Saturday 28 February 2009

Orchestras , Speeches , Ray and James

The view from my 6th floor hotel room was stunning . Across Tiger Bay , Cardiff, looking towards the new Millennium Centre and Symphony Hall and the Welsh Assembly.The Welsh mountains in the glorious background ,. Uplifting. And a Spa and fantastic breakfast too. Now what , you may ask am I doing in cardiff ? Well , speaking at the annual Conference of the Association of British Orchestras . Obviously.

Mark Pemberton , their CEO , is a member . ACEVO has a large arts and culture membership . It is sometimes forgotten that the arts form an important part of our wonderfully diverse sector . We even have a special interest group of the members who meeter to talk common problems. SoIi chair a panel session and talk about the opportunities of a recession for the work of orchestras and musicians , if they think out of the box . The therapeutic effect of music for health , in working with youth at risk is well known . We need more of this as unemployment bites.I remind them that once I chaired an Orchestra;the City of Oxford Orchestra as it happens . Not sure how well, but at least it is still going.

I stay on for drinks at the Welsh Assembly , in a brilliantly designed building , and then onto the Opera ; Salome given by the Welsh National Opera. I have a great seat , though I could not admit to having followed all the Opera as I had a few Chief Executive somnolent moments.

Back on the train for lunch , yes you guessed it , at The Cinnamon Club ,( suggestions that I ever dine in McDonalds are entirely wrong ) With an old friend, Ray Collins . I met Ray in 1976 when I left my tedious job as a civil servant to become Jack Jones's Research Officer at the TGWU in Transport House . Ray was a callow youth in the Education Department . And hasn't he done well ; for he is now the Geberal Secretary of the Labour Party ! So a lunch of salacious gossip and delicious intrigue . No mention of money or peerages , let me be clear. He goes off to expel a peer from the labour Party and I return to do a speech at The Guardian Weekly in their swanky new HQ.

I am speaking with the great Liz Atkins of NCVO and the charming Beth Breeze of all things philanthropic . I end up in almost total agreement with Liz , but not with Beth , who seems to be taking a somewhat strange, " crisis , what crisis " approach to out present travails . There is also a banker speaking. Its almost too cruel to have a go but I do have a pop at the way big business think they are so generous when they allow staff out to volunteer in charities. These days I reckon we all need to go and do some volunteering in the banks . Educate them into the ways of the world where a good salary does not mean something with 6 noughts on the end .

I give a preview of my lecture which I am giving at Deloitte on Tuesday . And you will also be able to read a thought provoking article in the Guardian Society on Wednesday . And shortly you will also be able to see the informal report I produced for James Purnell. I saw him on Thursday . A great meeting. He is a real star.I will carry on doing work on some of the ideas I have put forward . He apologised for not being able to come to my Lecture. He said he had to be with a certain Royal ! As unemployment rises the role the sector will play becomes crucial . James recognises this. We can do business together. And we will .

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Ash Wednesday, and sector heroes.

To Mass at my favourite London Church , All Saint's Margaret St . I have been going there , on and off , for 36 years . It hasn't changed much over that time . And all the better for it . It is the masterpiece of architect William Butterfield one of our truly great Victorians . His other major work is the great Keble College(current Alma mater to my nephew Julian who is Head of Boats ) And this year is the 150th anniversary of its dedication . Just near Oxford Circus , though tucked away , it is worth a visit . The majesty of the interior's murals and tiling and , in particular the magnificent reredos over the High Altar ( paintings by Dyce ) will bowl you over .

So I was Ashed . And reminded that I am dust , and unto dust I shall return . Sometimes useful to be made to think of one's transitory appearance on this earth . We all " worthily lamented our sins and acknowledged our wretchedness " as in the magnificence of the words of the Book of Common Prayer . And the gloom of Ash Wednesday certainly fits the bleak economic conditions . One does hope all those bankers are on their knees , begging for salvation . After having given large donations to charity of their bonuses one hopes.

The sermon was somewhat fierce . The Vicar seemed to have taken as his text the government announcement on Tuesday of the rise in obesity , over drinking and incidence of type 2 diabetes. He was clear that mere giving up of chocolate did not count as self denial . All very interesting . Did he know I was coming ? Afterwards the Vicar's wife told me she has heard me at the ACEVO - Action Planning conference . I was desperately trying to remember if I had used any infelicitous turn of phrase , or worse , swearing ,which would have led to the Vicar thinking I must be singled out for admonishment?

But I have been reminded that I must not be too fierce in my criticism of business and banks by Janet F who leaves a very pertinent comment on my blog of Tuesday. As she says we must not underestimate the abilities of many of the management and staff of those banks , not overestimate our own strengths. As she says , our " performance management isn't high ".We must beware believing our own hype . These are very fair points Janet ,and you are right to moderate my polemic.

As it is Lent I want to start sharing with you stories about our third sector heroes . Our pioneers . Today it is the story of Felicia Skene . I have bicycled past her plaque on St Michael's St in Oxford . She was a Victorian prison reformer and the first woman prison visitor ib the UK. She campaigned against the Victorian attitudes to prostitutes or " fallen women " as they were called then . But she exemplifies a proud third sector tradition . She was not just content to campaign . She established a home and a training programme for women prostitutes . She would wait outside Oxford Prison at 6am for released prisoners and offer them breakfast ( and sometimes Gin , that's my sort of person! ).

To those who argue we should not be involved in public service delivery I suspect Felicia would have had a sharp word . She knew that a life of effective campaigning is strengthened by the practical experience of delivering a service .

I have never understood the attitude of some in our sector who appear to think that taking government money to provide the type of service Felicia was providing back then are somehow compromising their independence , or selling out . After all , what does a homeless person want ; a home or a protest march down Park Lane ?

I make this point as I see that Colin Rochester of Roehampton University ( in today's Guardian ) has been repeating the tired old nostrums that try to portray working with a democratically elected government as somehow giving up on independence . I have dispatched these arguments in my pamphlet on " Choice and Voice " . Available from the acevo website. But let me here just merely quote from Victor Adebowale ,

" The idea that we should turn our backs on those most at need of a service simply to maintain an ideology of independence is not only misguided but unpalatable. "

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Shrove Tuesday;CEO secrets !

I shall not be eating pancakes tonight . I am at an Indian restaurant in Berkeley Square . Its the annual CEO gathering organised by Harvey Nash, the headhunting firm . I regret that I shall not be eating pancakes , as the annual maintenance of our historic traditions is important at a time when people are forgetting such . I'm sure my Madras Curry will be superb , but it is NOT THE SAME THING .

What wisdom will I pick up from the flock of CEOs gathering tonight I wonder ?

I have just got hold of a book that I am reviewing called " The secrets of CEOs " . It is based on the opinions of 150 global Chief Executives , who, so the blurb says , " lift the lid on business, life and leadership . I thought this might be revealing . But then I looked inside the cover . Who ar these 150 CEOs? Well , they include one solitary Charity CEO. Just one;. Julia Middleton of Common Purpose ,and a member . And all the others are businessmen ( well a couple of women from business too , but not a lot ).

We can judge the value of the advice we will be receiving by the fact that the book is based on research into the great minds and thoughts of.......the CEO of LLoyds Bank , HBOS , Barclays and Bradford and Bingley ,

The arrogance of these people . I think it says it all about management studies and books like these that they assume the entire wisdom om how to run a business lies in the heads of the people who run our big companies and financial institutions. They clearly believe there is nothing of value to be learnt from the third sectoppr , or even the public sector .

I rather like Richard Branson's introduction to this tome ,

" I must admit I'm not a great reader of business books. To be honest when we started Virgin some 40 years ago we totally ignored the established business theories and strategies and struck out determined to do things differently . "

Spot on . A lesson for us all.

I do hope we will now see some recalibration in the leadership and management schools . They will stop bending the knee to these overpaid and now clearly exposed failures and start to learn leadership from the social sector. And that applies to politiicans , including some of the new labour stalwarts who need to get over their post socialist awe of big business. As I dip into said book I will share with you any nuggets that I find . But don't hold your breath . Perhaps we can use this as a manual of things not to do ?

As Lent fast approaches i can share with you what the Bubb will be giving up: Cakes and biscuits and all manner of sweets and chocolate. I should , in any case not indulge as I have type 2 diabetes so it is a happy marriage of religiosity and health promotion .The acevo staff have been warned. If you see me with a biscuit its 20 Hail Mary's .

Business not always best?

Gordon Brown writes in The Observer on Sunday on the need for a return to responsible banking. He argues people are understandably angry about the banks and outlines government action on the financial crisis. He is right to take action. And to work globally.

The shine is coming off business. The ritual obeisance paid to any businessman who came in to save the health service, or reform education, is now fortunately out of fashion. We worshipped their money as it was poured into academies. We listened in a reverential hush as we were lectured on how to run a businesslike public service.

Well now we see all that 'glistens is not gold'. The bonus culture that we were told was about rewarding good performance and productivity turns out to have destabilised the economy. And all those rich businessmen feted by Governments turn out not be not quite so clever after all.

So will we see a fundamental shift in attitude? Will we get reform of commercial governance? Will we see a proper and sustained approach to corporate social responsibility?

The third sector could be at the tipping point in this debate. Our emphasis on the softer skills of leadership; motivation and inspiration, ethical approaches to the workforce and to our wider contribution to society and the economy is an approach now needed in business and as a sector we are a major economic player - an annual income of £120 billion and 1.34m staff we can show both commerce and the state how to run efficient but socially accountable business.

It is the third sector that offers the way forward for a reformed business sector.

Some politicians have argued that now is the time to go back to the State and the public sector. Some local authorities seem to think they should retrench and bring back services in-house. But it is not about a return to statism. The public sector has also been shown to have failed as it is unable to provide citizen focused services. State institutions remains mired in an inflexible and bureaucratic approach to delivery.

But let's not be carried away by stereotypes. Whilst both the public sector and business have shown their limitations, the sector too has a limited capacity. So partnerships and alliances across the public sector and the state to deliver citizen focused services, to create community cohesion and to create jobs.

So in the public anger against banks and business let's look to reform and partnership where the third sector provides an example of good practise.

ACEVO is developing a work stream on what makes for successful partnership - especially with business. We look to new forms of ownership and alliances. And we will campaign for governance and CSR reform for the business sector.

Saturday 21 February 2009

Blogging for change, and Hot Cross Buns

So it was a blog that helped uncover the alleged fraud at Stanfords. And blogs that are causing a debate about Labour's leadership . The power of the Blog . It has certainly become a phenomenon . But I'm not sure all understand its value or power to change. That can only happen if it is a space for the informal, irreverent , edgy and hopefully amusing comments . A space to provoke and challenge . But also to humour and tease. The day my Blog becomes like an official ACEVO press release , take me out and shoot me !

Matthew Taylor's Blog is a great example of a blog that provokes and encourages debate . A recent Taylor blog has tackled the sector and recession . He argues the sector must hold its nerve . To be " generous and brave" over the coming period . He argues the sector needs as many people as possible to " do what they can to help keep activities going and stimulate new initiatives ... the sector needs to show courage and leadership " How right this is .
To read Matthew's blog click here.

He also argues for charities to use their reserves. " After all , what are those reserves for if not to be used at the time of greatest need " It is a point made by my Chair , Lesley-Anne Alexander who says that if you have reserves for a rainy day then you better spend them now it is raining. More umbrellas needed!

And ACEVO is showing leadership here . We agreed at our Board to take 20k from our reserves to spend on bolstering services and advice for members facing crisis . We will unveil these plans next week . They will be exciting and show how we are there to build the capacity of our sector to cope with the recession . They will help support the essential leadership role of the Chief Executive .

Polly Toynbee has another great article in the Guardian today . She points to the need for a bold vision from government. She argues that a bold, brave April budget is the time to do this . She is right .And she is right to point to the lack of clarity or cohesion in government on issues like bonuses and business regulation . And that budget must show how the Government sees the role of our sector in building for recovery through job creation , bold new volunteering g initiatives and help for the rising army of the unemployed . We need vision . And the sector is a part of that .
Click here to read Polly's piece.

Baroness Howarth cannot make my lecture on the 3rd march but in her reply to my invite she writes ;

" I wanted to send a personal message of encouragement about what you have to say . The third sector is indeed an important part of the national economy and also contributes to social cohesion and stability . My worry is that as the recession bites further we will lose many important projects that can no longer attract funds from government , trusts or the corporate sector . ...if services close down what will happen to the users ".

It is a glorious spring day in Charlbury . recession gloom is far away .I put aside my blackberry to enjoy some light gardening . the vine gets a good pruning . Later I'm in our Local " Good Food Shop " , a local co-operative venture and purveyor of fine foods to the discerning. They are a good source of ginger roots ; oh how I remember the Ginger Beer my mother used to make when we were children and Seville oranges for essential fine marmalade making and other such condiments . But this morning they are selling Hot Cross Buns. They are admonished by one of our local Parish Councillors and stalwart of the Church . She reminds them that we have not had Lent yet . Indeed Ash Wednesday is not till the 25th . One remembers from one's childhood that hot cross buns , preferably mother made , are only eaten on Good Friday . Another example of the general decline in standards . And I won't even go into the scandal of the local Co-op shamelessly selling Easter eggs .

Friday 20 February 2009

Mangling English but Don't Panic!

Guess which national Quango involved in our sector was responsible for this sentence: "we understand that you wish to implement an engagement and planning framework which will take you efficiently through a seamlessly connected series of collaborative steps, culminating in ‘customer focused’ and ‘regionally engaged’ work plans for each of the national workstreams

Amazing. I wonder what it could mean? Do we really use public money to disseminate this?

Last night I watched the new film "Milk" about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in America - elected to office in San Francisco in the 70's and then assassinated. A great film; Sean Penn was Milk.

In many ways we have moved on and our culture is much more open to and valuing of diversity. I had forgotten the dreadful campaigning of Anita Bryant in the 70's which even infected politics here with the infamous Section 28 brought in by Thatcher. But the religious bigotry that fed that disgusting piece of legislation is still around - witness the statements of the Pope on homosexuality and his promotion of a Bishop who believes that the New Orleans hurricane was a punishment for homosexuals. We have to value and protect liberal values and our human rights legislation. Never assume they cannot be reversed. Just witness the hysteria over the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights on compensation for those held without due process in our system which put the war on terror over respect for our traditional liberties.

"Don't Panic", the useful advice of Sergeant Jones to Captain Mannering in Dad's Army must apply to us in the sector. It's amazing that only five months ago I was being told by a senior sector CEO that we were being alarmist calling for emergency aid for the sector and now I'm being told it's the end of the world as we know it.

Preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. But keeping our nerves as CEOs is still by far the best approach. And it's time for an end to the amateur charity. Professional and business like approaches will see us through. The amateur and panicky trustee must be consigned to history.

I'm in Charlbury working on my Lecture for March 3rd and the informal report for James. My Head of Policy, Ralph Michell, is here and we retire to The Bull for lunch and a thought stimulating claret. So the lecture will be great!

Thursday 19 February 2009

Preparing for Riots but not at ncvo

The last 2 recessions saw major riots in inner city Britain . The riots in Bradford in 1993 saw the army and tanks on the street.

What is the prognosis for Britain in 2009?

I saw the effects of the Brixton riots in 1981. A toxic combination of alienated Black youth , harassed by the " Sus " laws and against an economic background of staggering levels of youth unemployment were the tinder box that led to those riots , both in Brixton , Toxteth and elsewhere. The local third sector and community organisations were crucial to the regeneration of Brixton that followed the Scarman report . This was also the time for a flowering of local community action ; the Waterloo action group spawned the Coin St social enterprise which is so incredibly brilliant under their CEO Ian Tuckett , who has been running it since the 80s . I knew him when our hair was a lot longer and we dressed less elegantly . But without the third sector in partnership nothing would have changed . So lets learn the lesson for 2009.

Could this happen again? Well the same toxic mixture is there potentially . A hugely alienated youth that now faces growing and massive unemployment. In the inner cities we have a particularly problematic situation with black and minority ethnic young people who feel that stop and search is aimed at them and that the UK is anti - Muslim as a result of the passion aroused by the misguided approach to the " war on terror ".

Clearly the government has set in train contingency plans for tackling a major outbreak of civil disobedience this summer ,but have they thought through the political consequences?

I am now working on my informal report for James Purnell .Due in next week . I will be working on this over the weekend , unhindered by the ministrations of holidaying Hound. I see James soon , which is always a privilege . If , as the CBI predict we are heading for over 3m unemployed we need to ensure we avoid the evil social consequences . This is the time when the third sector comes into its own . Working in partnership we need to be at the forefront of job creation and support for longer term unemployed . We need to be there supporting the work of Job centre Plus . We need a massive flowering of the full time volunteering sector .

And government need to look beyond the need to sort the financial sector to how can we prevent another generation being consigned to long term unemployment and the social consequences that brings . Where is the Government Action Plan for tackling mass Unemployment ?

I was discussing how we might work across the sector , with housing associations , private companies and the best sector organisations at breakfast with the Futurebuilders team .Capital investment will be key to any major initiative.

Breakfast was in the Cinnamon Club again .Twice this week ; people will talk . Great to bump into Richard Vize who edits the Health Service Journal . My breakfast was entirely necessary as I had an over jolly time at the NCVO Dinner.Kevin Brennan speaks at the reception ; on the flu pandemic that followed the end of World War One. Not clear on the link here. Something about service delivery I guess?

Hubert was on fine form ; greatly enjoying himself. And he had spotted the spoof Boggs Blub. I do have to say the wine was hardly at an acceptable third sector level . The white was too sweat . A back of lorry delivery ? Sponsored by the Guardian . David Brindle must do better . There are standards to be maintained in our sector. Professionalism and cheap wine make uneasy bedfellows. And I am sure this is not the stuff Hubert drinks at home , as he has a fine nose for a good wine.They also serve cake . Allusions to Marie Antionette not appropriate !

And finally , thought for a Chief executive ;

Drink and you will sleep well ,
Sleep and you will avoid sin,
Avoid sin and you will be saved ,
Ergo , drink wine and you will be saved .

( German proverb )

Wednesday 18 February 2009

CEOs are not just for Christmas!

One of the worrying trends emerging from the sector is organisations panicking and blaming their CEOs for the recession . Our governance generally is weak . This is a simplification , but in acevo we have now seen 10 examples of CEOs coming to us for support in the last month because they are having difficulties with their trustees .

We have had the example of the CEO who found that during the discussion of the charity budget they were asked to leave and when they returned to the room found their trustees had decided that because the CEO was a large item of expenditure they would remove him and run the organisation themselves. Others have found that panicky trustees are looking inward and sensing problems so blaming the CEO. One CEO has given up their salary voluntarily so they are now an Hon Chief Executive. This is generally disastrous . The ultimate success of the organisation rests on the CEO and the Chair leading through difficult times. Have we moved form organisations being too laid back about the recession some 4 months ago , to now been panicked about how to cope.

So Chief Executives are going to have to hold their nerve . Plan for the worst whilst hoping for the best . And ACEVO will be there to support and advise . Our network of peers and our supporting services are more and more needed .

The ACEVO Board today was discussing how we can provide enhanced support to our members , as well as advocating hard for a better deal for the sector. I reported on the increase in take up of our " CEO in Crisis " service. And my Vice Chair said we may need a campaign to remind trustees that, " a chief executive is not just for Christmas ".

It was the first Board meeting under our new Chair Lesley-Anne and it went well . It was Budget approval time . Now presenting a budget to a room full of Chief Executives is always going to be a challenge. There was detailed discussion and questioning . Perhaps sometimes a little too much into the detail ,occasionally stepping near to the mark on the exec-non exec line , but overall it was clear there was proper scrutiny . And the Budget approval process is one of the key tasks for a Board so right that they should test the mettle of me and my team . A good trustee board will examine critically and challenge though always in a way that supports the organisation and its CEO and team . And they approved the budget , so that is what we needed . In fact one of the key points made by trustees was that as an organisation we needed to be both prudent , and also investing in our members at a time of crisis. They made a particular point that the training and development budget for staff must be protected . As a professional body we must lead by example and all too often organisations think that training is the easy target dor cuts . We have not done this.

Today is the NCVO Conference and I am setting off there soon . There is a piece in Guardian Society on the ncvo Almanac . I profoundly disagree with one of the conclusions . The ncvo head of research argues in the article that the " employment and training sector is most at risk in a recession because it is largely dependent on earned income ". I believe this is wrong. This sector will grow enormously over the next 5 years . In the last recession this sector grew as it provided more and more services for unemployed people . And as a result of the recent reforms the sector will continue to grow . In fact I know from members that they are already getting more and more requests from DWP for help as Job Centre Plus find it more and more difficult to cope with the numbers.

And I disagree with the suggestion that the trend towards the sector earning more than it is given will reverse again . This would imply a wholesale reversal of the government policy on public service reform . That is not going to happen . Indeed it will accelerate . And the Conservatives have been clear they will push it harder . But we will see as the next decade unfiolds .

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery ,( or so we are told ! ) and I have just discovered that there is an alternative Bubbs Blog . " Boggs Blub ". Access it at

I particularly enjoyed today's entry as I wend my way to the annual conference dinner for the National Canopy and Visor Organisation ( ncvo ) and drinks with my old friend Hubert carrington . Obviously come the revolution the perpetrator of this blog may have to be shot , but in the meantime it gave me ( and my staff ) a happy hour of amusing reading . The spelling in the alternative blog appears to be immaculate . How do they do that?

Monday 16 February 2009

Soviet Planners and networking

" Inside every Chief Executive , there's a Soviet planner ".

This alarming headline appeared over a story by Observer Business Editor Simon Caulkin. He argues that ,

" The truth is that much conventional management is central planning in western disguise. This is why most companies are zombie like in their structural and strategic similarity. That is why too they are unable to learn . With their faces toward the CEO and their arses towards the customer - in the immortal words of Jack Welch - what would they learn from ? "

The image is compelling! Of course it is not like that here in acevo ! Now what do I think of this? In some ways , of course , a CEO wants staff who are disciplined and know what is needed by the Boss . Nothing worse than the staff who think they know better than you and do things we don't want . On the other hand it is essential to have a customer focus . For ACEVO this is about what our members want .

The morning starts well with a fantastic , though heart-breaking, account of dementia by John Suchet on " Today" . It had one of my members Amelda Redmond , CEO of Carers UK ,talking about how difficult it is to get proper funding to support carers and to help the many people who want to be at home but are in advancing stages of Alzheimer's. It is a brilliant reminder of just how crucial our sector is in delivering public services . I speak about this later at a big Conference on Transformational Public services , in front of a large local authority audience.

I have breakfast with one of my Board members , Bridget Warr , who runs Guide Dogs for the Blind .We eat in the Cinnamon Club , always a great networking spot and I alk to Peter Housden, Permanent Secretary at DCLG and my old Oxford friend Roger Liddle , right hand man to Peter Mandleson . The last time I lunched here the Manager commented , as I left ,that I appeared to have missed one table, I had been so assiduous in chatting to people I knew on the way in and out . But you know , networking is a core competence for a CEO. You can't run an organisation like ACEVO if you don't network . I wrote a guide to networking some 5 years ago . Its time for an update and I have agreed to do the new version with headhunter extraordinaire , David Fielding . ( A small number of copies of my guide still available from ACEVO; click here to order a copy)

The Aged Parents have been visiting my sister Sara and so met my holidaying Hound . My Mother thought that the Hound's licking ( and she is an inveterate licker, dog that is ) was excessive and demonstrated a lack of discipline and failure of her eldest son to exert proper control and boundary setting . I like to think a proper child of the 60s approach to parenting . I am missing said Hound , though it is pleasant to be able to find my shoes and slippers , and to be able to get out of the house with my shoe laces done up and my face unmolested!

Hounds and Hounding

The Hound is on holiday! She has gone to spend half term week with adoring fans in my sister's house over in Bromley. Sara, said sister, is the international expert on teacher induction ( well, someone has to be ) and she tells me she is on her 13th book on this subject . I confess I haven't read one (life too short)but people do. Why, they have even translated them into Chinese. She is married to a civil servant, with 3 exceptionally brilliant kids; one of whom has made fleeting appearances in Blog as Julian, the Oxford hearty.

Strange to be Houndless. But I am compensating by hounding bankers.I have a letter published in today's Times.
Click here to read
It is a reply to one Ms Angela Knight, who is the CEO of the "British Bankers Association ". The Times had reported extensively on the ACEVO - DWP task force report calling for the rapid establishment of the Social Investment Bank. There are rumours the banks are dragging their feet. Ms Knight protests; a somewhat unwise letter in view of current public perception of the banks perhaps. She argues the banks are enthusiastically promoting how people can be reunited with their lost or forgotten accounts. I forbear to mention in my response that that might well be seen as about time and that it has taken legislation to prompt the banks to do this.

However she unwisely suggests that our campaigning on this issue is somehow "not working in the best interests of the third sector." I trust this is not a threat. She fails to comment at all on the agreement that the banks reached that unclaimed dormant accounts will be put to public benefit by establishing a Social Investment Bank. A bank that will actually lend.

My letter in response is a model of restraint. But if Ms Knight wants a battle on this perhaps I might just point out that the banks have billions in unclaimed assets(and yes I have inside knowledge to support that contention Angela) and this has appeared on their bottom line. This means that bankers will have been receiving bonuses based on these sums as well!

But having made these points, and joshing apart , I do hope that we can make progress with the Banks . I realise it may not be their top ptioirty but they could earn credit for making all this happen . They have said they support the move for a SIB so lets hope this exchange may prompt more movement? Happy to chat to them I shall be writing to Angela to suggest a meeting .

And lets not put all the onus on the Banks. The Government could make this happen now by saying they want action . The Chancellor could announce in his Budget that he wants the new Bank in ooperation by the end of the year . We certainly need it . They could now put in train the steps needed to establish the Bank; organise the money to be taken from the banks and put into the " reclaim fund ", ensuring the FSA organise the rules and put out the tenders for those interested in running the new Bank .

In the current atmosphere of a widespread lack of trust in our banking system it might have been more sensible for Ms Knight to be making friends in our sector ? A call to me rather than a letter in The Timnes ? I await Ms Knight's lunch invite. We could work together on this. As Obama might say , " together we can " !

Sunday 15 February 2009


Was it moving downmarket to go from Radio 4 to SKY News? I was offered the opportunity to do an interview on SKY on Saturday. It meant an early start and a taxi from Charlbury to the SKY Studios just near Heathrow. And obviously the Hound came with me. Now this was a poser. Would I appear with Hound; for that homely touch, she licking my ear as I reflect on the woes of the UK's charity sector. Perhaps not the image my members would expect. But the problem was solved by my Head Of Comms valiantly offering to come out to SKY and take Hound walkies. The other dilema was whether this was casual as it was a Saturday. They were very relaxed on this. I thought I would do suit but no tie. And then in the Green Room I chickened out and put the tie on. The right choice I think .

But it turned out to be a good chance to get the message across about the plight of charities facing falling income and rising demand. I was quizzed on the Governments Action Plan. Was it enough? They contrasted the £42m in the Plan to the £500m we think is needed. I make the point that this is just a start. More will clearly be needed. But I also make the point that it is not just for the Government. How about the bankers donating their bonuses I ask? I also make the point that this is a sector that has a turnover larger than the car industry and a workforce bigger than the banks and finance industry. I also get the chance to do a pre record which they then use every hour for the rest of the day. So it may be Saturday but an opportunity to put across important messages. If we are to attract politicians attention then they have to think that we can make waves and get attention. Media for our role is crucial. We will continue to plug away for chances to put our case .

Friday 13 February 2009

Lecture - March 3rd and "You and Yours"

"I enjoy doing live Radio. Especially Radio 4. So off to the BBC HQ in Portland Place for You and Yours and a debate on the future of the Lottery. Irritatingly I forget to ring Mother to tell her I'm on. I have a revolting cough so I turn up armed with Vicks cough mixture and some lozenges. I take the lozenges into the studio just in case. I survive the interview coughless.

I wonder who is listening in? Any members I wonder?

I am in the studio and Clive Booth, who Chairs The Big Lottery Fund, is on the line from Oxford.

The debate is about the future of the guarantee the Government gave to the charity sector that between 60-70% of the funds of the BLF will go to the charity sector. In fact the BLF have done well and the figure is actually 74%. The guarantee is till 2012. So the BLF is consulting about whether this continues after then.

I make the point that in a recession there can be no question that the guarantee must continue. Its good to be able to get a plea for the state of our sector in this growing recession.

The Lottery was established to give money to good causes. It has made a huge difference to charities large and small. It funds causes and projects that cannot get funding elsewhere. It is therefore worth fighting for.

Since it has been set up it has proved too easy a target for governments to take money for other things. The Olympics was just one of them. Without a guarantee it would be easier for further raids in the future.

I give what I hope is a vigorous defence for the money to be kept for the sector. In fact it is our money. Not the BLF's, or the Government's. Booth makes a point about them funding Parish Councils. I suspect if Parliament had wanted the Lottery to fund Parish Councils it would have said so when setting up the Lottery. But they specifically wanted the money to go to our independent charity sector. Not arms of the state. So we must be vigilant. The BLF are right to start off the debate. They alert us to the need to defend our money. I'm glad both Booth and I have had the chance to publicise this consultation.

We also have to ensure the political parties support the guarantee. I will take this up with both Andy Burnham and Nick Hurd.

Anyway make sure you have your say and tell the BLF that the 70% guarantee for money to charity continues.

Click here for link to the Big Thinking website.

I am giving a Lecture with DEMOS on March 3rd at Deloitte on, "The Third sector: leading through recession to Recovery".

I wanted to use this Lecture to give some substance and form to some of the ideas I have been putting forward in my blogs about how the third sector can play a Leadership role in the current crisis.

I want to explore how this recession might act as a stimulus to change; for our sector and in the economy more generally.

It's at lunchtime on the 3rd and if you were interested email me for a ticket. And if you want to put up your own ideas here as comments please do.

And for those of you who wanted to know what were the three books I choose as my favourites for the Institute of Philanthropy newsletter they were;

TS Eliot's Four Quartets

The Book of Common Prayer

Brideshead Revisited -Evelyn Waugh

You will have to wait to read the Institutue's newsletter to find out why!

Thursday 12 February 2009

Governance...again..And Gift Aid.

So Governance is firmly in the spotlight with the riveting drama of the Commons Select Committee lynching of the errant bankers. The Moore memorandum has highlighted the importance of the non executive role on a Board in the corporate sector. I think this yet again emphasises the need for reform and the opening up of Boards to a wider pool of talent . Clearly I am arguing the case for charity Chief executives. I pushed this hard back in 2003 with the Higgs review and got him on side . This led to the setting up of the Tyson task force to consider how to make company Boards more diverse . Our recommendations , including how companies should put more women and charity CEOs on Boards were ignored .The recommendations were only advisory. And it is now clear they were never going to go anywhere. The " club" that is the narrow circle of self regarding non executives who have made so much from the bonus culture were never going to want change.

So Government need to consider legislation to enforce change ; both on people on Boards and on CSR. It is so unfortunate that the Enquiry established by Alistair Darling into the Banks is being headed by a former banker. Surely a big mistake , when there ar plenty of very eminent people who are untainted by the scandals in the banks and who could have brought an impartial view to this .I await his reply to my suggestion that they have a cbharity CEO on the enquiry.

But as I have stressed , the third sector needs to learn lessons too . I was interested in the comment on my Blog from "caricelillen " about the power of the Chair -CEO relationship . How this may not always be good . It is a very fair point. I often see the problem of a fall out in this relationship . I also see the value that a good relationship brings as well . But this must not detract from the need for strong , independent trustees who can challenge and be critical . Not in an obstructive way , but bringing the wealth of the experience they have to raise issues that the Chair and CEO may not have considered . When you see the sorry sight of the 4 chairs and CEOs of RBS and HBOS before the parliamentary tumbrels , you do just pause and think what were the non - execs on these Boards doing ( apart from collecting their bonuses obviously ).

I expect that people would consider the Chair - CEO of Futurebuilders as a pretty powerful force . Lewis and Bubb . Not to be crossed lightly you might think . But actually when I was putting together the Board for the new Futurebuilders I wanted to get top class talent. So we have a very powerful Board ; the Chair of the LSC, the former managing partner of one of the worlds biggest legal firms, a successful venture capital Finance Director , A top investment analyst , for example. Great people from the sector like Dame Jo Williams , Kevin Carey the Vice Chair of RNIB. These are no shrinking violets. They do challenge . They spot things and raise issues that we have to consider . This is how it should be . Whilst I tend to the view I have good ideas and tend to want them implemented immediately , it can be good to have the odd contrary opinion . Which is sometimes correct! A Chief executive or a Chair cannot be right all of the time. Though they must be right most of the time.

And Boards' should never work on the basis of complete consensus. That often means decision making at the lowest common denominator. So I am a great believer in following your instinct , even when those around you are less clear . So , this governance business ain't easy!

I was forcefully reminded of how important governance is when I met a group of ACEVO members having lunch in the Wesleyan Cafe in Westminster Central Hall yesterday . They are the survivors of an ACEVO new CEO course . They have been meeting as a group since then to offer each other peer support and encouragement . It was good to see them , but they told me that of the course of 11 , 3 member CEOs have left their organisations sin the last 2 years because they have fallen out with their Chairs . This is not good news . And a shocking statistic . it just reinforces my view that the Charity Commission need to reconsider their role here . It may be that we need separate regulation for the larger charities? A new body that might have a different approach to governance and change ? Just an ideAnd I was in the Wesleyan Cafe , an unusual spot for me as Stuart Ethrington was quick to jest , for a pre meeting of the ncvo , acevo , cfdg and IoF gang before we went to see Stephen Tinmms MP, the Financial Secretary for HMT. We are making progress on gift aid and VAT. he was welcoming . But we will see. A joint press release from us all sets out where we got to . So read all about it there!

Tuesday 10 February 2009

Governance and the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission have published a report into the way Age Concern set up a membership body ," Heyday" which has made losses. It has commented on how the governance worked in Age Concern . One of the issues raised was whether it was appropriate to have such a large Board. Other charities with similar Board arrangements need to reflect on this now.And in a recession charities should not shirk reform .

Age Concern have had a Board of 36 ; far too large I believe , and a substantial number were in fact employees drawn from the various independent Age Concerns around the country . Age Concern is in fact a federated charity , made up of all the excellent local Age Concerns that we know and love. Of course this matter is being dealt with in a sense because Age Concern and Help the Aged are merging and already have a new Chair and CEO of the proposed merged body who take over from !st April. I am confident they will take on Board any lessons in a good way . However we must not think that charities should not explore innovative ways to make money or to trade . Indeed , in a recession that will be imoortant .

But I think the Charity Commission itself must reflect on how they approach governance issues in larger charities. I do not think that a "one size fits all" approach to governance works. Whilst a totally unpaid trustee Board of volunteers works for the vast majority, I believe there is scope for those charities who want this to make payments to trustees . I also think different governance structures should be more common . For example , a common form of governance in the public sector is for a Board of non execs and execs , with a non exec Chair.

The Charity Commission need to be more welcoming to new approaches and make it easier for Boards to pay their trustees.Not large sums . Or bonuses! But reasonable amounts that recognise they are responsible for charities that have turnover the size of many large businesses. Members tell me that the Commission does not always appear welcoming to such proposals . However they have agreed some proposals for change It has not always been easy . And it has been time consuming and costly for those that seek change. The Commission now need to take a more permissive approach and give advice and support to those that want change. To be clear , there is no legal restraint that bars charities applying to pay trustees or change arrangements . Some have . But it needs to be made easier for this to happen by the CC. And charities need to be clear that they can approach the CC to get change .

After all , there is a very obvious point arising out of the CC report on Age Concern . If trustees are to carry out their duties effectively in an increasingly complicated and financially diverse economy , there must be a case for paid trustees . These days the public sector recognises that non execs need to be paid if they are to be expected to oversee the spending of large sums of money .Our sector becomes ever more diverse with social enterprises that do not shy away from non exec pay . Of course this must be down to individual charities . They must decide. With a growing sector different governance forms are becoming more appropriate.

ACEVO has always taken a keen interest in good governance . It is crucial to a Chief executive. And crucial to effectiveness in organisations . The recession should be a stimulas to governance reform .

Let the debate begin .

Monday 9 February 2009

The Action Plan ; A welcome start .

Well , it is a welcome start . £42.5m in the Third Sector Recession Action Plan announced today by the Government . The fact that it is being launched by the Prime Minister is a good indication that this is taken seriously by Government . But to be clear , more will be needed as the recession unfolds and more strain is felt at the front line . But the fact that new money has been made available is clearly very good news.
Click here to read the Guardian's front page coverage.

ACEVO will now look to the Treasury for meaningful reform to Gift Aid so that more income comes to the sector as donations drop .With our colleagues in CFDG, IoF and NCVO we are meeting them shortly to press the case . A particular reform I will push is to extend the relief to the higher rate tax band .This is also supported by the Institute of Fundraising . Most higher rate tax payers do not realise they can reclaim the part of the tax back on charitable gifts . And I feel sure that higher rate tax payers would be happy to feel their gift was even more efficient for charity .

We also need to keep up the pressure for an early establishment of the Social Investment Bank . As our taskforce reported , we need £250m for this new Bank that will lend. Parminder of The Times tells me that the Banks reaction to his news story on this was positive in that they are saying they will stick to the deal. So it is over to Governmnet to make it happen . Now.

We will also be working closely with DWP to look at ways we can support job creation and meaningful full time volunteering initiatives . As I indicated I am putting together an informal report for James Purnell on ideas for how the sector can work with Government as unemployment rises .

Taken all together, the new money from the Action Plan and these 2 measures could bring in over £500m for the sector in the coming 2 0r 3 years . We will encourage Liam and Kevin to continue to push hard for these .

There is also good news in the Plan for Futurebuilders. We will be responsible for distributing a major portion of new funding for the proposed modernisation fund ie money to support organisations wanting to merge or form alliances and partnerships . FBE is also looking at other ways it can support third sector bodies , a cash flow fund for example. We will look at announcing our package of support soon . We have also had a gaurantee on our capital allocation over the next 2 years . This is very good news indeed and the OTS are to be congratualted on this achievemnet as I suspect it will not have been an easy negotiation . So well done to Campbell Robb.

My Director of Strategy and I will be at a stakeholders meeting at the Cabinet Office to get the detail of the Plan this afternoon . It is a measure of the journey our sector has been on in the last 10 years that we are seen as central to Government plans to fight recession . But now we had better consider how we play our part ; by planning better , by looking at opportunities for collaboration with others , sharing back office services ,and governance reform. Organisations need to be ready for the potential of a 2 or 3 year recession . So Chief Executives need to be on top of their game . Showing leadership . taking tough decisions. We must also hope that Chairs and trustees also play their part . I hear some strange stories from the front . In recession Boards and CEOs must pull together to develop strategies for change. Use the recession as a stimulus for innovation . Seek out the opportunities for growth and expansion in providing public services. Look for appropriate mergers or alliances and partnerships with other charities or the private sector . So lets gird our loins for the struggle ahead.

Sunday 8 February 2009

What a surprise!

So we now discover that Mr Glen Moreno ,who the Government appointed to Chair the body set up to manage the taxpayers interest in the banks, has worked with a financial institution in Liechtenstein involved in tax avoidance. A Sunday Times top story makes the point that it seems incredible that this appointment could have been made . Who did the checking on this ? Can we really trust an organisation ( the UK Financial Institutions ) that we expect to look after our interest as taxpayers to get a grip on the bonus culture that led , in part , to our current problems under such Chairmanship. I assume the HMT will now expect his resignation.

And of course we have already seen what appointments this body has made with the 2 non executives put onto Lloyds-TSB. And in the same edition of the ST we see that Lloyds are going to pay their people a bonus. Incredible. Doesn't the corporate sector see the outrage this will cause . i am sure that there are in fact many people in the private sector who are just as appalled at this behaviour. The actions of a small number have brought an entire profession into disrepute . That is not good . But with effective governance reform things can change for the better .

The Chancellor has announced the establishment of an independent review into the banks. This is welcome . But we will need to see that this is independent . No appointments like Mr Moreno . I am emailing Mr Darling to suggest that he appoint an experienced Charity CEO to the review . As Polly wrote in her article in the Guardian , we need such people to bring a strong sense of reality and responsibility to the Square Mile .

Sunday has been spent mainly working , catching up on progress on the Action Plan . Early morning Communion was in a chilly Church , the heating having gone on strike ; though this is conducive to a spirit of repentance I am sure.

The Plan will be launched tomorrow . I leave Charlbury early , as the snow starts to fall again I travel back on the train to London . I am balancing an overactive Hound on my knee ( well mainly on my knee ) and juggling my phone as I get a call from the Financial Times for an ACEVO view. You will be able to judge the felicity of my comments in tomorrow's paper (or indeed in the Guardian ) ; assuming they make it that is! One thing is clear . We are fortunate that we have an active and respected Office of The Third Sector ,at the heart of Government , who are working to promote our interests as a sector and they , and our Ministers , Liam Byrne and Kevin Brennan, are to be congratulated on the way they have secured a good Plan for the troubling times ahead . But we will be back!

Saturday 7 February 2009

Ideas wanted!

Charlbury is looking particular wonderful today , but then you probably saw that ! Snow engulfed Charlbury appeared on the the BBC main news last night ; our beautiful Church and Playing fields looking charming in the deep snow , and the shelves of the local Co-op empty as supplies not delivered!. And of course the Nation will have been aghast at the news that the Royal British Legion Coffee Morning had been cancelled. No cake for Bubb.

The sunrise over the cemetery as I took Hound for the early morning ablution run was fantastic . And Hound loved romping in the virgin snow, apparently unfazed by the cold of the snow ,unlike her chilled owner.

The papers have got through though and I read another great article by Polly Toynbee on the need for the Government to get a grip on the bonus culture. Is it not shameful that in the next few weeks the financial industry will pay itself £3.6bl in bonuses . This staggering arrogance should be stopped . Obama is acting in the States . Time for our Government to act? Culture change is needed. As Polly says,

" New non exec directors don't include sharp eyed lower paid academics or heads of Oxfam, the research councils or other experienced institutions outside the Square Mile. You get no culture change from people who think earning a couple of million is as normal as tax avoidance. "

Governance reform for the City is long overdue . But there is a lesson for charities too . What about our governance ? Is that as good as it should be? I mentioned Suzi Leather's critique of charities not having complaints procedures ( yesterday blog ). But is that in part due to the poor governance of many charities ? We have a single only form of governance in our sector . Unpaid volunteer trustees . This is a system ideal for the majority of charities . But it is not always ideal for the larger organisations . These should be able to introduce new forms of governance ; public sector type boards and paid trustees for example. There is a near Stalinist approach to change here . Charities that want to pay trustees find it hard to get Charity Commission approval .My members who have tried to get a change to the governance form have found that the Charity Commission can be difficult . So there is a need for the Commission to take a lighter touch to change . If they want to see charities more responsive and alive to innovation then those that want to change should be helped and advised to do so. So over to you Suzi to look at that .

ACEVO has now been working closely with the DWP on employment and welfare reform . Our task force report launched Wednesday has been widely welcomed. As a follow up the Secretary of State , James Purnell , has asked me to produce for him an informal report looking at ideas for how our sector can support the important work DWP must now do in recession . Its a case of me having to put " money where mouth is " so to speak . I have written and spoken widely about how we can be at the forefront of job creation and meaningful full time volunteering . So James Purnell now wants me to tell him how this might be realised . And he wants my informal ideas by mid February . I have committed to giving him this report in 2 weeks .

So ideas please . There is a real level of inventiveness in the sector. If you are reading this and you think of points that I can make or proposals for how our sector can step up to the mark let me know.

And we now await the launch of the recession action plan . It will be soon , maybe even Monday or Tuesday .I have written a last minute plea from ACEVO to the Prime Minister for the Government to come up with a bold plan that also includes new money for the sector .Others in the sector have done likewise. We have followed the lead set by Stuart at ncvo . I am hopeful. The Government are alive to the need to support our sector as well as how it can be used to lead the economy and society through recession . Public service reform will gather pace , as Liam Byrne MP , the Cabinet Office Minister has promised . So there are strong opportunities for the sector to be at the forefront and show leadership . I await the Plan eagerly.

Friday 6 February 2009

Guardian Public Services Summit

The snow continues to fall over the Hertfordshire countryside and the Guardian Public Services Summit. Getting here was a trial, though I managed very effectively to blag my way into a taxi with the wonderful Jackie Ballard, CEO of RNID. And we end up talking about dogs. As you do !

This event is one of the most stimulating conferences I go to and this year was no disappointment. It is interesting to reflect how much consensus there is around the growing role of the third sector in service delivery. We now discuss how to do it, not why. So Suzi Leather from The Charity Commission was asking us to think whether it is acceptable for 70% of charities not to have complaint procedures when they are delivering publicly funded services! Liam Byrne gives a fantastic speech about devolving power - particularly to communities and he pays a very generous tribute to ACEVO for its fantastic work over the years in promoting change and working with Government on reform. I blush - but only slightly.

I was particularly struck by a speech by Michael Bichard. He talks of how the recession ought to be a stimulus to change. He talks of smaller government which concentrates on strategic direction and not micro managing services. He says the current crisis should be driving innovation. I agree with his point that the public sector has an anti-innovation culture. It is so risk averse it will not support or promote innovative people.

How good are we in the sector at innovation? Are we sometimes risk averse? But I agree that the direction of travel for our sector will be more service delivery and we need to think through how that gives us opportunities to innovate.

Leigh Lewis talks about how DWP set up the Directgov website where citizens can go for information and advice on a whole range of services. Why should charities not do something similar? We talk of sharing back office services. Well what about sharing front office?

I talk to Neil hunt CEO of Alzheimer's and we agree to pursue this idea for the chronic disease charities. A direct charity website and phone helpline? This is exactly the type of project crying out for investment. An example of why we need a social investment bank.

And so its great to see a full report in today's Times on our call for a Bank that lends. Please click here to read the story.

I get a copy of the NAO report on FBE and Capacity Builders. One interesting point that Third Sector fail to report (I wonder why?) is the praise the Report gives to the new management at FBE since the change of contract. I send a furious note to the Editor to ask why they omitted this rather salient point from their coverage and why they implied in their headline that the NAO were equally critical of us both. They were not.

But I have asked Jonathan Lewis for us to review the report at our next Board. We can always do better and such reports are always good ways to look at what you do and think differently. One of the good things about Futurebuilders is the way we have been innovative in bringing forward new products and changing systems to provide a better customer focus. Michael Bichard is right to highlight innovation in a recession and we are king at how FBE can invest in this and encourage new ways of working and new approaches. Risky investments sometimes, but our job is to be risky. Look for adventure. And when we get pilloried by Third Sector magazine not to be put off carrying on and innovating.

The Guardian need to be fulsomely thanked for this event. But also for the way in which they are campaigning on tax avoidance by business and the scandals of bonus and top pay in industry. Obama is leading the way in expecting the Banks to limit top salaries. Time for Government to do the same as The Guardian Editorial yesterday says.

So just as we should look to the recession as a stimulus for rethinking Government, we should do so for the private sector? More social enterprise and mutuals. More effective corporate social responsibility. Government reform in the City. And yes, attention to governance reform in our own sector. Time to revisit pay for trustees. For different governance methods and for us all to ensure effective service delivery - Suzi's point about complaints procedures is a warning call to us not to be complacent.

Thursday 5 February 2009

Jobs; ACEVO-DWP Taskforce Launched

We gave birth to our long awaited ACEV0 - DWP taskforce report on the role of the third sector in delivering employment and training yesterday. A conference at RBS with a stellar line up. James Purnell (who commissioned the Task force) is the key note and we end with Kevin Brennan, the Third Sector Minister giving the report the thumbs up from the OTS perspective.

Please click here for the full report

In opening the day I stress how crucial our role is in creating jobs and full time volunteering initiatives. I spoke about how, after the Brixton riots, the Council had worked with the local community and third sector to regenerate against a background of staggering levels of youth unemployment. And the key recommendation of the Report is to establish a Social Investment Bank as soon as possible. A Bank that lends. A Bank, with a capital asset of £250m that can build capacity in our sector and enable us to build a strong base for competition.

I tell James we need that to happen Now. February. He later quips that he knows if he comes to an acevo event he will not knowingly be under asked by Stephen!

David Freud, who was the Vice Chair of the Taskforce, gave a brilliant piece on The Today programme. He spelt out why we need the Bank. He said the sector is like a juggernaut with only two gears. An apt metaphor. We need capacity building to give us five.

A packed room and good attendance from both the sector and private industry. I stress how important partnership working will be - across public, private and third sectors -at a time of recession. James's speech demonstrates a superb mastery of his brief and a real zeal and commitment to what our sector brings to his Department's work. He has an engaging manner and deals with the questions with effortless ease and a sense of humour. Later on I'm able to also thank Leigh Lewis, the Permanent Secretary at DWP, on the support of his officials who are up for a bigger role for us.

Later in the day I receive a call from Radio 4’s iPM team, who are looking at the subject of volunteering. Chris Vallance has had a lot of feeback from those with positive experiences of volunteering on his blog. Click here.

My head of policy, Ralph Michell will be speaking to Eddie Mair on Saturday morning’s iPM show on Radio 4. He will be discussing the valuable role the third sector can play, particularly through volunteering and job creation, in helping tackle unemployment. If you are not planning to be up at 5.45am you may want to listen to it at a more convenient time.

Just click on listen to ipm on the right hand side.

And I cap the day of with the Annual Dinner for the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives. Our sister organisation. Though they have more money. A long chat with the new Chair and CEO of the local government association to talk about better working relations! Though I'm afraid that later I get trapped in a conversation about salt and grit (lack of) and logistics and so drank more than was advisable so I could cope with the crushing boredom of this topic of conversation!

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Trust in charity: Trust its leaders.

The recession has blown trust in bankers and business. The third sector is now one of the most trusted institutions in the country. What are the lessons to be drawn? How do we as the sector leaders use this trust to build our sector? And what are the lessons for Government, business and politicians.

But first the evidence. Each year the Edelman group produce a Trust Barometer for the leaders at Davos. It is a survey of some 4500 "opinion leaders" across 20 countries. It measures the credibility of institutions. And the results this year have been startling. 62% said they trust companies less this year than last. Just 38% say they now trust business. Only 31% trust banks . In media it is a staggering 28%. Yet trust in our third sector NGOs rose by 12% from last year. Trust is high in our sector at 54%.

People polled said they wanted to see more partnership working between sectors to solve the economic crisis. Indeed, when these results were presented at a breakfast meeting in London by Edelman they said that the key message from this data is that governments and commerce need to work with and to build partnerships with the third sector.

Mr Edelman , quoted in the FT, said " mutual social responsibility" must be key to recovery. "Companies that walk away from the big social issues or say that they can't afford to be sustainable will be making a big mistake".

Looking at the reasons for the declining levels of trust, for business one of the key issues is corporate tax avoidance. Although apparent for years this issue is only now really reaching the public domain. Polly Toynbee discusses how these same corporations will hide this and cover themselves by a glossy CSR statement in Saturday's Guardian.
As more evidence mounts, there is clearly going to be a further drop in levels of trust. How will these businesses respond to this? Well the danger is that we will see them become less transparent in order to protect their investments.

Is the Government willing to listen to this message?

The omens for this are mixed. For example the new body set up to manage the taxpayers share in the banks ( the UK Financial Institutions) is to be chaired by Mr Glen Moreno. He earns £450,000 as Chair of Pearsons and is a non exec Director of a hedge Fund. One doubts such a person will be stepping in to end the corrupt bonus and remuneration culture that permeate our financial systems to such dread effect on our economy. Yet governance reform of business ought to be a top priority for Government. This new body should be pushing a clean up of the stables of commerce.

One also hopes Government will be alert to the social consequences of a severe recession. There will be growing strains on social cohesion and the effects of long term unemployment are severe, as we know from previous recessions.

There are two lessons from the Trust data.

Business needs governance reform and a serious and genuine commitment to corporate social responsibility. This may require legislation.

Second, the Government and business need to work through, and in genuine partnership with, the third sector.

The forthcoming recession Action Plan for the sector, and the White Paper on Public Service Reform should be a bold statement of the role the sector must now play as a key agent of social and economic progress.

The Prime minister should display the same zeal and umph in this that he has on the banking crisis.

Our sector has grown to become a key economic player, as well as its vital role in holding together our civil society. There is still patchy understanding of the real potential we offer. It is not at the margins. Or as an after-thought.

So if Government and business want to regain trust they must now work in partnership with the third sector.

Monday 2 February 2009

When will they learn?

When will the Government learn that the financial and banking industry needs a fundamental overhaul , starting with its governance. Who were the people sitting as non- executives on the Banks and hedge fund Boards? Were they exercising proper scrutiny? Or were they encouraging the bad practice that has now ruined our economy ?

The Government now has the chance ,through its ownership of shares, to insist on a different approach to governance. Are they? Clearly not . I read today that the Government have appointed their 2 non executives to the Board of Lloyds-TSB Bank . And who are they ? Well ; the usual suspects ! Tony Watson , who has retired as head of the Hermes pension management fund , and Tim Ryan , CEO of the US Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association . Does this fill you with confidence that we will now have the level of non executive scrutiny we need? This is a bad decision . We should have had people appointed to guarantee proper accountability and who are not drawn from the banking or financial world. . People to clean out the stables. To end the culture of greed in the way these people remunerate themselves . To end the bonus culture. Do you think these 2 will do that? I await their response to the Blog .

Some 6 years ago the Government established the Higgs review into Corporate governance in the commercial sector. It was roundly critical of the practice of appointing people to boards , mainly white , male , and stale People who were recruited generally through informal methods like the Golf Club. practically no open advertising . And the make up of UK Boards largely excluded women or BME candidates . ACEVO made representations to the Higgs review and we said that there needed to be a wider pool of candidates. We said that many Third Sector CEOs would make excellent Non Executives . many ran large businesses . Higgs agreed with me and he recommended a further review. That led to the establishment of the Tyson Task Force . Tyson was the dynamic head of the London Business School i sat on the Task Force . It reported .It said Boards had to be more diverse . It recommended a panel of third sector CEOs and others to draw on . And what happened . Well , you can guess. Perhaps if we had a stroppy charity CEO on a Bank Board we might have had someone to challenge the goings on ? Someone who might have suggested the bonus culture was corrupt. That you cannot possibly need to earn the millions these people paid themselves. But in any case we badly need a better mix of people on Bioards .

iow is the time for radical reform of the commercial sector and that begins with Governance . Boards must be opened up to a wider pool of talent . These posts must be openly advertised. People should be chosen on the basis of their ability to bring critical analysis and not to feel they are part of a club of like minded and like thinking individuals . If I were Government I would now be thinking of such reforms to corporate govvernance . The finacial and banking crisis began in our Board rooms . These boards did not excercise proper scrutiny . They need an overhaul .

Franklin Delano Roosevelt , in his memorable Inauguration Speech, in the middle of recession in 1933 , said ,

" The money changers have fled from their high seats in the Temple of our civilisation . We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit . "

So will Messrs Watson and Ryan be leading that charge ?

What on earth is the newly established UK Financial Investments ( the body set up by Government to manage its stake in banks ) thinking of ? If I was David Cameron , who has rightly been talking of reform and corporate soacial responsibiltiy in the private sector , I would ensure this body is either abolished or put into the hands of people who will ensure radical reform . These 2 appointments are not encouraging, though perhaps they are Round Heads in disguise? If anyone reading this Blog knows what these 2 individuals earn or will be paid in these roles I would be interested.