Thursday, 25 June 2009

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.

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