Saturday 30 May 2009


With the large number of MPs resigning there are an unusual number of winnable seats in both parties coming up at the next General Election . An opportunity for third sector leaders perhaps ? After all , the third sector is now the most trusted institution in the country and our leaders , our Chief Executives have exactly the skills needed to become legislators and ministers .

Our sector has grown significantly in its professinalism and effectivness . Our Chief Executives run significant organisations; who both deliver services and advocate and campaign . It is interesting that increasingly people from outisde our sector see running a TS body as a career objective . So in our sector we have great examples of people who have come in from the public and private secotrs ; Martin Narey at Barnadoes and Tom Highes Halllet at Marie Curie are great role models .

But the traffic is not yet both ways . We ought to see more of our CEOs going into top jobs in the other sectors. After all ,Ii suspect that the core leadership qualities needed to run a modern organisation are exactly those our people have in abundance . ACEVO members are eminently qualified to be Permanent Secretaries or local authority CEOs, and a few of our people in banks and finance would sharpen up their act!

Our CEOs are masters of communication and advocacy , they understand the political systems , have great powers of motivation and the ability to lead their teams when money and resource is necessarily tight . They are risk takers and enjoy innovation . They have vision and drive . So I hope we will see lots more third sector leaders becoming MPs. The country needs the leadership our sector can inspire.

Why do we not see more of our people in top jobs ? It is largely to do with an obsession with quantity not quakity . So in adverts you see that an essential qualification is that you have to have managed thousands of ataff or run zillion pound budgets . This size obsession is absurd. Its the drive and vision you need . Not your anally retentive ability to add up large numbers. And in an organisation of thousands you do not actually manage many people yourself at the top anyway. You get the talent in to ensure that the budgets and the HR are sorted. But at the top you want people to inspire others . So time for the public and private sectors to get into the 21st century and undersatnd the talent and skill there is in our leadership!

Friday 29 May 2009

Getting Vision

Well it's one week on and the Op went well. I've had a few grot days but the recent check up was good so I return to blogging (courtesy of my trusty PA Alison who transcribes the great thoughts). During my recuperation I get regular updates of news and action from the ever dynamic ACEVO team.

I must say it does help recovery when you wake up from the operation in St Thomas' to be confronted with the vista of the mighty Thames and Westminster. Although admittedly it was a haze through one eye only! I demanded pain killers but all they offered was paracetamol. Have things got so bad you can't get a decent shot of morphine these days?

For over a decade I was a non-exec on the Health Authority for St Thomas'. This was in the battling days of the 80s when yours truly was leading the righteous in opposing bed cuts and ward closures. Those with long memories will remember the days of year long or more waiting lists and constant pressure to close facilities and make damaging cuts. In Lambeth the waiting list for a hip replacement was a disgraceful three years.

Do let's reflect on those days and hope that we do not have a return to massive cuts in public spending that damage our NHS. I worry when I hear George Osborne talking of the need for major cuts in spending. It will not all come from cutting bureaucracy - the usual politician's excuse. The sector should worry at the effect on us;especially small organisations strongly dependent on grants.

Now whether the coming cuts will be quite as bad as the battle of the Somme as predicted by my good friend Stuart Etherington ("This is going to be the fiscal equivalent of the Somme") I doubt, but it will not be good. Incidentally what happened to that recent NCVO research report telling us not to cry wolf?

I guess if you have to be off work recovering May is the best possible time. I have acquired a fine garden table and chairs and they are positioned by the Prison wall. A prisoner escaped last week my Mother informs me cheerfully, though I assume not by jumping over the wall?

I'm usually a great news hound, avidly devouring Today, PM , World at One etc but I am listening less and less as I can't stand the procession of the "Vox Populi" demanding the garroting of MPs we must endure each broadcast. You just know that these very same tribunes of the people are probably not averse to the odd knocked off DVD or the extra carton of fags smuggled through duty free. And yet we have to listen to their moral outrage. Give us a break. And when the latest news of excess bath plugs takes precedence over the recession or a nuclear threat you do have to wonder at news priorities! l await the dear Daily Telegraph publishing the list of their journalist's expenses, in the interests of transparency and accountability of course?

The Hound seems fully recovered and keeps me amused and today I'm off to the glories of Charlbury in the spring sun after my Tommies check up. I'll stay there a while and enjoy the healing effect of the sun and countryside. Tomorrow will be with my brother and sister in Oxford as its "Eights week", the annual College rowing contest. The College of my brother and I (Christ Church )is currently Head of the River, though there are divided loyalties as our nephew Julian is Head of Boats at Keble and rowing the College First Eight. I shall need to avoid flying Pimms bottles but my eye shield will no doubt cut a certain fashion statement!

Wednesday 20 May 2009

blogging interuptus

This will be my last Blog for a week ....what will my friend Robin Bobb do in the meantime I wonder? I go into hospital for an eye operation tomorrow morning , and am then out of action for a few weeks . One of the sadder aspects of this procedure will be the curtailment of blackberrying and blogging.

I have had problems with my eyes since 2001 when I had a detached retina. A bit like what happened to our dear embattled Prime Minister . I was having dinner with one of my favourite acevo members last night; Andrew Barnett who runs the splendid Gulbenkein Foundation . We were at 15 , the social Enterprise in Hoxton and enjoyed a delicious meal and wine. Highly to be recommended; although we could have done without the large party of Germans who decided to break into song:made listening to Andrew's salacious gossip most difficult. He suggested to me that the time off in recovery was a superb opportunity for reflection , both on the events of the past and how to take work forward .

This is good advice . ACEVO has been moving apace in the last few years. Growing membership , and as important, hugely growing influence. I have a highly talented staff team who are making a real mark across the sector. We have expanded our leadership links internationally and euclid , our European third sector leaders network is growing and developing .Staff are firing on all cylinders. We set a frenetic pace. Its what is needed when the sector faces the challenge of recession . CEOs look to us to articulate their demands and desires and to deliver on their behalf.

But a CEO also has to have a strategic eye . An ability to look beyond the frenetic activity and the detail to where the organisation needs to be in 5 or 10 years ; the alliances and partnerships we need , the international work we do and the relationship with Government in a changing political climate.

This morning I get my official invitation from President Clinton to join the Clinton Global Initiative and attend their 5th Annual gathering in New York. This is an honour , as it is strictly by invitation . And I will be representing the UK third sector. I shall be getting the forms off pronto . I know from reported of previous events how valuable this is , and how useful for putting forward the role and value of the non profit sector. The UK third sector is held in high regard , not least by President Clinton , but this event is an opportunity to share and to learn leadership from global leaders . You get a flavour of the event from the calender . As one of my team point out , I will undoubtedly enjoy the evening at the Museum of Modern Art which is headed networking with Heads of State and Global Leaders.

one of my last duties before packing up for St Thomas's was to chair the Futurebuilders Board . A heavy meeting , we were reviewing our group structure now we have won the various tenders to run the DH social innovation fund , the modernisation fund for the OTS and the potential to run the new community builders scheme for DCLG. its become a bit confusing as to what the Adventure Capital Fund do as opposed to Futurebuilders and we need to have a clearer governance structure . We also had an interesting report from Forsters, the top communications company , about our branding and positioning. And FBE is moving on June 1st. The current London office has just become too small with all the expansion and so we are moving to St Andrew St , just near both the Big Lottery Fund and the Charities Aid Foundation , a veritable Funders corner. I'm sure Jonathan Lewis ,John Low and Peter Wanless will be grabbing coffees together and plotting financial world domination.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Governnace and the Charity Commission

Governance in our sector is back in the news. So that puts in context the recent case of The Charity Commission refusing to publish the advice they have given to the trustees of the Shaw Trust following their investigation into the summary dismissal of the CEO and the events that followed.

Is this helpful ? Governance in our sector has to be good . Where it is not , then problems arise . The dismissal of Ian Charlesworth , and the subsequent resignations of 2 top members of staff , including the finance director, received considerable publicity . This was hardly surprising given that under Ian's leadership the Shaw Trust had grown and thrived. He was much respected by his peers in the sector .

I was proud that ACEVO gave him strong support , as we would with all our Chief executive members in similar circumstances. But this is now resolved in that Ian has moved on . And we wish the Shaw Trust well in moving forward ( they have had a recent merger with the excellent Karen Pappenheim) ,and in implelementing the advice of the Charity Commission . My purpose here is not to go back on that story but to use it to illustrate the more general point about sector governance and the need for us all to be reviewing and reforming practice. So what are the broader issues here? The governance model at the Shaw trust appears to have had a confused line between the executive and non executive. The charity's founder retained a role as a " Director General " with a number of staff reporting to him and not to the Chief Executive. He was also involved with the trustee board , with the CEO reporting to that Board. Good governance requires a clear distinction in these roles. ACEVO has published a lot of advice and guidance in this area as you would expect.

Now undoubtedly the Charity Commission have reasons for not publishing their advice. They may well be good ones , though that is difficult to know unless they publish the advice they have given . I certainly have a report of what was written but it is second hand and so makes effective commentary difficult . But we ought now to concentrate now on the broader lessons to be learnt about governance models.

The recent NPC report on governance has again highlighted the need for the sector to "wake up and smell the coffee " on governance.

On the one hand the Charity Commission have a light touch on governance as part of their general approach to regulation . This is , on balance , the right approach . But it can be difficult for my members who want to get change and move to different governance model , as for example , paying trustees where they think that is the right approach. A " light touch" approach needs to be more accommodating to change and different approaches , as long as the basic integrity of the system is maintained.

I suspect that the Commission will have to get more involved in governance. For example , in expecting the bigger charities to be implementing performance appraisal of their Boards , and to be expected to have training and induction systems.

As the sector grows then there will be more of a spotlight on our governing arrangements. As we deliver more and more public services people will rightly expect a rigorous approach to how we govern ourselves. The fact that still the majority of trustees are appointed by word of mouth is just not good enough.The Brooke Commission found that 57% of Boards rely on word of mouth recruitment. The fact that the level of Board appraisal is dismally low , ( the Brooke Commission again found 76% of Boards have no formal appraisal process ), or the fact that few boards have effective induction or training is simply not tenable if we are to maintain the levels of trust that people have in our sector.

We have made some progress with the Code of Good Governance that charities are supposed to sign up to . Evidence and research for ACEVO's Brooke Governance Commission showed that though 88% of charities know of the Code only 44% are signing up to it. This was a sector generated document , though the Commission support it and send to all new trustees. But they rather spoiled their pitch when recently the Commission's Rosie Chapman , writing in Third Sector , suggested that the recession means that charities should not be thinking of paying trustees. Unhelpful advice . Indeed I would suggest that the recession is exactly the time you review and transform your governance if it is not fit for purpose.

All third sector organisations should be prepared to tackle governance and constantly look to how to build and improve. It is a core task for the CEO and the Chair . There are many examples of good governance and brilliant trustees , but there are also plenty of examples of bad practise . So it may be time for the Commission to institute a full scale review of how they tackle governance and how we ensure more effective accountability and transparency in our sector.

Monday 18 May 2009

Courgettes and Clinton

Great to be back in Charlbury for the weekend after the turmoil of the move to the prison. And Charlbury was looking spectacular in its Spring finery. The wisteria is out and the cottages along Church Street are looking magnificent, not to mention smelling heavenly .

Springtime in the Cotswolds; is there a sight more glorious?

And Saturday was a red letter day. The Horticultural Society's Annual Plant sale. You need to be in the queue at least 15 minutes before opening. This year I was at position 12 though this did not seem to make a discernible difference as I pondered over the geraniums and lost out to more determined grabbers. No quarter given in the battle over the white geraniums. I did manage to get the last one though. A sort of victory. The vegetable stall was less problematic and I emerged triumphant with trays of courgettes, strawberries and brussels; all bound for "Clinks" as I have decided to name the new Brixton house.

The origin of the term, "in the clink" derives from the fact that one of our earliest prisons was in South London, in Clink Street, Southwark. And Clinks is also the name of a particularly fine third sector body run by ACEVO member Clive Martin. It's an umbrella for justice and rehabilitation charities. And it does superb work in advocating for better alternatives to prison. So it seemed appropriate for a house formerly owned by a prison officer.

My weekend was short however as I made my way back to London for a presentation of the work of the Clinton Global Initiative by former President Bill Clinton himself. In the Music Room at the Ritz no less. Clinton set up this initiative to encourage collaboration between Governments, the private sector and non profits,in solving global problems.

Clinton has serious charisma. He spoke for about 40 minutes, but the select audience -and there were only some 50 people there - hung on his every word.

He arrived late, though that was because he had been at lunch with GB at Chequers. He was full of praise for GB and his grasp of the global situation and his desire to achieve change. Interestingly he said he had met GB about five years before he met Blair.

I asked him about trust in non-profits as opposed to Governments. He said that it was not good that people did not have trust in Government and hoped that when the current expenses row is fixed we will regain our trust in democratic institutions. But he also said that it was great that there was such a high level of trust in the UK non profit sector. He said what was particularly good here was the role of the Office of the Third Sector. When I spoke to him afterwards we talked about the respective roles of Government and sector in the State and the UK. I recounted how I had been in Washington and met the new people in the Centre for Social Innovation. Michele Jolin used to work for Clinton. He thought that relationships between non-profits and government will be revolutionised under Obama.

Amusing to find that I was not the only Charlburian at the event. Adam Leech, who is the Chief Executive of the International Business Leaders Forum (and ACEVO member naturally) was there. Also having travelled down form Charlbury that morning. I usually see him shopping in our local Co-op!

Good to get a photo (as above) but when I sent it to family the immediate response from sister Sara was to question why no tie! And my lame excuse of a Sunday cut no ice, "Gentlemen always wear ties in the Ritz!" And she is right. Standards must be maintained in the third sector. Otherwise I'm going to become like globe trotting Alistair Wilson of the School of Social Entrepreneurs turning up for breakfast with Gordon with no tie.

A great event. And it also transpires that I am being asked to join the CGI meeting in NYC later this year. An honour.

But then it was back to planting out the vegetables. "What's a courgette" asked one of Clinton's staffers after I told him I was returning home to plant them. A good question!

Friday 15 May 2009

Go Jane

I have just got a note from Mary Marsh telling me about the appointment of Jane Slowey as Chair of the new skills body for the Third Sector. Jane is the CEO of the Foyer Federation, a magnificent national charity of distinction. Jane has been an active ACEVO member and a charming one to boot. Good luck Jane in this task. We need investment in sector leadership. We need this new skills body to work. ACEVO will be behind you in expanding and promoting skills and leadership development.

Off to Jericho

Great to get an email from a member, Roma Hooper of Make Justice Work and the pioneer of Prison Radio, about the success of Brixton Prison Radio in the Sony Awards. In fact I had heard this on The Today programme, standing in my kitchen looking out on said Prison. Yet again, a demonstration of the inventiveness and determination of our third sector.

Now I'm on my way to Jericho! It's an old community in Oxford clustered around the magnificent Romanesque Church of St Barnabas. The church has a great history. Established by the Oxford movement in the early 19th century to bring the glories of the catholic tradition of the Anglican church to the largely working class community of Jericho. The first Priest there actually went to jail for wearing a Chasuble - then outlawed under canon law and a repressive evangelical hierarchy.

This area has a working boatyard and canal, and there is a community of canal boat dwellers; but it is under threat. The whole area was bought by a rapacious developer who aims to shut the boatyard and evict the canal boats. Absurdly the Council did stop this but God intervened, in the shape of the recession, and the wicked developer went bust.

So there is now a great community campaign to buy up the site and develop it for community use.

I am going to see the organisers to see what help I can give. I have already put them in touch with the Adventure Capital Fund to see if they can assist with a loan, and Steve Wyler, of the Development Trusts Association, is offering support and advice.

This is exactly the type of project we need more of. And the recession is a great time to buy up land for community use. It is one reason we want a Community Reinvestment Act. And a strong justification for a Social Investment Bank. We have an extraordinary amount of talent, innovation and motivation in our many local communities. What they lack is the capacity and ability to borrow to fund their visions. But if we can bring that capacity to marry up with the genius and motivation of local communities we can achieve great things.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

The two launches

If something is worth launching its worth doing it twice! And the Future Jobs Fund is certainly worth shouting about. The PM launched it this morning at No 10 (and you won't be surprised to hear that I managed a quick word about the Social Investment Bank with him too). Then it was launched at the ACEVO FJF conference at the Barbican by James Purnell MP.

Hazel Blears MP kindly pointed out that I was sitting on the official steering group for the new scheme and so please direct ideas and suggestions (and problems no doubt!)to me.

I feel a real sense of achievement for the sector. ACEVO argued for this scheme. Government listened and now we have a great chance to help prevent the real curse of mass youth unemployment. As the PM said this morning, we cannot stand by and watch the scarring effect of youth unemployment and not take action.

James really is one of the underused stars of this Government. This scheme is largely due to him and to achieve a £1billion fund to provide jobs for youth and long term unemployed is a real achievement. As I said when introducing James it is clear someone like him does not come into politics to fund his moat cleaning but because he wants to make a difference. And I have to say he was wearing a very cool suit and elegant tie. I'm afraid I was dowdy in comparison. (Note to self: sharpen up, you have third sector standards to maintain). He is clearly one of the Cabinet's best communicators and it is absurd he is not used more.

Before the launch we had the first meeting of the newly established taskforce which ACEVO is running with the Social Enterprise Alliance and the Community Alliance. We were able to feed back views directly to officials who came to the launch.

For more information on the new Fund click here

Bath plugs and moats, jaffa cakes and house flipping. It's all very entertaining I guess but, as Macauley said, there are few worse sights than the British Public in a fit of moral outrage. Of course all this expense stuff is bad but it should not cloud our belief in and support for democratic institutions and the basic integrity of most MPs.

And let us remember that the bankers and financiers largely responsible for our current economic malaise have far worst records. Huge salaries and bonuses and massive expenses too. It is distressing that there are signs that they have not learnt any lessons and that we may well return to business as a usual. This should be the time for insisting on root and branch reform of corporate governance. Boards must be made accountable. Recruitment processes opened up. A statutory duty to promote social responsibility and a Community Reinvestment Act.

Theresa May and the Social Enterprise Summit

Theresa May MP really does shoes well! When she came to our ACEVO brainstorm with Francis Maude MP recently she had splendid bright red ones. Yesterday we held a breakfast meeting with her and key members at ACEVO'S offices. She was in more sombre black mode yesterday, but equally as elegant.

I must admit to liking her a lot. Real engagement with members and a commitment to radical reforms in DWP to raise the delivery role of the third sector. She has said she is particularly interested in how to encourage third sector consortia to bid big scale. And she is ably supported by the admirable David Freud, soon to be enobled and join the Conservative Front Bench.

Its nostalgia day for me. ACEVO has its first trade union General Secretary join as a member....(Michael Leahy OBE). He is the General Secretary of Community. We will be doing some work with them as they are keen to develop their links with the third sector. They have an entirely sensible and pragmatic approach to service delivery by the third sector. They believe it is good and helpful to people in our communites. I so wish the rest of the TUC would get to grips with this issue and stop trying to pretend we are just the same as the private sector. But perhaps this signals the start of a change in attitudes on that. There is a great article about this in The Guardian today. To read the article click here. My "coming and going" Deputy is to be credited for this triumph.

But the key event was the Social Enterprise Summit - with no less than five Cabinet Ministers in attendance. A good Summit though there was perhaps a little to much assertion rather than evidence to support claims being made for social enterprise. We need to be careful not to over assert and to makes claims that cannot be evidenced. Though it is clear that the sector can make a great claim to be part of the drive for recovery and a recession highlights the need for third sector action to deliver new jobs. I used the opportunity to argue again for the establishment of a Social Investment Bank and the introduction of a Community Reinvestment Act to ensure banks are forced to invest in local communities. Later on at a dinner with Prof Lester Salamon he says that the Act has made a significant difference, with banks securing much better returns from community loans than heir mainstream investments. And the argument of the right wing Republicans - sadly parroted by some misguided folk here - that this sub prime lending helped the financial collapse is undermined by the fact that 85% of the toxic debt was made by banks who were not compliant with the CRA requirements.

Before he left the Summit Peter Mandleson commented on how various people in the room represented 35 years of his life.... starting with me who he knew at Oxford, and taking in people like Alan Cave who he knew at the TUC (now a senior civil servant in DWP! ) and Ian Tuckett of Coin St who he knew when he was on Lambeth Council!

Tuesday 12 May 2009

Palaces, jobs and poor governance.

I was talking to Prince Philip about my Blog yesterday. Only he thought I was talking about Blondes. Perhaps he was distracted by my Deputy, Dr Kyle, lurking at my elbow. He has what passes for a fashionable "goatee". And HRH sharply remarked re said chin "is that coming or going". Indeed. Sharp chap that Prince.

I was at Buckingham Palace for the 50th anniversary celebrations for BTCV - which started life as the Conservation Corps. People volunteering to do conservation and environmental work. They are a first class organisation. An exemplar of a modern enterprising third sector body. They have a superb CEO-Chair team in Tom Flood and Rupert Evenett. We watch a film produced for the anniversary. A great piece ; these promos often are not. And there is a sharp speech from Tom and kind words from HRH. Then it's the business over tea.

When I arrived I was warmly greeted, "another day, another Palace, Stephen" by someone other than the Chair who told me not to mention that in the Blog.....

I had to leave early for the DWP Steering Group for the new Future Jobs Fund. This ACEVO has organised with our partners Social Enterprise and Community Alliance where James Purnell will speak. Places for TSOs are still available for this if you email (

There were a number of serious issues about the guidance being prepared, both in terms of national third sector involvement and a possible threshold of 100 jobs in applications. I must say I found the officials very receptive to the arguments I made and a redraft sent round later was much improved. They want this to work for the sector and enable us to deliver these job opportunities. Adam Sharples Chairs this group with aplomb.

New Philanthropy Capital launch an important report today which argues unprofessional leadership erodes charity ambition. This report, "Board matters: a review of charity trusteeship in the UK", looks at governance and argues recruitment, training and evaluation of Trustees is frequently under-resourced and ill managed.

It also states that recruitment of trustees is getting harder and nearly half of all UK charities have vacancies on their Boards. Very few conduct performance reviews.

This issue has to be taken more seriously. We have a culture of complacency in our sector on governance. Indeed, when ACEVO has argued for more radical approaches to governance we are denounced by those too self satisfied with a cosy status quo. We have a huge level of trust from the public. But if they knew about our somewhat imperfect governance that trust might disappear.

The Charity Commission are simply not doing enough to ensure this dismal situation is sorted. For example it is very difficult for charities to get agreement from the Charity Commission to pay trustees when they want to do that. Charities trying to change their governance structures find the process of getting CC approval onerous and difficult. So I hope they will review this Report and become more facilitative of change. But it is also a matter for charities themselves to sort out performance reviews, training and induction. ACEVO itself has developed a governance review scheme. Time is was more widely used. For link to website click here

And get a copy of this Report see

It ought to be compulsory reading for trustees.

Monday 11 May 2009

ACEVO's moving too!

That is to say, upwards! Great news on Friday when we reported that 31 CEOs have joined up as members in one week. This is particularly great against the background of the recession. Indeed, when we put our budget together we had to make assumptions on membership income. As we have individual membership, rather than organisational we had to assume there may be a decline as CEOs lose their jobs or people think they need to cut back on subscriptions. But perhaps what is happening is that people realise that in a recession you need the support and advice of a CEO body that is dedicated to you and your interests. It is also a tribute to a very energetic and dynamic ACEVO staff team. It is their hard work and commitment that has driven this membership increase. It is one of the greatest joys of a CEO to lead a talented team and I realise I'm lucky to do so. It is interesting that when people visit our ACEVO office in Holborn they often comment on the buzz and fun atmosphere we have. Long may it continue!

Well, on the home front I'm now through about 150 of the 200 boxes! And Sparkles is settling in well with a front and back garden to run in. She prefers the front it seems as there are more people walking by to amuse her. And I discover from my new neighbour that the previous owner was a dog handler at the Prison and had two dogs in kennels in the garden; drugs and explosives! No wonder my Hound feels at home.

And the magnificent Brockwell Park, pride and joy of South London and the jewel in the crown of the great London Borough of Lambeth is near by. The Community Greenhouse Project is holding an open day to sell plants and I stagger home, Sparkles leading the way, clutching bags of vegetable plants; a fine selection of tomatoes, artichokes, chard, runner beans etc. A grape vine and blackberry and raspberry canes complete the picture. I shall farm organically obviously.

The Greenhouse Project is a third sector community project and a splendid one at that. This is the type of project we need more of. It is exactly the type of scheme we should be promoting as part of the new Future jobs Fund (I have a meeting of the steering group later today). There is often a huge vitality in community run organisations and they are exactly the type of group we must encourage and grow. They often lack effective infrastructure and funding. These are groups we should look to support with social finance. The work of the Adventure Capital Fund has shown the potential. And don't think that because this a "community" project it has to be small scale. They are often only small because of the difficulty in funding; both revenue and capital. So roll on the Social Investment Bank to give a real boost to the community sector.

The Future Jobs Taskforce I have established in partnership with the Social Enterprise Coalition and the Community Alliance will meet on Wednesday, before our seminar with James Purnell MP. I have various calls today to gather ideas before the steering group at DWP. This work will be a test for our sector. We need to show we can deliver. ACEVO has commissioned work from Will Hutton and the Work Foundation to explore how the sector can create jobs and help lead recovery. We will present ideas at thre Recession Summit, now delayed to June 12th.

Whilst unpacking boxes I have been entertained by Radio 4 and one useful nugget of information is that there is to be a "Booker" for Blogs. Now that's an idea. But would mine be a joint entry, along with Robin Bogg?

Friday 8 May 2009


Well it's all fun. Moving 31 years worth of stuff. Amazing what I have uncovered. There is a marvellous full on Soviet flag down from the loft. Look good in the office perhaps. Useful for all those disciplinary meetings.... (Not that we have any such problems in ACEVO). And all those photos of that youth in long hair and flares....was that me?

Anyway a short break today from the packing cases for breakfast with the CEO of the Big Lottery Fund and my Futurebuilders CEO. Peter Wanless is wearing a great tie. Apparently purchased in order to receive his Honour from HM The Queen. I'm at that level of importance clearly.

We talk about how BLF and FBE might do more work together. It is clearly important that organisations that help to build the capacity of our sector get "joined up".

And a short hop from the Cinnamon Club to Central Hall where I make a speech on the recession to 500 people gathered together by the great Action Planning organisation. I speak after Gayvn Davies and its like being back in an economics tutorial at Oxford! My theme is "reasons to be Cheerful" (only some blog readers will recall the Ian Drury and the Blockheads song! Only surprised I hadn't come across the vinyl in the loft though I did find my Jethro Tull and Abbey Road).

Ralph, my Policy Head (Oxford naturally)and I meet with the Director of Policy Exchange Neil O' Brien who, as it turns out, was also at Christ Church (naturally).

It's the right of centre think tank and we are talking about work on public service reform. They will be very influential if there is a change of Government.

And the final meeting is back at the office with the dynamic duo Alistair Wilson and Nick Temple of The School for Social Entrepreneurs. What stars they are. And so good to see Alistair who is in the country after his travels in Australia, Canada, the States etc. All this gallivanting - I told him about Prague, but clearly he felt that not quite as cool as Sydney. I comment on how pale he looks. And he reminds me at our age we should keep out of the sun. Humph.

Nick mentions he has been lunching with Patrick Butler of The Guardian and their talk turned to The Blog - I guess this happens often in the sector. And my Blog that is, not that spoof one.

Anyway we all agree that actually the UK third sector occupies a world leadership role. No other country has such an advanced relationship with Government or such a powerful and influential role in policy making. We determine that we should be exploiting this. And we agree on a number of collaborations between the School and ACEVO.

And finally it is off to the dear Post Office to try, for the third time, to have my mail redirected. These days any attempt to engage with the State seems to involve endless papers to prove who you are and where you live. The assumption appears to be that you are Osama Bin Laden's best mate unless you can produce utility bills, tax forms, passports etc to show you are who you say you are. My first attempt managed to satisfy the "List A" requirements but not "List B". And having heard on The Today Programme that the Police are apparently stopping someone every three minutes to demand who they are, this over intrusive state apparatus makes me cross. As if any of this would put off a terrorist anyway.

And soon we will all be expected to carry an ID card to prove who we are. And at huge expense. I, for one, will not be volunteering for one of these. I doubt many of my fellow Charlburians will either. We rather like the ancient liberties and freedoms of the English. Let's try and hang onto them.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Prisons and Banks

Just had time yesterday before catching the jolly Ryanair flight back to visit the grand Brno fortress and Prison (you may spot a prison theme emerging in the blog now!) It sits astride a mountain top at a strategic crossing point and has been a fortress since the 13th century. It was used as a prison and you an visit the cells -the architecture is most agreeable and an improvement on Brixton methinks, though a matter of taste that was perhaps not of paramount importance to inmates. Indeed in 1783 the supposedly enlightenment Emperor Joseph 11 decided that the most wicked criminals were to be incarcerated in the "deepest and most squalid casements" where they were chained to the beams. Hope Jack Straw doesn't get wind of this wizzo scheme.

There is an interesting exhibition which takes you up to mid 20th century and manages to avoid its role as a prison for the Nazis and then for the Communists.

But perhaps the most interesting fact was that the good citizens of Brno were able to watch the Battle of Austerlitz from the ramparts. For the less historically minded this battle was a decisive defeat of the Austrian and Russian Emperors by Napoleon in 1805.

And before I left the Conference; another key contact sorted. Dr Maritta Koch-Wesser is the CEO of the Global Exchange for Social Investment. I arrange to meet her in my office on Monday with Jonathan Lewis our Futurebuilders CEO. Strike while the iron is hot. Building a European Social Investment Bank. Let's get this project well and truly on the road.

Towards a European Social Investment Bank.

Well the Moravian wine tasting and cultural evening was a great success. The faux peasant band and the rurally costumed maidens took me back to visits long ago to former Communist regimes where they specialised in this sort of evening. All very jolly. I was particularly taken with the Rieslings. I have purchased two to enjoy at leisure, though I was most abstemious in my drinking. I fly back this afternoon by Ryan Air and you need your wits about you with them!

I'm sure my staff are looking forward to the raft of helpful emails they will receive this morning, with new ideas and suggestions that have occurred to me over the Bank Holiday, though I have refrained from suggesting we establish another taskforce. We set one of those up last week and are working on a Commission so I must be fair.

I made a very useful contact whilst here. The keynote speaker yesterday was Prof Dr. Helmut Anheier who is probably the leading academic expert on NGOs in Europe. He is the Director of the Social Investment Centre at Heidelberg University. Indeed he was once a collaborator with the great Lester Salamon of the States. Together they bestride world research into the third sector. I'm afraid we simply do not have anyone of the same calibre in the UK. Why is this I wonder? Given the strength of our sector you would expect us to tower too.

Over a Muller Thurgau we discussed the potential for a European Social Investment Bank. He knows of Futurebuilders but had not realised quite how big we now are. He marvelled at the strength of a £400m loan fund and said this was exactly what was needed. In investment markets you have to have scale, so whilst it is good (indeed essential) to have a range of players you must also have size.

His speech yesterday was about the need for more sources of investment into the sector. He says this is the new frontier for our sector. This is very much the theme of Lester Salamon in the States.

Futurebuilders is a real role model for what can be achieved through social investment. It's a credit to our Government who set it up and have provided the loan funds. It is also to the Tories credit they too see the need for expanded loan funds in our sector. At the recent meeting of ACEVO's Tory task force we discussed this with Nick Hurd MP, the Shadow Third Sector Minister. But the Government really do now have to get proverbial fingers out and get cracking with our own Social Investment Bank. We are to have a consultation. It needs to be short and to the point. The Government must use the time to force the Banks to cough up the unclaimed assets. It's a disgrace they are still hanging onto these funds. And I'm afraid the banks still don't understand that by failing to divest these funds - which do not belong to them - they miss a great PR coup.

I blame the woman who runs the British Bankers' Association. She keeps popping up on TV or radio to defend the undefendable. Last time I heard her she was whinging on the Today programme about how unfair it is we all castigate the bankers! Wake up and smell the coffee please and stop this whine. You let us down. Mea Culpa Maxima Mea Culpa indeed) is appropriate now. And recompense. So give us our money.

Anyway the upshot of our discussion is we agree to hold a roundtable in Heidelberg in June and bring together the key players - Futurebuilders in the UK and the French proponents of a SIB. We have been in discussion with the French credit and mutual sector about how to propose such a bank. Hugues Sibille, President of Credit Cooperative in Paris is a great fan of Futurebuilders and sees scope for similar models in France, but he believes the current crisis is the right time to move on Brussels. We are aiming to hold an Anglo French Summit on this soon involving the respective Ministers (Liam on our side. So the idea is gaining ground. I feel like a Man with a Mission. And what I turn my hand to I usually achieve. In time..

Monday 4 May 2009

Bank Holidays!

Well,you may be in the garden doing the roses , or taking the dog for a walk , but I'm in The Czech republic speaking at an EU Conference : "Europe of Engaged Citizens" . I speak at the opening session about the role of NGOs in a recession . I take the theme ; Don't waste a good crisis. So whilst not downplaying the trauma of falling donations and rising demand I stress the opportunities for expanding what we do , for more social enterprise and making the case for change in our systems.

We talk about the example of the Future Jobs Fund in the UK. I also talk about the need for a campaign to reform European funding . EUCLID , our European partnership for third sector leaders , is in active discussion with the EU to set up a civil society working group within the active citizenship programme . The proposal will be made official on June 11 th . There are major problems with Euro funding which cause bureaucracy in Brussels and headaches for ngos. They do not recognise full cost recovery and have a non profit approach which hinders applications . This must change. EUCLID is building a coalition for change , and we are signing up partners at this conference , which is an official conference as part of the Czech Presidency.

The conference is in Brno , in Moravia : not a recommended holiday destination, but I arrived via Prague , which is one of the most beautiful cities of Europe . I pay a pilgrimage to the Image of the Baby Jesus of Prague , one of the most famous images of the universal Catholic Church and join a long line of pilgrims from the Philippines to pay respects . I send an image of the statue to my Directors Group to provide them with protection and blessing .

Now whilst Brno may not be beautiful we are encouraged by the Host to " taste the joys of our Moravian wines ". Well indeed I shall . Indeed already have.

But the effects of the recession are having an impact in the UK and across Europe. The most recent research from NCVO says that a fifth of charities they surveyed are planning job cuts : though c.f.recent blog on ncvo report re " crying wolf ". I think this does demonstrate the sector both needs support as well as encouragement to rise to challenges. These are not incompatible aims . The capacity and infrastructure of our sector is weak , often as a result of funding failures like no full cost recovery.

Now to those of you wondering about the health of the Hound ,she is recovering slowly ,but faces a threat from my sister Sara who is suggesting a report to the RSPCA about her brother¨and failure to supervise said Hound effectively . You can always tell a teacher cant you. Fortunately she has gone off to Norway to lecture them about teacher induction so I am safe for a while.

And as for the house , let me reassure those who are worried that I have given up my wonderful cottage in Charlbury . No . " Clinks " is just as a London base , My heart remains in Charlbury.And the Hound would be upset if her sheep and bull harrying activities were curtailed. They pose less threat than the London car.