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 (Events@acevo.org.uk).

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 www.philanthropycapital.org

It ought to be compulsory reading for trustees.

1 comment:

alex stobart said...


This is a bit rich. I wrote to you and John Low a yearago suggesting a clearing house for grants and expenditure. You could do exactly the same with talented people who wish to help by working for charities.

You did not reply then, and I am not sure I expect you to reply now. The trouble is that you can proseletyse all you wish, and shake hands with the great and the good, but your people need to come down a level.

MPs and Royalty are not going to do any of the work. Now they are on board with your ideas, you should be aiming at the common people.

Note follows below -

A Vision for Third Sector Funding and Reporting


1. “ To portray a future state where the people, the service users, the third sector providers and the funders have the most transparent view possible of the sector’s funding, operations, reporting and outcomes “

2. “ To create the means using web 2.0, whereby an open internet application for funding and reporting applications will exist for all people and organisations in the UK to see third sector operations “


3. In today’s world, as with so many comparable situations, the sense among Third Sector funders and providers is of a vast spaghetti junction of navigation to bid for, obtain and then track monies and activities. It requires a degree in organisational design for each bid or application, and many organisations find the process off-putting and possibly discriminatory.

4. In a similar vein, neither I nor anyone else has visibility of the sector

New Philanthropy Capital recently reported that simplification can be made
They quoted the following estimate for Scotland

We calculated that an estimated £450m each year of Scottish charities’ money is spent on reporting to donors.


• The Third Sector lead a programme, together with its main providers of finance ( government ; local government ; trusts & foundations ; private companies ; social enterprise; individuals ) to create a social enterprise, not-for-profit company
• This company be built on web 2.0 principles as out-lined in wikinomics
• The company’s primary purpose is to design two operations
• The first operation is a standard methodology and template for funding applications, with a second less onerous methodology and template called “ lite “
• The second operation is a standard methodology and template for reporting back to funding providers, with a second less onerous methodology and template called “ lite “
• If these are successful, further operations can be designed along similar lines of business to support the sector
• The outcome is a partnership way of working and sharing to deliver the best possible service to users ; “ designing in “ transparency and openness to avoid duplication, waste of resources and ; re-assure funders and service users that all possible means are being used to direct resources to answer their needs and requirements


• The Office for the Third Sector must give this idea its backing
• DIUS and BERR must enable this by offering their support
• The political parties must come around this as one ( and not make it a political issue )
• The Charity Commission and Charities Aid Foundation must be on board
• The givers’ community ( large funders e.g. Big Lottery ; National Heritage ; Funds & Foundations ; New Philanthropy capital ; Private Companies ) must be on board
• ACEVO ; NCVO ; SCVO and the other representative bodies must be on board
• SOLACE ; LGA ; HM Treasury understand and support the process
• The Regulators and auditors must be re-assured



 The sector has a standard way of working and can spend it resources on services
 Competition between third sector reduced ; collaboration increased
 The sector shows what it is capable of, demonstrates leadership and transformation ( and once again trounces the opposition )
 Government, funders, third sector organisations, the people have one place to go to see what is happening
 Any third sector organisation can see another ( and because third sector organisations either have a charity reference number or a company reference number ), the public can read across lots of different applications and operations by search

Suggested Next Steps

 The Third Sector take the lead, speak with google , develop the social enterprise company themselves ( as you want it most ), and make it happen
 There are young, committed technical and project resources out there who can do this e.g. mysociety
 Speaking as a serving civil servant, I would not let my colleagues near it in a management sense
 If I can be a trustee / NED of the social enterprise company if you like the idea, representing Scotland interests, I will be a happy man

Alex Stobart
May 3rd 2008