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!

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