Thursday 30 April 2009

Talking Tory; and 100 days.

A great morning . I was taking a group of my leading members to meet with the Tory front bench spokes in Justice , Employment and Education . This initiative flowed from meetings I have been having with Francis Maude MP who is taking a lead role in putting together the Conservative programme for Government and is particularly interested in how to get strong third sector involvement in commissioning and the roll out of public services.

I was impressed with the depth and the scale of the discussion and the radical nature of some of the Tory proposals . There was a real energy in the room. I think their programme in prisons and probation is particularly exciting , and Teresa May MP was impressive in her outline of plans on employment and welfare reforms.And she was ably backed by rhea great David ( soon to be Lord ) Freud ; he of the DWP-acevo task force . David Burrowes MP, who is one of the Justice team ,I had not met before but is clearly a rising star . Impressive in his grasp and vision for a radical approach on prisons . The key here is their plan to incentivize Prison Governors to tackle the problem of high levels of re offending . I have to say that whilst I welcomed the announcement by Jack Straw MP , the Lord Chancellor, on more competition in prisons and probation the Tory plans have a much stronger focus on the importance of rehabilitation and the role our sector must play. i doubt they will be sidetracked by the combined power of the prison and probation officers unions who think the service is run for their benefit rather than to achieve a reduction in crime .

I had also not met Nick Gibb MP , the shadow minister for Schools . He is clear that the sector needs to be enabled to run more schools directly and to break up the current state monopoly here .

But I also have to say the team I took with me were high firepower. Absolutely focused and clear . not a whinge in sight . All very practical in how we can work to implement reform and growth in sector direct provision of services. So who are these paragons ? Neil MacIntosh who runs CfBT , the irrepressible Debbie Scott of Tomorrow's people , Tony Hawkhead of Groundwork , Virginia Beardshaw who not only runs the impressive ICan but is an acevo trustee , the impressive Joyce Mosley , who invented the probation service ( well , her organisation did )and 3 brains Matthew Pike . The intellectual power of this group was matched by their vision and determination . I felt proud to be there and to watch as this group engaged . It is the sort of practical advice and experience that ACEVO likes to bring together and harness to help shape public policy and programmes . Others can do the grand policy and the whines . We do the get stuck in and sort stuff . So whether that is the Current Government , the Labour or Liberal parties or the Conservatives ; it is our job as the voice of Chief Executives to ensure policies are right for the sector and promote our values and aspirations.

Back to a discussion with Capacity Builders with my Futurebuilder Chair bowler hat on. It was interesting that one of the themes that emerged this morning way the importance of building the sector's capacity to compete , as well as getting access to capital . We had discussed with the Tories the value of a Social Investment Bank . Francis Maude was keen to ensure that the new Bank is independent of government and not an NDPB .He is absolutely right on that . Spot on . I said we will fight hard to ensure that is the case . Nick Hurd said they were worried that the Big Lottery Fund may be given the dormant cash money . Again I said we opposed that . Of course , if the Government did that it would be but short lived as they intend to free up the BLF from the confines and shackles of the NDPB status and make it an independent Foundation . They are right on that too .

And finally , Barack , blessed be him , is celebrating his first 100 days as American President. What a great man . And what great achievements . The audacity of Hope . The Thought for the Day slot on the Today programme by Bishop Jones of Liverpool was very moving about how he has been a beacon of hope to many across the world . He has had a good 100 days . Perhaps he was reading the ACEVO manual for CEOs on their first 100 days. " A Road map for success " . To get yourself a copy click here. Hard to imagine what CEOs would do without ACEVO there to support them .

Wednesday 29 April 2009

Future Jobs and Damely wisdom

My chair said , accusingly , that I had not blogged since Thursday . Its true . Nearly a week . An unpardonable break for my blog followers and all those reallying on keeping abreast of what is really going on in the dear Third Sector .

My only excuse is that 2 domestic issues have intervened . After 31 years I am moving from my flat in Stockwell to a former council house next to Brixton Prison . I will have a fantastic view of this wonderful Victorian edifice from my ( soon to be I hope ) bedroom window .The traumas of the logistics and the best efforts of solicitors have been trying my patience to extinction ( and I am never knowingly accused of being patient ) . And whilst this has been going on the Hound has had a close encounter of an unfortunate kind with a car . Not too damaging , but she is very bruised . It is always distressing to see an animal hurting .

So there you have it . But now I;m back with news of the exciting development in DWP. As serious readers of my Blog will know ACEVO has been lobbying hard with DWP for a significant Jobs programme . I made a range of suggestions in my report to James Purnell MP on how the sector can promote recovery . And all credit to him and his colleagues ; they have established a " Future Jobs Fund " to provide 150,000 jobs aimed at youth and long term unemployed people in the most disadvantaged regions. It is limited to the third sector and local government. I have been invited to join the DWP official steering group for the Fund , and so help determine the criteria and parameters . We had the first meeting yesterday . It was positive ( though with irritations from the local government ca change ). But we must be clear that it is time for us to deliver on our fine talk about what we can achieve . So we need to engage and deliver. No nonsense with sniping from the sidelines or complaints about process and lack of consultation . we must get on a war footing and show we can spring into action ot help those most at need . So ACEVO intends to support sector bodies in this great enterprise .

To aid the process I am setting uo a third sector task force of leading CEOs and with the involvement of the Community Alliance and the Social Enterprise Coalition ; all key delivery partners for this project . Our task force will feed into the Steering Group but also act as a source of information and advice for the sector . We are also holding a seminar for the sector on May 11th and James Purnell wants to speak at an event to publicise and promote the new scheme . We are organising that with him . I spend the day , in between meetings , talking to colleagues in our partner organisations . This is a good opportunity for the key sector bodies working across communities , Social Enterprise and the broader third sector to show how we can deliver for members , but more importantly , demonstrate that the third sector can deliver , as well as talk . But what an achievement ; the sector in pole position , delivering innovative and energising programmes to meet the challenge of this recession .

Its amusing that the Chair of the DWP group is an old friend from Oxford days . One Adam Sharples . Who whilst at Oxford played in the band with one Tony Blair.

I mentioned " meetings " when actually these were 2 Board meetings . The first was my ACEVO Board where I am in my role as a Chief executive ( although also a full Board member too ) and then in the afternoon I Chair the Trustees of the Adventure Capital Fund . We are discussing how to manage the new " group " of Futurebuilders ,our role delivering the Social Enterprise Innovation Fund for the DH , the modernisation Fund for the OTS as well as , potentially , the Community Builders Fund. But a real force for change . I am becoming adept at swapping the Hat of the CEO for the Bowler of the Chair . I reckon all Chairs should also have been CEOs as it means they understand the key distinctions between the executive and non executive functions .

As the ACF Board meeting is about to start I get diverted by a conversation with marvellous Dame Denise Platt ( all Boards should have a Dame ) and Steve Whyler who runs the Development Trust Association . We are discussing 3 year strategic plans . Now I realise we all must have these . but I'm not a fan . The Dame says wisely that her view on this was determined by Rosabeth Moss Kanter who says your plans are determined by the 4 F principles ;





And , you know what , that is what we want for the Future Jobs Fund. And it is the way I lead ACEVO . Me and Rosabeth are clearly soul mates.

Thursday 23 April 2009

' We know a good thing when we see it'

My deputy, Peter Kyle has given an excellent response to Third Sector on why ACEVO unlike others in the sector are optimistic about yesterday's budget.

"There are three different types of announcement to look for in a budget; money, commitment to a policy, and broad direction of travel, or narrative. We have become rather dependent on the first, calling for and expecting dollops of money. We've had a lot of that in the past, and it landed us with healthy number of quangos and infrastructure funding. I for one think its time we looked for something more sophisticated."

Click here to read in full.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

It's okay!

So we got action on various things we wanted in the Budget. In particular the jobs announcements are very good news.

I am also pleased with the announcement on the Social Investment Bank. OTS will consult but it is clear this is going ahead. I followed up my talk to the PM on Monday with a letter and I understand that in fact Government are working on a timetable. We shall see; but three cheers to Government on this. Now give us the £250m from the banks' dormant assets we have asked for from the DWP-ACEVO task force report from February.

I was also really pleased to see that DWP have taken up one of the ideas in the paper I prepared for James Purnell DWP Secretary of State. They are establishing a "Future Jobs Fund", which will create jobs for young people by TSOs and Local Government. It's cool to see that the work we did in ACEVO has borne fruit in this way and James Purnell has made a generous tribute to me and ACEVO for this. James said "without the work of ACEVO this announcement would not have been possible. In particular, the paper Stephen Bubb prepared demonstrated that the voluntary sector has the ideas to create employment for people out of work. This Budget provides the funding that will enable the voluntary sector to develop local, useful jobs for the young unemployed."

We shall be taking advantage of this scheme in ACEVO. It is always good to see the results of effective lobbying. ACEVO can pat itself on the back, but more importantly it's great for the young people who face the perils of not getting a job.

Although we got nothing specific on Gift Aid, I believe we will get the higher rate change once the research project is finished. We carry on campaigning on this.

The extra £20m fund is also very much welcomed. It shows the value of continuous pressure on Government and the fact that they will listen. I was surprised that NCVO were so grudging in their press release about all this. Of course we want more, but I was brought up to believe you give credit where it is due (and then ask for more).

In the meantime we are putting together ideas for the paper we are producing for the next Third Sector Summit on June 2nd. We have commissioned Will Hutton of the Work Foundation to produce a document on how the sector can build recovery through job creation and expanding full time volunteering. Will has been campaigning on this issue and writes and broadcasts regularly on the need for a major jobs programme along the lines of the Roosevelt New Deal. We will be holding two round tables with members (Leeds and London) and are asking for evidence. Comments here welcome.

We are also producing a Paper for the Social Enterprise Summit on May 12th ACEVO has a large membership amongst social Enterprise CEOs - not surprising really as they sign up to the need for a professional and enterprising third sector; values that ACEVO espouse and promote. Allison Ogden-Newton is the CEO of Social Enterprise London, my Vice Chair and possibly the most vivacious Chief Executive in the sector.

But very very good news comes in from Brussels. Euclid has secured an EU core grant of eu60k to support our leadership work across the EU. Only eight other organisations secured such a core grant in the active citizenship programme. No other UK bodies got support. We were the youngest body to get a core grant. This is fantastic, not just because Euclid can use this resource well but it indicates strong approval from the European Commission for the work we are doing. It is notoriously difficult as a new guy on the block to get grants from the EU. Its a seal of approval and will enable more fundraising and, importantly, influence for us as the European third sector leaders network. The credit here goes largely to the talented Mr Addarri, ACEVO's international and Euclid Director. A chap of great learning and a network to die for, he has been tireless in promoting Euclid. And he demonstrates the ACEVO ethos of "just do it" with fun and verve. And his sometimes Italian ways (erratic timekeeping, wearing trainers with his suit etc) fit in well to the informal and zany atmosphere of the hugely talented and energetic ACEVO office. He arrived in ACEVO as an intern four years ago. Look what he has achieved.

Jack Jones - a tribute

Awoke to a text with the sad news of Jack Jones's death. A great and inspirational leader. I was his research Officer in the 70s. Indeed he gave me my first real job. I had met him a number of times when he had come to Oxford - I was the Chair of the University Labour Club. I had come down to a job as a civil servant. Not really a Bubb type role as you can imagine. He phoned me one day and asked if I was interested in the Research Officer role for him. I accepted with alacrity and so worked on speeches and policy directly for him: issues like the social contract and industrial democracy.

He was an amazing Boss - the best I have ever worked for. He had an air of quiet authority and deep conviction. He inspired people to work to ever greater effect and effort. His leadership was based on a strong moral imperative to make the world a better place. It was why he went to fight fascism in Spain. It was what drove him in his leadership. Leadership studies tend to concentrate on private sector examples. So they miss out on what we can learn from a leadership style that is rooted in a moral commitment and vision.

He was also hugely kind as a Boss. I never saw him angry and he had a lot of patience. He was keen to get my views - a mere youth, but he had respect for people who wanted to put their intellectual skill in support of the cause. Unlike any other union leaders of the time he also had a keen appreciation of the role the media could play and encouraged me to build relations with the press.

He mentored me and taught me how important it is to see your job, not simply as a way to pay the bills, but as means of "making a difference". He was a very powerful individual and played a major role in guiding the Wilson Government is unlikely to think it could happen now but there was a lot of press attack about how he really ran the country.

I worked with him especially on industrial democracy. He was a member of the Bullock Commission, set up to investigate how to give employees a greater role in how companies were run. He believed that a trade union was their to champion individual workers on their pay but it was as important to work for a better society for all.

Today's union leaders are not a match on Jack Jones in his prime. And not content with a quiet retirement he went on to lead demands for a better deal for pensioners. Fighting for a cause he believed in to the end of his event packed 96 years.

Monday 20 April 2009

To Loughborough with the PM

Up at 6.00 am to go to Loughborough! Indeed, the University no less. The Prime Minister launching "New Industry, New Jobs". I have the surreal experience of seeing Peter Mandleson; wandering through the train and asking me if it is coach G? Yes, I say but not your coach - that's the special one that comes with a Copper and a dog! Still, I got a Prime Ministerial handshake on the way off the train, and a chat with Sue Nye.

The PM is launching the Government's policy on industry, or "industrial activism" as it is termed. A very new labour paper; the very title " New Industry, New jobs" is a tad unimaginative. I wonder whether the over use of "new" is now so so "old"? - but credit where it is due. A good Report and Gordon is on fine form. He speaks without notes and is impressive.

You might think this would feature the third sector in a key role. But no. Mentions yes. Central no. Yet this is an industry with a turnover bigger than the car industry and employing more people than the banks.

Is the lack of joined up thinking apparent? The Paper suggests a 3i style Investment fund to offer growth capital to start up businesses. Yet the Government have in front of them a proposal to establish a Social Investment Fund with money from dormant bank accounts, and yet they are allowing the Banks to give them the run around. Why not set this Bank up now? However, the advantage of the event being chaired by Phil Hope MP, the Minister for the East Midlands, and former Third Sector Minister, is that I get to ask a question. The best questions are the simple ones. So I ask "when are you going to set up the Social Investment Bank?". It gets a grin from the PM. And he does respond by saying they will report on this soon. Afterwards he talks to me about it and says "do carry on hassling me on this". I shall.

Sometimes the value of these events lie in the unexpected meeting. Chatting to a Director of a high technology industry he tells me of a new book "The Spirit Level" by Richard Wilkinson (Prof at Nottingham Uni) who has demonstrated that the greater the inequality in a country the higher the incidence of crime, drugs and teenage pregnancy and depression. It has just been published. I've got my PA to order it. Makes a lot of sense. And yet more evidence for a strengthened role for the third sector. ACEVO will carry on pushing that line.

And I share a taxi with Baroness Onora O'Neill - one of the finest brains in the country (former head of Newnham, Cambridge). No chat about the weather from her. A discussion about the perils of quaisi precision in audited accounts!

Yesterday was my father's 81st birthday so the Bubbs gathered in Bromley at my sister Sara's (who is 50 on Wednesday, but she 'd rather I didn't mention that). Much talk over lunch about the authorship of the spoof Robin Bogg blog. Suggestions that it is:

A) me
B) my brother-in-law (a respected senior civil servant)
C) one of my staff

are all hotly denied.

The sun is out. Its been a good morning!

Friday 17 April 2009

Action on youth unemployment

The current recession has shone a spotlight on how unequal our society is with huge disparities in wealth and income distribution. Polly Toynbee and David Walker have written a superb book "Unequal Rewards", which I reviewed for our ACEVO quarterly magazine "Network".

People are now more clearly aware of the huge gap between those used to the largese of big bonuses and the vast majority of the rest of society. The scam that these bonuses are needed to encourage enterprise and innovation is also exposed. The idea these people also give of their largese to charity has also been shown as hollow.

We do now have an opportunity to rebuild; to create a fairer distribution of wealth and to tackle the extremes of poverty - aims of so many of our great charities. Ensuring that the third sector is geared up for this challenge should be an important aim for Government. Darling needs to deliver a budget that targets unemployment and enables the sector to spearhead the job creation drive.

Nowhere is this more important than action on youth unemployment. We are now seeing that this recession will bite hard on the young. It is said that youth unemployment stands at 621,000. This is at its highest rate for a decade. At 14.6% that is shocking enough but the picture is very much worse. The Prince's Trust have pointed out the official statistics lie because they exclude the vast army of the 16-18 NEETS - the kids not in education or training. If you include those then we have youth unemployment at 1.5m. This is shocking.

The third sector can provide the answer. When will the Government act to enable us to sort it?

Thursday 16 April 2009

Welcome support

Good to see a press release today from NCVO backing a number of ideas that ACEVO strongly believes in ....who says we can't work together .

We are both strong backers of the Social Investment bank and have both written to the Chancellor urging support . The DWP-ACEVO Taskforce ( chaired by the effective Tony Hawkhead and the cerebral David Freud )that reported in February called for a Bank to be established post haste . the report argued for a SIB with £250m from unclaimed assets. But it also said the Government should support the idea by immediately releasing funds to set the Bank up . NCVO argue for £50 m immediately and we support that . I know that ministers are very sympathetic as I have discussed it with them on a number of occasions over the last 2 years! Progress can be slow at times. I also know that the PM is a supporter of the idea and has been lobbied by key figures like the great venture capital leader Sir Ronnie Cohen .

With my Futurebuilders hat on we have also been pushing the idea , and indeed are working with colleagues in the French third sector on a push for a European Social Investment Bank ,. We are working on an Anglo-French Summit , at Ministerial level , to talk about this and how we can argue the case with the EU Commission . recently in connection with the G20 Summit we floated the idea of a World Social Bank . The sector needs access to capital . The success of Futurebuilders shows that there is a strong market for investment funds . But the capital available is still not enough . We must be ambitious. this is the new frontier that the sector must cross and conquer. Why should we be cut off from the capital channels that are open to the public and private sectors?

I do think that when there is such strong support from NCVO , ACEVO and bodies like the Social Enterprise Coalition and the Community Alliance we should be able to achieve this goal . It would be a smart move for Government to announce action on the Bank in the Budget . We will see.

I am also pleased that NCVO are backing ACEVO's idea for an opt out on gift aid . it is ironic that when acevo argued for this idea 3 years ago we were loudly condemned. Sometimes it takes time for an idea to come to fruition . It would be churlish of me now not to welcome support , so thank you to Ben Kernigan and ncvo.

Working together in this way across sector bodies is the right approach in a recession.

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Right to Campaign: Right to Protest

Three cheers for the New York Fund Manager who took those shots of the unprovoked assault on Mr Tomlinson. It is great that new technology exposes the wrong doing of those whose job it is to protect us. Quis custodiet custodiens. And now we have the new development yesterday of the You Tube pictures of a woman being beaten by a police officer. It is clear that there were other such incidents as well from the accumulating news stories.The age of the mobile phone camera and video , and the use of Web 2.0 enables us all to keep a watch on the activities of our State. An inverse surveillance society.indeed.

For 20 years I was a Youth Court Magistrate in South London, so I have no illusions about the police or Prison Officers. Many of them are great public servants. And let's remember what other countries have to put up with! But let's not pretend its all great with our friends in blue. And when you put into play the psychology of crowds then it can be lethal. Literally so in this instance. And it is telling that the death of Mr Tomlinson has brought to light many other instances of police violence to innocent bystanders and even journalists covering the events.To publicise these stories is not about being anti police. The real problem is that these stories act to undermine public trust in our institutions . The police cannot do their job effectively if they lose public trust . That is why these stories are so damaging . That is why the blogs that uncovered the malicious behaviour of advisers in No 10 are so damaging . If people increasingly believe the State is not to be trusted then we damage our democratic institutions. It is interesting that whilst the State is losing trust , increasingly the third sector is seen as the vehicle for campaigns as well as delivery of public services. As is so clear , the 21st century is the century of the third sector. Are we up to that challenge?

The right to protest, like our right to campaign is a precious gift. But make no mistake, it is not to be taken for granted. Just as we applaud our New York banker we have to remember one of the more draconian aspects of recent anti-terrorism legalisation is a clause that makes it an offence to take photos of the police engaged in counter terrorist activities. Used, apparently against people taking photos of police cars parked on double yellow lines. So we must all be alert to attempts to curtail what we must cherish. That is why we have to protest loudly at those like Jill Kirby, of the Centre for Policy Studies, who tries to muzzle charity campaigning. It is an insidious attempt to curtail our right to demand change as a third sector, and so again damages our democratic institutions.

Blogs are coming into their own in a big way; YouTube, Twitter and Freedom of Information are the public's defence against a growing surveillance state. The downfall of McBride is a great example of how evil deeds can now be exposed. In ACEVO we have a division of responsibility with me blogging and my Deputy Twittering. And I am going to encourage more of our talented staff to take up new media to get messages across.

So its a great encouragement to me to carry on blogging . But it also makes the wider point that in an age of new media attention , our sector cannot be immune to challenge . Our sometimes less than transparent governance or our lack of accountability will be a source of more attention . And as we see a greater use of blogs and , indeed , freedom of Information requests we better all ensure we have our act together . there is increasingly no place to hide bad practise.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

The great Handel at Easter.

Easter has been very restful . Charlbury was at its splendid Spring best , despite the cold. I was expecting to go to Christ Church, Oxford for Easter communion , but the trains ( lack of ) prevented that plan . Instead it was our beautiful Parish Church of St Mary's, the 8am Book of Common Prayer service with that splendid Collect which asks that ;

"as by thy special grace preventing us thou dost put into our minds good
desires ,
so that by thy continual help we may bring the same to good effect ".

But the bonus was that when I returned to the cottage Radio 4 had choral Eucharist from ...Christ Church . The service ended with a gorgeous rendition of the Hallelujah Chorus sung by the country's finest Cathedral Choir. It was like being transported to heaven listening to the music of one of England's greatest composers.And indeed it is said that Handel said that as he composed the Messiah he felt he was in a heavenly ecstasy . The messiah was the last music he heard before he died , and the lines of the great aria, " I know that my Redeemer liveth " are on his gravestone.

And Today marked the 250th anniversary of Handel's death and so I listened to the live performance of the Messiah from Westminster Abbey , where Handel is buried. In his will he left the copyright of the Messiah to the Foundling Hospital at Coram Fields , now part of the Coram Foundation and one of the country's oldest children's charities ; providing help and support , as well as campaigning for children, across the centuries .Indeed it holds one of the country's first government contracts when HM Treasury paid them to help support orphans in the 18th century.

A fitting end to the Easter break . Back to work with gusto tomorrow.

Sunday 12 April 2009

Thought for Easter

When in Washington I went to see the Arlington cemetery grave of one of the great Presidents that America never had ; Robert F Kennedy. In a speech he said ;

" the Gross National Product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes , and ambulance to clear the highways of carnage .

It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them . GDP includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior.

It grows with the production of napalm and missiles and nuclear weapons. And if GNP includes all this there is much that it does not comprehend.

It does not allow for the health of our families , the quality of their education , or the joy of their play . it is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike.

It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages , or the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.

GNP measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning , neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country.

It measures everything , in short , except that which makes life worthwhile .

Happy Easter from all at ACEVO.

Wednesday 8 April 2009

Our glorious Third Sector

Good for Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the RSA. He continues to Blog on the sector. His latest comments are worth reading. He is very ACEVO minded.(Click here to read it.) He has blogged on the need for governance reform and now echoes ACEVO's line on the importance of the third sector in our economy and society. I hope the recent controversy stirred up by the absurd attack on charity campaigning will help also direct attention to our sector and what we do.

I met recently with the new CEO of the Fundraising Standards Board, Alistair McLean (also an ACEVO member). This relatively new body is important to us. Bad fundraising has the strong capacity to damage a charity brand. This is a bold attempt at sector regulation by the sector itself. So it must work, or we risk regulation by others. Are we good at this?

The fundraising theme continues into the evening when I go to the launch of Virgin Money Giving. Virgin are taking over the sponsorship of the London Marathon from 2010. This is the largest single fundraising event in the world. So its vital. Virgin Giving has been set up as a new platform for Internet giving. It will handle all the sponsorship for the Marathon, but also will be a platform for other charity events. The new Chief Executive, Jo Barnett, has joined ACEVO and I am happy to offer her support. A charming and dynamic individual - as you would expect from Virgin! The evening involves drumming! The sight of the CEO of ACEVO and the CEO of The Institute of Fundraising with drums wedged between their thighs was one happily not captured by Third Sector magazine! Virgin Giving will be a free platform, so may be in competition with the for profit Just Giving. That will be interesting. But it is clear Internet giving is booming; as the new head of "The Big Give" tells me when he come in to see me this morning. Jon Brooks is not yet a member so I am aiming to seduce him in!

But you cannot divorce fundraising from the general reputation and brand of a charity; one of the key roles for a CEO. When I see the very variable standards of governance and the sometimes shaky trustee boards, I worry about our transparency and accountability.

And finally, as they say, I get an email from a member CEO who runs an international charity. He says it is becoming clear that the impact on the world's poorest people in recession is going to be "immense". For example he says the Irish Government have slashed their aid budget by 20%. He says, "we have many members working internationally who are facing real challenges as a consequence of exchange rate changes. There are a ACEVO members who are tied into arrangements which cannot easily be changed in the short and mid term where costs have risen by 25% as a result of the depreciation of sterling."

So perhaps a little reflection on this as we read reports of the recent research report from NCVO which has attracted some unfortunate headlines of the "crisis, what crisis" type . One of the reports The paper argues that "studies which predict recession catastrophe for charities are often not credible". The press report warns charities not to cry wolf and even suggest some charities may be talking up the crisis. Of course I have only seen the press interpretations and I am sure the actual report is more balanced, as one would expect.

I agree that the recession will present opportunities. I strongly believe that we can lead recovery. That is the purport of my recent lecture. And it is clear many parts of the sector are recession proof because the recession can be counter cyclical for some third sector bodies. But this type of reporting is deeply unhelpful to organisations like those above who are suffering real time and significant drops in support. In ACEVO we have seen a big rise in calls to our helplines and advice networks. There are CEOs who have lost their jobs. Telling them that they have been crying wolf is possibly not useful advice.

And now let me sign off by wishing you a very Happy and peaceful Easter. I shall be taking my Easter Communion at my old College in Oxford and even taking time off from blogging!

Charities should be seen and not heard! Give us a break!

Fantastic to hear the robust defence of the historic right of charities to campaign on The Today programme this morning by Liam Byrne MP. The Government have announced a scheme to support small charities in their advocacy and campaigns role. I was appalled at the comments from Jill Kirby, Director of the Centre for Policy Studies also interviewed. She has also written a thoroughly disgraceful piece in The Times (Monday)attacking some of Britain's best loved and most respected Charities. I am not attaching a link as reading this article is bad for your blood pressure.

It is a core function of charities to campaign. It is our historic role. When we deliver services we also want to ensure policy and legislation is favourable for the people we serve .We want to change public opinion. We act to deal with the causes of poverty or crime or abuse , as well as the victims of such. The idea that charities should be seen but not heard is a grave disservice to the vibrancy and health of our democracy and civil society. Lets remember with three cheers all those people in Britain who worked in charities campaigning for an end to the slave trade 200 years ago. Lets remember with thanks the pioneers who set up the RSPCA to campaign against cruelty to animals. With pride we remember the fantastic work of the NSPCC who were set up to campaign against child abuse. And still do.

Jill Kirby, representing the Lady Bountiful wing of philanthropy, attacks Save the Children for "shameless political campaigning". I say thank goodness for that organisation highlighting child poverty in this country. It's the job of charities to both provide help and succour to those in distress and also to point out that Government's need to act to stamp out the root causes of child poverty. Not just a sticking plaster on society ills, but action to heal the wound.

She even has the temerity to attack the RSPB for their environmental campaigning. Oh please, why on earth should they not be alerting us to the problems of climate change and campaigning against developments that might harm bird life. I say well done to the thousands of staff and volunteers in RSPB prepared to stand up and give voice to concerns in this way.

She says we are "brazen". Yes, often, guilty as charged. We often need to be. It's what a fully functioning democracy needs, organisations of volunteers and professional staff who say "lets end child poverty". Its a noble aim, though clearly not for Ms Kirby.

In our recent work in Euclid for the leaders of civil society in the Balkans it was clear to me that for democracies to grow they need a strong and fearless civil society . To think that the only role charities should play in Britain is to provide services quietly is a denial of the very basis of our existence. I shall regard it as my Easter duty to attack this pernicious line of argument at every opportunity . How much poorer would our country be without the millions of people who support and get involved with charity campaigns. its something to celebrate. It helps save us from tyranny and the unfettered power of Government. I am glad to say that the line advocated by Ms Kirby is not one supported by the Conservatives, or by their highly effective Spokesperson Nick Hurd MP. ACEVO will support its members in their campaigning role and I send out an " All memebrs " this afternonn alerting Chief Executives to this debate .

But as I'm on a roll now let me also attack the argument that removing the tax advantage for higher rate taxpayers under Gift Aid , will cut giving. Prof Lester Salomon from the States gave me an interesting article he is about to publish which shows that the big tax breaks Bush gave to the super rich did not result in more giving , even though that was the argument used to partly justify that policy. Click here to read it

Tuesday 7 April 2009

Budget ideas and visits from Americans

My Head of Media tells me that in the last week we have had 533 visits to our new recession support website from people in the States . So perhaps our recent visit stirred something up . And I have been getting a lot of traffic about my Blogs, especially about the exciting new centre at the White House .

Although it does take time I think the Blog is a great communications tool . Unexpurgated and unfiltered . Sometimes a bit too revealing . Sometimes a bit too edgy . Sometimes provoking .But it works as a means of communicating issues and appears to be widely read . And having a spoof blog too , though the mystery blogger has gone quiet for a time?

We have just sent off our ideas to the Chancellor for the upcoming Budget . We focus on ;

* the need for gift aid reform ( especially higher rate taxpayers )
* VAT reforms
* A Social Investment Bank; high time for action on this from government,
* a major job creation programme as unemployment rises to 3m.
* action on Icelandic bank deposit losses , ( the recent Treasury select Committee recommendations are very pertinent and timely . ).Along with colleagues in the sector we have lobbied hard on this for our members who have suffered losses.

And we stress strongly the need for a major works programme to deliver more jobs and full time volunteering. my member and Trustee , the great and prolific Tom Flood , CEO of BTCV, tells me they have signed the deal with DWP it deliver a major programme for volunteering in the light of the recession . But he is still pushing for a " GREEN ARMY " of 500,000 to tackle the problems of sustainability in our communities. government needs to think big . they manage that for the bank bail out . How about for the jobless?
Listening to Hazel Blears MP on Question Time I do wonder if there is a collective denial that the unemployment situation is not going to get so much worse and rise to over 3 m . That would mean 1 in 10 Britons out of work . We cannot let this happen . And only a big programme of job creation , where the sector plays a massive role , can help avoid this.

I write to Kevin Brennan MP and Stuart Etherington to suggest we discuss this more at the next recession Summit on June 2nd.

Monday 6 April 2009

Centre for Social Innovation

Obama has established a Centre for Social Innovation in the White House. My very last meeting of my recent visit to non profits in The States was to meet the staff of this new Centre in the White House, and talk about what they plan .

It is still early days , but it is clear President Obama sees this as an important initiative .he has earmarked $50m this year , rising to $200m to provide a Social Innovation Fund but this is expected to raise a further $500m in leverage from the commercial sector and the States .

They have a number of goals :

* They want to use policy tools to create a better climate for innovation as well as new bodies , such as the Fund ,

* They will look at the barriers that prevent innovation going to scale,

* They will use the new impetus of the Serve America Act ; which builds on the work of the conservation corps etc ( this is the Obama volunteering initiatives )to encourage innovative approaches ; the new " Corporation of National Service "will have a capacity building arm ,

* Exploit the new media tools developed in the Obama campaign for innovation.

* Develop partnerships , particularly with the private sector .

They will have a similar approach to our own Office of the Third Sector in that they will forge links and work through the big Federal departments of State; particularly in Health , Education and Jobs. They are also working on a "Presidential Challenge " scheme.

It was a very positive meeting of minds . We talked about the example of Futurebuilders . Prof Salamon , (the leading States non profit academic)who was with us , said what Amercia needed was an American Futurebuilders! I said we would be delighted to help .I gave her some examples of the way in which Futurebuilders invests in the sector ,and how this model helps unlock capital money for the sector , when traditionally they are effectively barred from capital markets.

I also liked their emphasis on removing barriers . This is an approach that ACEVO has taken in its work on funding and commissioning , so we talk about that and our campaign to get Full Cost Recovery . Often it is the small and inconsequential bureaucratic rules that prevent the sector delivering more ,or [persuading the public sector to fund roll outs of our ideas .
It is not always the result of deliberate policy . ACEVO's work with DWP has shown how we can move to get change by intensive engagement with Government departments rather than the usual whinging .

We also talked about the Innovation Exchange ; a UK initiative led by the brilliant 2 brained and charming John Craig . ACEVO is a partner in this Government backed scheme which looks at the barriers to scaling up third sector innovation into the public sector. Seb is on the Board and talks about its work . We agree to put them in touch .

This is all exciting but work in progress .I came away very positive about their approach and excited at what it might achieve . In some areas the States are ahead of us , for example in the Community Reinvestment Act , but it is also clear we have a lot to teach too . I have asked them to come across to the UK in September to talk about what we are doing and we will also arrange more in depth discussions with acevo members , Futurebuilders and the Innovation Exchange. I'm hoping they will contribute to our annual Futurebuilders Conference.

This is a link we will forge into steel to suppoprt the third sectors in both countries.

We are now working on a transatlantic round table and workshop to build links.

Amusingly , in the meeting at the White House Lester Salomon says that right wing republicans and parts of the banking industry are attempting to claim that the Community Reinvestment Act was investment into sub prime organisations , helped facilitate the crisis and so should be repealed. In fact Lester says the evidence is that these loans have been more stable and more productive than the usual bank loans . I return to open my copy of Brolly Weekly ( as Third Sector is now known ) to discover someone in our sector peddling the same line that this is sub prime lending so led to the recession . Sub prime lending is only bad when it involves reckless risk that fails to pay off . The evidence of the Act in the States is that it actually opened up a stream of lending that was profitable and stable , but had been ignored by the Banks because of their ridiculous and discriminatory red lining . In other words , lending to black or small community organisations can be both sensible and is not inherently more risky . These are not hedge funds . These are not deals done simply to make a banker a bonus . I'm shocked someone in our sector has fallen for this line and will be in touch with him.

Meanwhile it is back to the Office with a vengeance . Much to do , but thank goodness for a blackberry which has meant i was in regular touch with our wonderful staff...even with a 4 hour delay in replying to email. And what a superb weekend . In Charlbury the blossom is out and the Hound had a great few walks in the fields . I was not sure her chasing a Bull was very advisable though ; still no challenge too great for Sparkles. Like her Lord and Master !