Monday 29 June 2009

Philanthropy, Civilisation and Almedelan week

The Alliance of Civilisations is an amazing organisation! Set up as a special project in the UN Secretary-General's office its aim is to promote better understanding between the Muslim and the western worlds. I met the Director on Saturday and talked about how we can encourage this work amongst ACEVO members. We have a large membership amongst organisations working with, or run by the Muslim community in the UK and it is the third sector that is always at the forefront of encouraging and promoting better multi cultural relationships. There website is

The 20th annual international philanthropy Fellows Conference of Johns Hopkins University opened on Sunday. In Milan under the impressive title, "Beyond the Welfare State , towards Subsidiarity". So very much around themes of service delivery through no- profits and our community and representative role. I addressed the Plenary session and stressed the role of the sector working in partnership with Government and the need for the sector to press for reforms in public service at the same time as building its own capacity. One of the Italian speakers, head of one of their big Banking foundations had earlier spoken of the need for access to capital so I also spoke of the transformation role of Futurebuilders in the UK. Because I had to leave for Sweden I actually spoke before the speeches of the three leading Italian Politicians and they had to sit on the platform listening to me. This will have been educative I'm sure! My Italian International Director tells me this is most unusual and almost unprecedented, but very good for them! I told them that in the UK that very day the PM was announcing further reforms for public services- putting citizens more in control of the services they want.

But now I am in Visby, Gotland for the Swedish Third Sector, "Almedalen Week". This event is a major annual week long meeting," real democracy in practice" (or so they say), between the politicians (all Parliamentary Party leaders’ make public speeches), the media, the third sector, the lobbyists, industry and the public. Over 600 events take place during these seven days. These meetings take place on a rather lovely island, which is a UNESCO world heritage site. It's all rather like I imagine a third sector Glastonbury would be. But you just can't imagine Gordon Brown and David Cameron wandering around taking part in informal meetings with sector activists can you? I'm just a bit too old for this sort of thing. Too many sandals around for comfort. But each to his own. Packing for this trip was problematic. Sharp English designer suit for the Italians (they notice this sort of thing) and rough T shirt and shorts (what an image) for the healthy vigorous Swedes. An ACEVO CEO is nothing if not adaptable!

Euclid is holding a roundtable looking at how the third sector works in local communities. And we are there to develop a" Northern Hub" of sector leaders in the Nordic countries.
And we also have one of our regular board meetings- though its unusual for us all to meet in person. Its more often a teleconference call. Our Swedish Euclid Board member is Jakob Beijer. He has written that:

"The most crucial thing I’ve learnt during these years of engagement in the development of Euclid is not that I’ve received lots of examples of how it works in other countries, but by using these examples as tools to see things in Sweden that I have taken for granted. That it is, in fact, possible to do things in different ways.

The difficulty is not to learn what you do not know, but to make visible what you do not know that you do not know."

But now I must go and find my sandals........

Make Justice Work!

Today an important campaign is being launched.
"Make Justice Work" is a campaign designed to make the argument in the media and to politicians that the criminal justice system is in urgent need of change. Today's launch event will include a discussion on penal reform and a presentation of the results of an exclusive new report commissioned by MJW outlining the economic and efficacy case for community based alternatives to short-term prison sentences.

It is being chaired by Martha Lane-Fox, founder of Roma Hooper is the excellent and vigorous Campaign Director.
I have agreed to be one of the Campaign's Ambassadors and have signed a letter to the press outlining the case. It is extraordinary that we lock up so many people in this country. The cost to public spending and to social cohesion is immense. It is high time the Government got a grip on this.
It is an area where Political Parties need to think more long term on public spending. We know spending has to be cut. And we know it is better in the longer term to spend money on rehabilitation and prevention than the revolving door of crime. This will require a radical reform to our public finances. Stop thinking short term and invest in rehabilitation now to cut prison costs in future. It is sheer idiocy that we pour money into prisons and starve third sector organisations of resources they need to do the work that really prevents crime in the future.
And it is stupid that HMT only ever look at actual money costs and not the wider picture of the real costs to society of the failure to work on rehabilitation.
Prison is a justified and legitimate response to serious crime but short-term custodial sentencing does not cut offending rates and is not cost-effective.
The independent research published today for this campaign shows that the majority of community sentences provide similar or better value for money and effectiveness than short-term prison sentences. Looking at the specific case of short sentenced drug-using offenders in 2007 alone, it is estimated that society would have saved almost £1 billion, throughout the offenders’ lifetime, had they been given residential drug treatment instead of being sentenced to 12 months or less in prison. The annual cost savings for the first six years post sentencing would have been £60-100 million.
This campaign needs to succeed. Interestingly the campaign is being launched on the day the Prime Minister is to outline the Governments plans for more public service reform. I was invited to join him but my Deputy has to go in my place - although when I ask him he tartly reminds me he has been asked himself anyway. So there.
Unless the Government understand that a radical approach using the third sector in a big way - like on prison reform - we will not get the change we all need. Time to stop tinkering. Time to stop thinking third sector at margins and put us at heart of reform. There is always rhetoric on sector delivery but practical progress is more slow. Time for a ratcheting up of change. Indeed we now need to abandon the notion that government is neutral on delivery between private and third sector and start looking at how to circumvent competition rules and move out derives to us. DWP under James showed the way with The Right to Bid process. Why has that not been implemented in other departments?
I suggest we now need a Third Sector Reform Tsar , in the cabinet Office with resources to start pushing change. And urgently implementing the Social Investment Bank to drive capital into sector so we can compete on equal terms with the private sector. Less grand policy announcements. Just get on with it.

Friday 26 June 2009

Working class lunch, Aristocratic dinner.

It was a somewhat surreal meeting with Italian Bankers; in the flat once lived in by Roberto Caldi (the head of the bank murdered by the mafia on Blackfriars Bridge). And they tell me that when the news of his murder came through, his loyal Secretary committed suicide by throwing herself out of the window of said Flat. I have told my loyal PA, Alison, she is not required to do the same if I were to fall under a bus! And the meeting culminated with a fabulous dinner in one of Milan's top fish restaurants. We worked out our collective plans to develop sector leaders.

This morning I was at " Vita" the Italian third sector weekly magazine. Its a pretty big operation - 15 journalists alone, but also major web, consultancy and publishing. All run by a non-profit foundation so very much grounded in our sector. And the difference with the UK scene does not end there. They cover European and International news as a matter of course. Our own journals appear deeply uninterested in anything that happens beyond the white Cliffs of Dover. I think that does a grave disservice to the sector as it encourages insular approaches and deters learning.

I do an interview and we are taken to an old working class bowls club for lunch. There used to be many such clubs in Milan - strong links with The Party obviously - but they are dying out! So we enjoy pasta and wine in a shady courtyard and talk of politics and philosophy and the state of our non-profits.

Now tonight I'm off to a rather cool dinner and party with my Director and the Contessa Adelina Von Furstenberg. An interesting person - she is the founder and Director of Art for the World, an organisation which promotes human rights through the arts. And she will be whisking me off to Venice tomorrow for further meetings and an introduction to the Alliance of Civilisations; a UN project much favoured by Obama.

Thursday 25 June 2009

What are we for?

Every so often you get an email that stops you in your tracks. That happened to me yesterday and reminded me of why ACEVO is there and what our root purpose is.

One of our core services for members is to provide support and advice, legal assistance and mentoring for CEOs who may be losing their jobs. It's a mixture of hand-holding, comradely support and practical assistance. I had a note from one member who has made use of our service and who was writing to say she has now resigned from her post with a settlement but wanted us to know how important our ACEVO help had been. It was a difficult and rather sad case. I won't reveal the details or the circumstances which were upsetting to all involved. But I was touched when she wrote to the ACEVO staff involved:

"You have got me through one of the worse periods of my career and probably my life too, giving me hope, courage and wisdom to keep my head up. I can truly say without this I would have probably gone under and come out of this a lot worse."

And as she says: "While its been hell, its also taught me a great deal. While it was shocking to learn what can go on in the Third Sector, its also a blessing to learn that ACEVO are there to support one of the lonliest roles there are - that of the CEO."

At heart this is what ACEVO does. Whilst the press headlines are of our policy work and our advocacy much of the essential day to day work is around support and help to each individual CEO. I have always felt it to be one of my core tasks. I try and help CEOs who face bad governance and get into problems. Sometimes that is done behind the scenes. Sometimes, as in The Shaw trust case, it has to be public. But in whatever way I can, I will ensure ACEVO does its utmost to help support the CEO in what is a lonely position.

It was also a good reminder to me that however much I enjoy the networking and policy development the core work remains at this level and where ACEVO can make a real difference to the well being of the sector's CEOs.

A contrast to part of the last few days work, which has been full of briefings following the Cabinet changes, I have now seen the remarkably effective Angela Smith MP, our new Minister three days running. It is clear she has a real commitment to a professional and expanding sector. Yesterday I saw both Angela and Tessa Jowell, MP. We talked through the strategic direction for the sector and I stressed the importance of a continuing drive on public service reform, to the growth in sector capacity and professionalism and the importance of breaking down the last barrier in funding; our access to capital. Clearly I pushed for action on the Social Investment Bank and the need for big scale access to capital and a big player in the market. A Community Reinvestment Act would reinforce that. Later I spoke to John Denham MP, the new DCLG Secretary of State , on that theme and the need for real investment in our communities .

I guess an interesting reflection of the role ACEVO plays - big scale big picture but also practical support and advice for its members.

Our European Network

Several years ago ACEVO established a network for European third sector leaders with colleagues in France and Sweden. As with all new and emerging institutions this has been an interesting journey. For me it has been fascinating observing the different styles and cultures of European non profits and how they view their role and mission. Our board meetings have also seen some interesting cultural clashes but I have particularly grown to admire the French approach to what they term the social economy. I have got to know their leading sector people and there has been a growing interchange of views and policy and joint work.

I go to Milan today to sign a partnership agreement with the mighty Bank of Intessa Saopaulo and then speak at the summer school between the Johns Hopkins University in the States and the University in Milan. After that it is a Euclid Board meeting at the great annual gathering of the Swedish non-profits in Gotland. This event pulls together all the leaders of the sector there and they are joined by top Government and political leaders - a sort of campfire and funfare type of event. All sounds a bit 70s to me. I got rid of my Kaftan some decades back( it had started smelling badly). When they told me I was to be strictly casually dressed I said I'd be bringing a bowler!

I also intend to celebrate some fantastic news ( fine Prosecco called for). Euclid had been working on a project funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to develop third sector leaders in the Balkans. Not exactly the easiest task around when you are doing that in countries like Kosovo!

We have just heard the United Nations have agreed to a substantial grant to Euclid to help develop civil society in Eastern Europe. This is important for us as a new body. It shows that already we have established a track record and are trusted. To have got to the point where Euclid has now been used by the FCO and UN is great. But great to that we get resources to spread good leadership in countries where civil society is still emerging and fragile. It is clear that the UK can offer real leadership to our friends and colleagues across the European third sector. But it is also clear how much we can also learn. It can be useful to have your assumptions and established way of doing things challenged by those who don't have an l'anglo-saxon approach. Euclid's Board President, Thierry Weishaupt, is always amused when we put "AOB" on agendas- a concept he had not come across before!

Its an interesting journey- setting up any new sector body is challenging. It reminds me of the early days of ACEVO and of when I was setting up a new charity in Lambeth back in the 80s. Proving you have something to offer. Getting members. And the crucial challenge of fundraising.

The trustees of ACEVO have been fantastic in showing faith and vision as we have sometimes struggled in endeavours. And now it is starting to show real success.

As well as our success with the FCO and with the UN our Euclid director, Filippo Addarii, has had a singular success in persuading the EU to establish a group to review their funding processes. We all know how nightmarish EU grant streams can be. We have a real chance to secure change. We will ensure Euclid pushes this with the same determination and vigour as ACEVO has in getting major funding reform in the UK.

Leadership learning does not stop at national boundaries.

Tuesday 23 June 2009

Personalising Public Services

Where next on Public Service Reform? Gordon Brown has made clear at a recent press conference that he wants to push further with radical reforms to our public services. He argues that we need, "to ensure the best opportunities for people through reformed public services that are tailored and far more responsive to people’s needs."

He said, " I think you’ll be surprised in how short a time you will see the prospectus that we are going to put forward for Britain’s future... when people face a choice it will be about the future of our public services [as well as reform on expenses and progress on the economy]".

In our ACEVO discussions with the Conservatives it is clear they too want to be radical. And I suspect with public spending cuts there is no option but to reform the system. We know that the abysmal failure to reform prison and probation services have merely ensured rising crime and greater costs to the State. Only by seriously diverting money from the prison budget into rehabilitation will you both cut spending long term but also reduce crime. A prisoner who is given a job and home is not just less likely to stay away from offending again , but is also making a net contribution to the state. Our failure to get ex offenders into jobs and homes swells public spending and harms society. The Conservatives have strong plans for change. It is a shame Jack Straw has not driven this agenda harder against the dinosaur forces in the prison establishment.
But I welcome the fact that there will be serious political debate on public services. Our role as a third sector deliver ought to be right at the heart of that debate. And I will ensure ACEVO makes it so. The most interesting aspect of reform thinking at the moment is the drive to "personalisation ", i.e, giving people control of their own budgets to spend on public services. Acevo has recently established a Commission to Review what this reform will mean for us as third sector bodies. Matthew Pike, the great thinker and reformer, is Chairing and we have a stellar cast from the think tanks like Policy Exchange and Demos to sector stars like Lynne Berry, Joyce Mosley and Virginia Beardshaw. We have even involved the DH and OTS so to ensure our thinking reflects back into government policy making.

In my discussions with ACEVO members I have detected mixed views and not always great enthusiasm for this agenda. Some however see it as a huge opportunity for growth. Of course it will be more difficult to deal with 4000 people, as opposed to a block contract with a County Council for the same. But the end result will mean a better and more personal service for our clients- and that's what counts.

But whatever ones view I know we need to be prepared for change. So part of the role of the Commission is to help our CEOs prepare for change and to be out front in winning those personal contracts. If we are smart we will ensure people buy from us because we offer a better service than our rivals in the public or private sectors. And maybe we also drive alliances and partnerships?

This will probably mean change to our internal systems and IT and this may need capital investment. A key role for Futurebuilders and with my other hat on we are looking at how to support such capitalisation.

So exciting times. Will we be ahead of the curve? Or in the back row carping and moaning about change? I know where a Chief Executive has to be!

Yesterday proved a tiresome day...hours in casualty with a problem on the eye front (got sorted, but depressing) so a welcome trip to the House of Lords to celebrate 120 years of Cambridge House . This is a settlement established in Southwark and which is run by a brilliant CEO , who is an active acevo member . They have evolved over the century into a vibrant community anchor providing support and leadership to communities in a diverse and challenging london borough . I enjoyed meeting the Leader of Southwark Council and other local personalities and the many clients of the centre. Our new Minister gave a great speech . She is clearly delighted to be in this role and showed both her grasp of the huge potential for the sector and an eagerness to use her time to promote and enhance the third sector as core to recovery . I very much agreed with her key message that difficult though times are for many in our sector , we are part of the answer to recovery . I told her that I had had a warm message of support from my parents for her . They both live in a small village , Orsett in Essex , which is in her constituency. They know Angela and strongly approve of her work as a local MP. And clearly Angela has great judgment as she tells me she has been reading my Blog. It's good to know she is tapped into the best and most accurate source of information about the sector ( and its gossip).

And whilst there I get a text from one of my old mates in the Commons to tell me they have voted for JohnBercow as new Speaker . I'm delighted . I know John well . He was , of course , a former Lambeth Councillor . Many very great people have been Lambeth Councillors , not to mention graduates of Oxford ( naturally ). I intend to get Speaker Bercow to an acevo event soon . And having been at a reception in Speakers House with the redoubtable Boothroyd I hope we might even see an acevo reception there . That is not a hint John....

Monday 22 June 2009

A la recherche du temps perdu

Even in Sardinia I pick up some great email responses to my article in The Guardian responding to a recent Adam Sampson think piece. Adam's was a trip down memory lane - to the 70s to be precise! The sector has developed exponentially since then in its professionalism and effectiveness. Although its nice to hark back to more carefree and innocent times, (as Adam does) with our placards and megaphones; how much better things are today for our clients and beneficiaries. As I say in the article, what is more important to the homeless : a job and a house or a lovely campaign march down Park Lane? To read my article click here.

And as one of my correspondents reminds me, one of those 70s rebels is now First Secretary of State! But how far our sector has travelled. And it is good to reflect too on the way ACEVO has grown, mirroring the growth of our member's businesses. In this last financial year our income has grown by 44% and our expenditure by 32% so substantial productivity growth. This has marked some real expansion in services to members; notably our recession support website and our advice and support networks. It is only through impact that you can truly measure your value as an organisation. ACEVO does not exist as an end in itself but as a way in which the voice and the role of the CEO can be promoted.

So we are judged through the impact we have in promoting better contracting or in policy promotion , in professional development and in arguing for governance reform. In the last few months our role in devising the £1 billion Future Jobs Fund is a remarkable testament to the vitality and strength of ACEVO - and a particular coup for my brilliant Head of Research Ralph Michell.

At base it is the determination of the third sector CEO that makes us strong: so it was the ideas of the CEOs who made up our ACEVO DWP task force that helped us to devise this new Fund. It was that group that pushed for sector capitalisation through a Social Investment Bank. That means we will not always be popular. Our sector has its vested interests. Its reactionaries. But a CEO has to be at the tipping point. Arguing for change and not being fobbed off : "divine discontent" should be our motto! It goes with the Madeleines a la Proust.

And I wonder when one of our sector journals will be drawing up the league tables of umbrella bodies impact? Would that not tell us more than train journeys' tables?

I get an email invite from the talented and beautiful Richard Reeves - he of the Think Tank Demos - asking me to bewail his 40th birthday with him. "What people describe as virtue is in the over 40s merely a lack of energy", he says quoting Voltaire. But in my view over 50 is the thing to be. As one gains in age one is better able to pass off one's prejudices as wisdom. And being 40 is neither here nor there, as I tell Richard.

Thursday 18 June 2009


I'm blogging from a charming and eccentric B+B in Cagliari, capital of Sardinia. Surrounded by model cars, with a marvellous terrazo overlooking the Port where I sit with my espresso and ruminate on life's challenges. I'm having a short break - 4 weeks on from the Op. As the great Liz Atkins of NCVO said to me " the best medicine: getting sizzled and sozzled".

And what is the Bubb recipe for the perfect holiday? It can be summed up in the formula, "ambiance, alcohol and Kultur"( aak ). So a typical day begins with a lazy and late breakfast, a Cappuccino and croissant in preparation for a serious bout of Kultur (the German word is so much more expressive of the concept). So a Palazzo or Art Gallery and Basilica provides a good lead into Lunch.

Now Lunch must never be hurried. A minimum of two hours should be devoted to gourmet delight. A time to sample a bottle of local wine. In Sardinia, the white Vermentino is excellent. I try always to find a lunch spot with a view. Ambiance is important. So yesterday the restaurant atop the Castello with commanding views of the city spread out below was the perfect place to enjoy the local pasta, "Culurgiones". It's a speciality of Sardinia and to be recommended.

Then obviously its siesta; that wonderful tradition of the Mediterranean. One awakes in time for a light spot of Kultur, perhaps a visit to a local Church for the Angelus or a viewing of a saintly relic. Then one is prepared for the main event; Dinner. A meal never to be taken lightly. Some prefer to wander and discover a pleasant spot but I believe research and preparation is all. Detail here is important. Our first night was at "Monica e Ahmed", a highly recommended fish restaurant where the fish antipasti was one of the best I have tasted. Last night we sought out the finest Pizzeria.

Dinner should also be preceded by a leisurely Prosecco taken in some quiet spot; at a bar in a shady square by an ancient church where the crumbling facade speaks of centuries of piety and devotion.

Cagliari is an interesting city, though not perhaps the finest Italy has to offer. It has its usual share of churches , basilicas and the splendid Cathedral but the problem with the Mediterranean Catholics is that they could never leave alone the glories of the Gothic and so an orgy of excess in the 17th and 18th centuries covered the magnificence and austerity of the Gothic with Baroque extravaganza. And I am not even talking about the Rococo which can only truly be appreciated after two bottles of champagne where the absence of a straight line and the multiple angels in fru fru become vaguely charming. So a perfectly brilliant 13th century Cathedral gets an unpleasant makeover and a glorious pulpit crafted in 1158 and given to the Sards from Pisa Cathedral gets split in two and the splendid lions that mark the base are removed and put under the wedding cake high altar. I'm afraid I'm with Ruskin on his view that Gothic is the high point of Western civilisation.

And so to expenses. What a brilliant comment on Blog from the magnificent Roy Norris. His pithy denunciation of the recent nonsense, " media inspired irrelevancy" concocted by " self-appointed, self interested journalists in search of the next pay cheque " is entirely refreshing. And right. Rock on Roy. But even as we speak I quake at the thought of the next media exclusive; the umbrella body league table of paper clip usage. Is mine bigger than Stuart's? The world awaits.

Monday 15 June 2009


Well Saturday was a glorious day. The Birthday of HM The Queen (more on Honours below), the Feast Day of St Anthony of Padua and my nephew Alexander's graduation. Alexander is the poet nephew graduating in English from Christ Church, as opposed to the rower nephew Julian featuring in the blog recently. So a very pleasant day in Oxford culminating in dinner with friends and family of five of Alex's year. They are all setting off for glittering careers and my nephew embarks on his PhD.

The Honours List included no less than two ACEVO Knights: The CEO of the National Children's Bureau, Paul Ennals, and the magnificent Prof Deian Hopkin, Vice Chancellor of London South Bank University. Also good to see my friend, Craig Deardon-Philips, getting his just rewards for a great contribution to our sector with an MBE. Jane Slowey, who has been very active in ACEVO is made a CBE. The great and good friend Margaret Faull, of the National Coal Mining Musuem, is made an OBE as is Gracia McGrath of ChanceUK and Helen Donoghue.

One of my more interesting appointments has been to sit on the Honours Committee for all the awards in our sector, police and fire and local government. I am always impressed at the sheer quality of the contribution of the people we review. I am a great supporter of Honours. It is a superb way of marking the contribution of people who make a difference at community and national level. If you want to make a nomination go to the website here.

If you are an ACEVO member and have not yet filled in your pay survey YOU HAVE THIS WEEK to do it! Our Pay Survey is the main guide in our sector to CEO salaries so we try and ensure it is as comprehensive as possible.

Friday 12 June 2009

Awards and Chief Executives in Summit

Well first day back. Have to admit I was shattered by the end of the day- a long one as it was our ACEVO CEO Summit followed by the Charity Awards in Battersea. I had to leave early and so missed picking up my award for the Best Blog in the Sector. I understand it was a joint win with Robin Bogg. I was seated at Tania Mason's table - I suspect she was checking up on me to see if I'd smuggled in a bottle of Krug (paid for on ACEVO expenses naturally). I am still depressed to have discovered I claimed £5k less than Stuart Ethrington. I need to get out more or my reputation as the sector's top networker will lie in ruins! But on a serious note it was clear from our CEO Summit that there is great anger about what my Chair described as " hysteria" on the expenses issue. And I used my speech at our Summit to be clear on where our accountability lies and that impact is measured by what you achieve for your members or beneficiaries, not by your spend on paper clips or train fares. Good press reports of the speech setting out my points well and I have had a lot of positive member feed back saying, in terms, "spot on". Of course there are arguments both sides on this but in ACEVO we have been keen to make clear this is not as simple a position as others have made out, or an opportunity for sensationalist tittle tattle. Click here to read the article in Charity Finance

The Summit was a triumph, even despite the difficulties of the wretched tube strike. Lots of stories of CEO valiant effort and achievement in walking and cycling to reach us. Stephen Timms MP, Financial Secretary at the Treasury spoke about the forthcoming consultation on a Social Investment Bank. He was up beat. A good guy- strongly committed to what we do. As he said " our expertise makes us indispensable to government". Vince Cable was due to speak but he too had had an operation (must be fashionable) so he didn't make it. The bonus is that he will be our guest speaker at the ACEVO Annual Dinner on November 4th. Book your place now!

There was a really positive air as we discussed the leadership challenges in a recession. People were very much focused on what the next public spending round will mean, as well as coping with income declines against rising demand. But Geoff Mulgan made a good point in arguing spending cuts may not be a disaster for us in all areas. He suggested that in health and prisons, for example, government will need to really examine alternative provision- more rehabilitation work to stop re offending, more health promotion and community based alternatives, as well as care budgets that are personalised. He said a lot of this will move from the" too difficult to do" to the "have to" box.

Nick Aldridge, the CEO of Mission Fish and Chair of the Empty Homes Agency, gave a powerful presentation. Elegant, dry wit and well honed points. He was talking of the challenges for young Leaders. In a previous incarnation he was my Deputy at ACEVO. As he said, making a point about leadership, "people who know Stephen will understand he is not someone plagued with self doubt and does not encourage it in others".. So true. And key if you want to lead! Nice point to end on: Geoff Mulgan again, who says he rather enjoys a crisis. "Any CEO must use even the smallest crisis to maximum effect".

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Back to leadership. Angela and expenses

Well, tomorrow its back in harness, so to speak. My first day back is to ACEVO’s Annual Chief Executive Summit tomorrow. A day when we limit attendance only to CEOs and look at leadership challenges. And a challenge will be to see how many make it given the wretched tube strike.

It will be interesting to hear what our new Minister, Angela Smith, has in store. Let's see what are her priorities as she takes on the task. An announcement on the Social Investment Bank perhaps? How they have bought into a Community Reinvestment Act? A radical approach to gift aid. More money to support sector bodies tackling greater demand. More action on putting sector at forefront of building recovery through a major jobs programme. I expect by now she will be well up on the ACEVO Hutton report and will tell us she is looking to implementing Will's proposals? We shall see!

What is happening at Charity Finance? Have they been taken over by The Sun? The Editor has recently got excited by an obscure and uncharitably snide blog by an accountant called John Tate (clearly not a relation of the sugar family). And now she is hassling various umbrella body CEOs to reveal their expenses - hot foot on the trail of scandalous second home allowances and jaffa cakes no doubt. Looking for the clothes allowances and second home perks? It's rather insulting she thinks charity CEOs would have those sort of allowance schemes. And to suggest there is a link between MPs arrangements and ours is simply wrong. The governance arrangements are clearly different. The problem with MPs is that they decided and audited their own arrangements. We do not. All our CEOs have to get sign off by their non-exec Chairs and the expenses are independently audited and an audit will pick up irregularity and report on it. And that will be public.

So Charity Finance’s Editor rings ACEVO last week and is firmly told by my Head of Media that I am recovering from an eye operation and will deal with her request when I return to work. But this is of little interest to the Editor of CF who clearly equates a mere operation to shirking and expects me to deal with the request so she can meet her press deadline and she continues to hassle my staff.

And it gets worse. Undeterred by my absence, when she publishes her report it is headed "ACEVO refuses to publish expenses". The fact that no decision on this has been made by me is clearly a mere detail; facts flee before journalistic fantasy. And she caps it off with a report on her blog about ACEVO and the Impact Coalition. I have been peering through the windows at home to see if she was sending journalists out to rout around my dustbins for errant bath plugs!

And on the subject of snide let's turn to the Blog entry that started this all off. Mr Tate writes:-

"The blog of one of these chief execs covers recent/planned visits to New York, Buckingham Palace and the Ritz. Do we think this is good? How much does this cost? Should we know about this?"

Of course Mr Tate does know about all this because he has read it on my Blog. He seems to miss the irony of his call for more transparency when my Blog gives glorious and amusing detail of practically all my meetings and activities. He knows what I get up to and why because it's there for all to read. And indeed comment is free. So I suggest if Mr Tate has any questions about visits to Buckingham Palace etc and their value, he only has to ask on the Blog. Although that would spoil the point obviously.

I regret that the glories of my expenses will make dull reading. I have to pay for my own Duchamp ties. No limousines. No moat around my prison home or room for duck houses paid for by ACEVO. My recent move shockingly paid for by myself. But let me answer his cost questions here.

Expenses claimed for visit to Ritz on a Sunday afternoon to hear President Clinton on the Clinton Global Initiative (I am the only sector CEO there); Zero claimed as I went by tube. And the visit to the Palace to celebrate the 50th anniversary of BTCV - Tom Flood is one of my trustees; Zero claimed from ACEVO as I walked. And New York? Canny ACEVO got the flight in the BA January seat sale. And I was in a 3 star hotel in downtown Chelsea (smart but no breakfast).

For those interested in knowing more I recommend a re-read of the blogs. For the visit to New York read the no less than 7 blogs (23 March – 31 March) which detail the 22 meetings we held and the splendid fact that I was the first UK third sector leader to meet with the new Obama Centre for Social Innovation in the White House. That was cool indeed. Oh and by the way I walked to the White House! But good to be able to blog about it again.

Interestingly, the value of the visit to the States by me and my Strategy Director is that we are now developing plans with a number of non-profits about trans-Atlantic leadership networks and about franchising our Full Cost Business Planner. The latter will be of direct benefit to the US non profit sector but will also involve a return to ACEVO.

Oh dear, all this walking and tubing, I am beginning to worry this makes me sound a puritan, which will never do!

The editor of CF makes the argument that because we receive public money from OTS then we must account for our expenses. But this is a false and indeed dangerous argument. ACEVO is not accountable to the OTS or Government. Indeed we are proud to be independent of them. We are accountable to our ACEVO members. We receive a relatively small amount from OTS for specific strategic advice against a clear contract which requires us to report on outcomes quarterly. We are accountable for the services we provide under that contract. And we are; this is a matter of public record. The issue of our expenses has nothing to do with that and my expenses are not reimbursed from that contract.

But I am happy that if members of ACEVO believe it is important to be open on what my expenses are I shall be. So I shall tell them. That is where my accountability lies. But I do not accept the argument that this implies all charity CEOs should publish their expenses (or indeed details of meetings, when they are in the office or their sick leave records). And as a key part of a CEO job is external and work with stakeholders we do not want to get into a crude debate on whose expenses are the largest or smallest.

Have we not got past these archaic arguments about our capacity and professionalism? This debate reminds me of the destructive arguments on how charities are supposed to have no overheads. Each year we publish our survey of chief executive pay in the sector and I am pleased to see that broadly pay for leaders in the sector is improving. ACEVO’s vision is of a modern, enterprising third sector and as chief executives we have nothing to be ashamed of in claiming for legitimate expenses incurred while doing our jobs effectively.

There is no doubt that governance in the third sector does need to improve. But Charity Finance has completely missed the point of this debate. Any board no matter how competent can scrutinize the expenses of a chief executive and determine whether or not those claims are legitimate. Much harder, but much more important, is for boards to actually communicate the difference the organisation has made to the world and how they have done it. The Intelligent Giving blog made this point perfectly today. This is why I was so keen for ACEVO to take on the running of the Impact Coalition, to stimulate the real arguments about accountability and transparency amongst the sector’s chief executives. This is why ACEVO is running the valuing performance campaign to support leaders in the sector to understand the barriers to better performance management.

Where all these argument may have more force is on Futurebuilders, which I Chair and where all the money for investment comes directly from Government. So there is a wider accountability and I have asked FBE to check what my Chair's expenses have been over the last year and to publish them.

Good to know where our priorities are.

Monday 8 June 2009

Angela and TS Eliot

So a new Minister! But this time it's a Minister of State and not just a Parliamentary Secretary so the sector gets a promotion - and with Tessa also overseeing sector relationships as a Cabinet member. Good that she is a former Third Sector professional. She worked in the League Against Cruel Sports - a noble body indeed. And a former PPS to Gordon which is not unhelpful I guess! Let's wish her well at a difficult time in putting the third sector at the heart of Government policy. And great news that she will be making her first speech at our ACEVO CEO Summit on Thursday. It will be my first day back at work (touch wood) so I shall enjoy welcoming her. We also have Stephen Timms from HMT speaking and were having Vince Cable but he has to pull out as he is having an operation apparently. Must be all the rage.

I have had an email from the proprietor of the truly wonderful Plough Inn in Finstock- a great Pub which often dispenses fine ale and gourmet food to yours truly (and indeed to the Hound who enjoys the run over through the Cornbury estate). He corrects me on TS Eliot. He was received into the Anglican church (the proper Anglo Catholic bit of it naturally) in Finstock Church not Wilcote as I had blogged. So like The Guardian I am happy to make a correction here.

Saturday 6 June 2009

Tessa and TS Eliot

I am recuperating in Charlbury . Somehow I'm sure the country air will do me good . And i have managed to get a rather smart cool bag , from Brixton market no less , which I use to carry around the eye drops I need to take with alarming regularity .The old roses around my small cottage are flowering prolifically , and the scent is beautiful. Recovery is slow and painful and it will be 4 months before I know if the Op has been successful . But I am optimistic.

I have been following the political events with fascination . Great to see we now have Tessa Jowell as our senior Minister , replacing Liam who goes to HMT. These are both good moves for us . Tessa is an old friend from the days we were in London Local Government . She is a good friend of my great Deputy Peter. In the days I first met her she was CEO of MIND , and so it is of great note that we now have a Cabinet Minister who was a member of ACEVO . Indeed Tessa is one of the early founding members . So she has always been a good friend of acevo and our third sector .

And the advantage of Liam as Chief Secretary is that he will be in charge of pushing the Social Investment bank . I know from my many discussions with Liam that he is a keen supporter of the Bank and indeed when he was at Harvard made a study of the power of the Social Reinvestment Act , of which he is a fan . Lets hope that we now get both sorted quickly. My prediction on Liam for the Home Office turned out to be wrong , but good he is at HMT and will push for a SIB .

I see that ncvo are now fully backing a Bank . Good to have their support . That means we are united as a sector in a demand for social investment. But a rather curious article by Stuart Ethrington in the Guardian makes the bizarre suggestion that they should steal money from Futurebuilders to help fund the Bank . A proposal that fortunately will go nowhere. Futurebuilders is now incredibly successful under dynamic new leadership : Jonathan Lewis our CEO ( currently on paternity leave ! ) has impressed the sector with his no nonsense commitment to delivery and the rooting out of inefficient bureaucracy .There have been ;lots of new ideas and tools and products to support the sector . This success has been crowned with tender wins , of the Social Enterprise fund by DH and the possibility of community builders ( though awaiting news on that ) . Now some have suggested that this proposal has more to do with upset at ncvo losing the contract to run FBE than what might be good for the sector but I could not possibly comment . But that curiosity apart , its welcome to have their support for something many of us have long been advocating.

There was a wonderful programme on BBC 2 last night on modern poetry . It concentrated largely on my favourite poet , TS Eliot. Eliot was received into the Anglican Church in the parish church of Wilcote , just 7 miles from Charlbury . His masterpiece is the Four Quartets and I have a gorgeous copy by Faber . There is a particular verse I love and which I think is an inspiration for all Chief Executives ;

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we first started
And to know the place for the first time

No chief executive can afford to forget that success requires continuing exploration and search , for new ways of doing things , for new ideas and innovation ., bringing on talent and giving younger people their head to do it their way. And as we get older the temptation is to sink back into old ways and approaches and refuse to look at new ideas . It is a temptation I hope never to succumb to myself even at 56 !

So why not get out and buy a copy of this transformational work. Over the summer I hope to get down to East Coker in Somerset where Eliot's ashes are laid to rest in the village in Somerset where his ancestors came from . I am due to stay with a great friend , Barbara Frost who was my Vice Chair and is CEO of WaterAid. She lives just outside Frome in Somerset so we may venture there. And whilst there I shall even be tidying up the grave of my Great , Great Grandparents who lived in Marston Bigot , Barbara's home village when she is not traveling the world on behalf of her marvellous charity .

So no ceasing from exploration for me ( eye problems or no).............

Friday 5 June 2009

Mergers and James

New Philanthropy Capital seem to be on fire! A great report calling for better governance and reform in how we get our charity trustees is now followed up by a timely report on mergers. Read it here.

NPC are saying we need to have more mergers in our sector amongst charities. They argue there are too few. The sector needs to consider mergers to be fit for the future and to weather tough economic times.

As they say "the most important question is not what works best for the charity - it's what works best for all the people charities intend to help"

It is fantastic to have an organisation like NPC making these arguments and being so forthright in their calls for greater professionalism in the third sector.

Of course it is not simply a matter of merger. There ought always to be a case for considering alliances and partnerships; either with other third sector bodies or with organisations in the public and private sector. Acevo is undertaking work on mergers. We are developing an updated guide for Chairs and CEOs. Often a merger comes down to whether the respective Chairs and CEOs support it. They are the crucial players and yet many merger discussions concentrate on legals and finance and forget the human element.

We have also asked Sue Stirling, former director of ippr North, to research mergers and other forms of partnerships. She has been working with a number of our members over the past few months, and will be holding workshops on mergers and collaboration soon.

Well, what a surprise about James Purnell. I admire his stand. It is always good to see a poltician who is prepared to put principle above his own personal career and give up his cabinet post to argue for change. I send him a message of support. DWP will miss his leadership. He has been a great Secretary of State.

We shall see today what transpires from the reshuffle. My bet is on Liam Byrne for Home Secretary! And will we be getting a new Third Sector Minister. I await news.

Thursday 4 June 2009

Will Hutton and ACEVO

Will Hutton and the Work Foundation have produced a superb report for ACEVO on the role of the third sector in creating jobs. We asked Will - the country's top expert on jobs and leading economic commentator - to do this report for us in advance of the third sector summit next week.

Read it here.

One of the frustrations of being off work post op is that I missed the fun of the launch of this important report on Tuesday evening. My Deputy Dr Kyle does superbly in my place I hear from Seb Elsworth, my Director of Strategy, who has come round to the house with papers. I am lucky to have such a superb team to back me up when I am off.

One of the problems with the current political fall out is that the difficulties of the recession and the growing numbers of unemployed is not being reported effectively. So this important report will not get the attention it deserves. But the case for the third sector to play a bigger role in creating jobs and supporting the victims of recession must continue to be made. And ACEVO will ensure it is.

May has been a great month for ACEVO: 89 new members joining us. Remarkable growth. I suspect this is a reflection of the feeling out there that Chief Executives need the support of a professional body in difficult times. But also too that ACEVO is seen as leading the debate on the sector's future - with chief executives at the forefront in providing leadership for change.

Fascinating to read Beth Breeze's blog on the role of the third sector in the twelfth century. Click here to read it.

Monday 1 June 2009

The sector and political reform

The 3 political parties are now in a bidding war to see who can be more radical on constitutional reform. This is yet another opportunity for the third sector.

Though it is interesting that we have yet to see a speech from one of the 3 Party leaders that talks of the role the sector can play in revitalising our democracy. For example, the major speech by Charlbury MP and Leader of the Conservatives David Cameron never mentioned the sector, although he did speak about revitalising neighbourhoods. The PM's proposals do not include a sector role. Yet it is the strength and vitality of sector organisations, big and small, national and local that often provide a challenge to state domination. It is vigorous local community groups that stop bad councils and big developers spoiling our localities. It is national charities who challenge world poverty or environmental damage. It is the great childrens charities who keep councils and governments up to the mark and promote better policy for children. It is often third sector bodies who are at the forefront of new policy and legislation. We are out there battling on behalf of communities or unpopular causes.

Yet politicians still see a sector that works small scale, doing good rather than as the voice of communities. So we need to campaign to ensure our role in providing a more diverse and pluralistic democracy is recognised. It is something we should look at in the Impact Coalition and sector umbrellas should consider how we work together to promote our voice. ACEVO is now looking at how we promote a campaigning and dynamic charity sector at the heart of he life of our nation.

The PM has proposed a National Council for Constitutional Reform. It is essential the third sector is well represented on that Council and the sector's leading Chief Executives are there around the table. And wider than that, the sector needs to be arguing for our role in reform.

Well, the weekend was glorious. I was with most of my family down on the banks of the Isis (I believe also known as The Thames) at Oxford for Eights Week. My nephew Julian was rowing in the Keble Eight and remembering its not the winning that counts but the taking part! The voluminous picnic hampers provided by my sister-in-law also provided cool storage for my eye drops! You will see I am bearing up well, as I stand next to my nephew in his rowing gear, but I appear to have shrunk? And my College came Head of the River, for the first time in 22 years. A great aid to my recovery.