants to develop Tory policy in a positive way . He has a very charming and courteous manner and deals with self evidently potty ideas with style. I have a meeting with him in the morning and we go through forward plans in acevo and I talk him through some of the emerging ideas in Futurebuilders.

Before heading back to London I meet up with the key figures behind the new Third Sector Research Centre , which is to be based in Birmingham . This is an exciting development for our sector, The research base is week . We know we provide added value through our service delivery ; but where is the hard evidence . It needs to be gathered . acevo will be playing a crucial role in the work stream on service delivery . We want to ensure this is action research that we can then play into the work we are doing with Government on policy on commissioning.

Now time to prep for an interview on Sky News on how the recession will affect the sector . We have done interesting research on this with the Charities Aid Foundation . Things are getting bad for the sector . We are gathering evidence on this and I am looking for people to let me know what is going on . So use the comments system and let me know what is happening in your charity .


Anonymous said...

Mr Bubb,
You're back (hidden in this post) on one of my favorite subjects - philanthropy. Although I believe there are differences between here and the USA which 'justify' the differences in giving (which I'll leave others to comment on) my concern is around the differences here in the UK. It's well documented that the less money you have, the greater the % of your spare cash you give to charity. If we're going to try and drive up levels of giving in the UK we really need to focus on the middle and upper tiers of income-earners, rather than the usual suspects of the willing but less well-off. As I've commented before, after your post "An Unjust Society?" http://bloggerbubb.blogspot.com/2008/09/unjust-society.html there is a widening gulf in society that needs to be addressed - it would be a nice start if the rich started to give as much as the poor...

Sir Stephen Bubb said...

I agree. And this is going to be ever more importnat in the deepning recession . You are spot on to hifghlight the poor record of the rich in giving. i wonder how mush of those large city bonuses , that appear tio have been part of the cause of the current credit crunch , went to charity?