Friday 28 August 2009

Japan beckons ....

I am just getting ready for the flight to Japan tomorrow...I am a guest at the launch of JACEVO , the Japanese acevo . it is a great honour , and indeed enormously flattering that the Japanese third sector has decided to set up a representative body for their Sector leaders. Over a year ago a delegation from the Japanese sector came across to the UK to investigate how we ran our umbrella bodies . Previously a Japanese speaking colleague from the RNID had been to Japan to talk to their sector leaders . Anyway , the result of their visit here was that they felt that an acevo organisation was the right approach for them . And so impressed had they been with their contacts with us they have even names it JACEVO. Surely there can be no finer tribute to the work of our organisation to be imitated in this way?

So both I and my International Director , the irrepressible Filippo Addari have been invited to attend the launch ceremonies. This is going to be an interesting contrast to my week in gorgeous Devon! And the emphasis is on ceremonies plural, as there will be events in Tokyo , Kyoto , Nagoya and Sendai. They have asked me to speak for 80 minutes which may be a challenge even for me ! The poster above ( with the rather flattering picture of yours truly in front of cherry blossom) has been posted in many third sector offices. And they have a crowded programme with Mayors , Vice Chancellors , temples and hot springs....the Blogs will make interesting reading I'm sure!

Au Revoir Hope Cove

Well , the sun was out as I popped over for the early morning croissants but drenched on the way back, the Hound running in front showing a strong distaste for a Devon windy wet day. But you can see just what a magnificent place Hope Cove is from the photos taken at the harbour. That is indeed me and Hound sitting atop the lobster pots!

But fortunately the sun was back out as I left for my return to Brixton via the Sharpham vineyard near Totnes. The vineyard is set in a glorious estate on the banks of the River Dart. The views are such as to remind you that England has the most glorious landscapes; ones that rival the sun parched vistas of Tuscany. Though one has to admit the rain is not a bonus! The farm here has been in existence for over a thousand years and the stunning Georgian Farmhouse was designed by Robert Taylor in 1770 and somehow epitomises the grandeur that is England.

I travel back on the train from Totnes , one of the country's finest railway journeys . The views of the sea from across the glass of South African chenin blanc as i sit in the Pullman car are really most agreeable . Amusingly I sit opposite an Indi film producer who has been in Exeter making a documentary. So we have an interesting discussion about the public perception of charity and how modern charity is viewed. It reinforces my view that we need a major national campaign to promote modern day charity. Proud to be big nd professional. Proud to pay our staff decent wages. Unrepentant about paying office costs. Yet proud of our impact and how we change lives for good. .

Thursday 27 August 2009

Postcard from Hope Cove

The blistering wind shook the blind and sent the wine glass crashing; it was an early start to a wet and overcast day. Still, at least I was up in time for the early morning bake at the Outer Hope Bakery. But somehow, whatever the weather, this gorgeous part of the South Devon coast looks stunning.

And one is never far from the reach of the third sector; whether that is the local Coastguards, part of the magnificent RNLI, based down by the slipway at Inner Hope, or up on the cliffs overlooking the sweep of coast down to Plymouth which is now in the care of the National Trust, run by the redoubtable ACEVO member Fiona Reynolds.

I see a lot of the cliffs! It's a grand place for the hound to roam and also one of the few places I can get a mobile signal for my Blackberry. Many a call has been made to the sound of a roaring sea and sea gulls screech. Victor Adebowale was most amused when I rang him- he suggested I try not to fall off!

Last night was country dancing in the Square outside the Hope and Anchor so the Bubb clan were out in force, demonstrating their mastery of the twirl and promenade. The hound was somewhat bemused however and barked loudly as I swung my lovely niece Miranda around the Square with gay abandon.

Hopefully later today it will be fine enough to walk across the cliffs to the "Port Light" which sits majestically atop the cliffs at a particularly scenic spot along the coast. One can sip a fine Devon ale, eat a delectable Devon crab sandwich and enjoy the view from Fiona's NT domain. Our annual gathering of the Bubb clan is going swimmingly, though spoilt somewhat by my parents enforced absence after their attack by mad German cyclist. And there are few spots more lovely on God's great earth than Hope Cove, Devon.

Friday 21 August 2009

Pushing Charity, keeping healthy

We have released the findings of our YouGuv poll on the UK public’s perceptions of the charity sector. The results provided clear evidence that the public don’t know how big and far-reaching our sector is, what are charities and what are not, where we get our money from or what we spend it on.

Why should we care? Charities enjoy a privileged position; charity leaders are currently second only to doctors in the well known Edelman trust register. However, it is clear that this trust is largely based on a framework of myths about how we operate. That is not sustainable and, given the recent failures of trust in business and politics, we cannot afford to perpetuate these myths any longer.

The ImpACT Coalition has been central to championing greater transparency and accountability in the sector since 2005. ACEVO is now hosting the Coalition which already comprises over 280 charities and trade bodies. We are recruiting someone to support this work full time at ACEVO.

In order to move the campaign forward we need to have the commitment of the sector’s CEOs and trustees. In the coming months the ImpACT Coalition will be drawing up a ‘transparency manifesto’ which it will be urging all third sector leaders to sign. But I also think we need to consider a major national public awareness campaign that sells the concept of the modern day professional charity. We need to be upfront on the costs of runnig a charity, on paying CEOs and staff professional slaaries. Now I know there are some in the sector who say" keep quiet", we don't want to alarm anyone or put people off giving so let's pretend we don't have overheads and all their pounds go directly into the good cause. I want to challenge this woolly thinking

There is a good article on this in " third Sector" from my goodself. Do read it.

Well, our first swine flu victim is back in work, the irrepressible two Brains Michell, Head of our Policy Team. None the worst for his experience it seems. Though inconveniently he is now disappearing on annual leave. What will we do!

Still this is a contrast to the alarming headlines in one paper about Home Office plans for mass burials and non stop cremations ! I guess its a silly season headline? Let's hope. But also not get panicked (sensible precautions though: I continue to religiously wash my hands on a regular basis).

I've been in beautiful Charlbury for a few days - I have had my annual diabetes check at our marvellous Health Centre ( never open at weekends disgracefully! ). Not a bad result I'm glad to report. I must say I always find the question on units of alcohol a poser. One doesn't like to excite them too much so I plumped for a modest 15 - at which point she asked if I'd like the pamphlet on this. I said no thank you as I did not want to get depressed.

But overall I'm pleased; obviously down to the wonderful Hound who keeps me exercised when she takes me for a walk- at her pace which is a very brisk walk!

And I now have my own sugar glucose meter to test levels. What fun! More intimations of mortality.

Wednesday 19 August 2009

Leeds and Loans

Our ACEVO North office is thriving and I'm there to talk with members about the prospects for the sector in the recession and against the background of looming public spending cuts. My lecture is provocatively entitled "Leasing Recovery, welcoming cuts".

It goes well- in as far as I can tell. The questions and debate are superb. I always find that when we get CEOs together we have a purposeful and positive discussion. Its such a change from wider third sector debates that can so often descend into a whingefest. And the CEOs there demonstrate the vitality and drive of our third sector. A real buzz I enjoyed the session. And it was fantastic that CEOs had come from Manchester and Gateshead, Durham and Tyneside as well as from Yorks and Humber.

This year we will do 120 events outside London so we really are showing our commitment to members not to run everything in London. And we are the only national organisation that runs its major CapacityBuilders programme from Leeds rather than from London. So I'll have no comments on how our presence in a Leeds office is only tokenistic. We take our regional profile incredibly seriously.

Good also to know there are members out there reading my Blog!

My main purpose is to warn against being defeatist and oppositional, but rather grasping the potential of significant cuts to argue the third sector delivery case. As one of the members says we have to move on from our clients chaining themselves to the Town Hall rails protesting, to a dialogue.

We know there will be spending cuts and grants programmes will be particularly vulnerable. That is why I warn against the ill thought out campaign to promote grants and not contracts. Many of our sector organisations have become grant dependent in a time when money has been flowing into the sector. But grants are a form of patronage. Nice to have but subject to the vagaries and whims of the grant maker. Easy to withdraw when times get bad.
In contrast contracts are legally binding obligations on both parties. For me they represent a more mature relationship between the parties. Of course there is, and always will be, a strong case for strategic grants, grants that help start up and support groups with great but whacky ideas to go and do stuff and see if it works.

In contrast there are contracts that have poor terms for the sector. But with a contract there is a clear decision to be made whether to accept those terms. So much of ACEVO's work with members is to help support better commissioning and sensible contracting. It is why we invented the concept of "Full Cost Recovery" and devised a template to calculate it and a Full Cost Business Planner.

ACEVO also relentlessly pushes the case for the third sector's unique role in delivering citizen focused public services and our role in advocacy for citizens and communities.

We also strongly back the case for more access to capital. As we grow we need to be able to borrow. The private sector grows through capital loans but traditionally our sector has been excluded so we have topfundraise for our capital growth. And that is slow and painful. So I make no apologies for banging on about the case for a Social Investment Bank!

The Adventure Capital Fund have now announced the details of their new loan scheme

"Community builders", aimed at developing stronger communities through the third sector. One of our criteria is that organisations must have plans to become less dependent on grants. It's a positive way we can support the sector in becoming more self reliant and enterprising.

The £70m Communitybuilders fund will open for applications on 7 September. See the Adventure Capital Fund <

The Communitybuilders fund is to provide loans to help community-based organisations in England that boost interest in local democracy and improve community cohesion.
The funding criteria say organisations must have plans to become less dependent on grant finance, be controlled by local people and or groups and have a track record of working in the communities they are based in.

It's an exciting project and already there have been 400 organisations expressing interest. It shows there is demand in our sector for loans. It makes a powerful case for more access to capital!

Developing Leaders

So, we now have two members of staff with swine flu. I'm seriously washing my hands as I want to avoid getting it before my week off in Devon with the Bubb clan. It certainly seems to be gathering pace. I recount the tale to Stephen Cook, Editor of Third Sector over a most agreeable breakfast at Tom's Kitchen in Chelsea. He however was looking far too fit, having cycled from Stockwell. I omit to tell him of my new found hate for cyclists.

The core purpose of ACEVO is to develop leadership so whilst this may not get the press attention our policy work does it is still the core of our offering to members.

ACEVO, working with Capacitybuilders, have developed a number of bursary and leadership development opportunities to third sector CEOs and leaders .

We are piloting 100% bursaries and cross sector learning in three regions: North East, South West and London offering third sector leaders of support provider organisations the opportunity to attend the:

We are also offering opportunities to:
  • 30 third sector leaders from support provider organisations to access public or private sector mentors

  • 15 third sector leaders from support provider organisations to take part in cross sector Action Learning Sets
The deadline for applications is Monday 31 August. To attend the above courses free of charge, take part in cross sector learning, or to apply, please contact Erin McFeely at or call 0113 243 2333.

If any of this titilates you, contact a member of my Events Team on 0845 345 8497 or email

End of commercial!

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Cyclists, idiot bankers and Dong a Daily calling!

Good to see George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor, taking such a robust line on bonuses and sacking the FSA. And the dear FSA demonstrated their surefootdness by attacking the Tories, so reinforcing their forthcoming demise.

And Osborne seems to have stung the Government into sounding like they too may take a stronger line on bonuses. The question is, is this just silly season rhetoric? Amusing to see various bankers taking to the airwaves to demand that we all continue to stuff their mouths with gold. Those with a fine sense of history will recall the return of the Bourbons. Or a more modern analogy might be the marvellous song "Je ne regret rien ". You almost feel sorry for them - their pathetic grasp of the basics of good PR and communications.

Now having praised Osborne I need to show political balance by commenting on the bizarre Tory proposals on A levels - dividing them into soft and hard subjects. I'm rather hoping this is a silly season story or a bit of red meat for the Tufton Buftons ahead of their Party Conference. Don't they realise that the growth industries of the future in the UK are in our creative sector, in media and communications, arts and culture and tourism. These industries are already big earners for our country. Admired world wide, not for our manufacturing but our talent in song and film, in theatre and dance! Let's support them, not undermine them. Or those in our schools wanting to follow in their footsteps. Our strengths in the future lie in health and education and sustainability as well. So whilst maths and science are clearly good in manufacturing, media studies or pottery are the income generators of the future. So please, Michael Gove, think again. Downplaying or denigrating these subjects may be good for a Daily Mail splash , but lesss good for our economic future. And the idea that politicians decide what subject is soft or hard is not very appealing.

News at the weekend of a rather awful accident to my parents. They were in Berlin and, crossing a pedestrian way they were mown down by a cyclist. Both stretchered off to hospital. And being of that stoic generation, we only discovered this had happened four days later as they were due back in the UK. No point in making a fuss! Ironic that my parents survived the fierce bombing of Chatham dockyards in the War only to come to grief on a Berlin street at the hands of a wicked, manic German cyclist. But of course all rather worrying for me and my brother and sisters. But the Bubb resilience will see them through!

So a depressing weekend was at least enlivened by an email from a journalist on "Dong-a-Daily". Obviously I assumed someone had switched the spam filter off and I was to be offered something unusual to achieve something improbable, or perhaps it was umbrella colleague,Robin Bogg, having a laugh.

But no, this is South Korea's largest selling Daily and they are doing a feature on UK charity so they want to interview me. ACEVO is big in Asia as you know (Japan setting up its own jacevo indeed!). So last week "Today", next week "Dong a-Daily", is there no end to the media exposure!?

Friday 14 August 2009

Banks and Regulation

An irritating interview with the Head of the FSA on Wednesday had me chuntering into my tea. An attempt to claim they had not watered down their Code on bank pay after pressure from the City. A rather withering commentary on the programme compared this with the firm commitment from the PM to sweep away the short term bonus culture.

Just one example of the FSA's apparent wimpishness ; they were proposing that one of the core principles for the Code would be that bonuses are not paid at all if the Bank records a loss ! This now simply becomes " guidance". Amazing. Imagine if a charity heading for a loss decided to increase staff pay. Or put up the CEO salary! But of course in the banking world if you make a loss the taxpayer bails you out !

So it looks like its back to business as usual as the country lurches further into recession. And our regulatory system is shown to be the Paper tiger it clearly was when the Banks all led us into crisis.

So are the Banks are back to their bad old ways? A breathtaking interview with the new CEO of RBS suggested that they need to pay bonuses in order to pay back the taxpayer. The banks appear so seriously removed from the every day concerns of the rest of us they fail to understand the damage they have caused and the need for humility, reflection and change, rather than self justification.

And we get the tired old excuses from The British Bankers Association that without big bonuses the bankers will all flee the country and they claim, without any hint of irony, that the country will "become uncompetitive". Of course we now know that if only a large number of these arrogant folk had fled the country we might all have been spared some of the pain of the crash.

The fact that they choose to make these claims when we get news of the worst unemployment figures in 14 years only underlines the impression that they have learned little.

Hector Sants, the FSA CEO who spoilt my breakfast, claims it's not his job to clamp down on bonuses, but politicians. An argument which holds little water and which contrasts sharply with the robust attitude of another regulator, The Audit Commission, whose CEO is not afraid to set out his views on what Councils should and should not do. Sants pointedly refused to condemn big bonuses. But he was a banker. Perhaps we should appoint Martin Narey of Barnados to head the FSA ; doubt he would find it difficult to be robust and cut the banks down to size!

If we don't have a regulator prepared to regulate bonuses then Government has to act. However I must avoid sounding like "outraged of Tunbridge-Wells", so what do we need to do?

For me, this underlines the need for the sector to be playing a robust role in arguing for radical reform. For a Social Investment Bank and a Community Reinvestment Act. For a regulatory regime that guarantees fairness. The way our banks and finance system work affects us all and how our sector can do its job. We are picking up the pieces after the banks folly when we tackle the evils of unemployment, the despair of young people and the fallout of recession.

We have members who are cutting back their staff and trimming budgets even though demand is rising.

So one idea; perhaps the kind people of the British Bankers Association might like to pop along to one of these organisations and talk to our staff about how bonuses are so vital. And a spot of volunteering for Mr Sants? I'm happy to arrange.

Wednesday 12 August 2009

George and Pinky

Lunch at Magdalen - a superb restaurant on Tooley St - with an old Oxford friend who runs a communications company and, though I'm sure not connected, is a Tory. So, apart from the usual salacious gossip about people we know we mull over the future under a potential change of Government. All this leading up to a lecture at DEMOS by George Osborne MP, Shadow Chancellor. It was a good speech - stimulating and provocative, though light on detail. He was making the case for progressive conservatism. For example, he argued cuts were necessary but will protect front line services. If so where will the cuts be? (particularly pertinent as he criticised the PM's vague assurances that this is simply about making more efficiency savings.) But I liked the strong and firm assurance that public services will be reformed. He pointed out that Government never talk of more diversity of supply. So obviously I asked him about delivery through the third sector , and whether they will simply let the market decide (so favouring the private sector) or favour the TS. He was very positive in his response and it is clear they do see a much bigger role for our sector. My question was backed up by Martin Kinsella of P3 , an ACEVO member and CEO of an admired and award winning charity in the West Midlands.

I spoke to George afterwards on the same theme and emphasised they need to remove barriers to delivery and ensure intelligent commissioning that enables the real added value of our sector's approach to be recognised. It is an issue that we have firmly lodged with Francis Maude who is handling the implementation side of Tory ideas.

Michael Gove and Philip Hammond were also there and I spoke to both - always essential to be in there pushing the sector's cause. Hammond is coming to speak to some of our top members dinners in September.

ACEVO was there mob handed. My trusty Deputy and Strategy Director backing me up in working the room and Peter twittering as George spoke! Then jumped in a taxi to head back to HQ.

I was meeting a charming woman, Manjinfer Virk, who is a play writer, actress and works in a script company. She is researching the time that Benazir Bhutto spent at Oxford; a time she herself described as the happiest of her life. Benazir always called me "Bubbly" (can't recall why!) And she was known to her friends as "Pinky". Benazir was a good friend; a tremendous personality, generous and loyal, vivacious and superb company when you felt down. I remember a great day out when we both went down to Stratford to watch a play at the RSC in her magnificent yellow MG; a car she also used to help me pick up Michael Foot from the station when he was speaking at the Labour Club (I was the Chair). Indeed when I stood for Chair first time I lost, but got the better deal as Pinky appeared in my rooms in College with a collection of friends and champagne! I promise Manjinfer to look out photos I have of her and me. There is a great one of us on Christ Church Boat House which I used in a tribute piece I wrote for The Indi.

Her untimely and tragic assassination was a shock and I have to say talking it over left me feeling down. But a great person to have known. And more appalling news later when we hear that the wretched and evil regime in Burma has locked up Aung San Suu Kyi again so she cannot stand in the mockery of an election the Generals will be holding. It was good to hear the forthright condemnation of this by the PM.

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Today yesterday....and fixing the future!

I'm getting some great feedback from The Today slot yesterday!

A sample:

" Good work this morning! It’s about time the general public were disabused of this 100%-to-charity rubbish. "

" Awoke to your dulcet tones this morning, which was a bit of shock for a Monday...Very good interview, I thought. "

" I awoke in a state of shock to hear your dulcet tones echoing around our bedroom – then realised you were opining on the Today Programme. "

"Imagine my surprise as I was careering down the M2 on my way to another exciting week at KCHT, to hear Edward Sturton introducing an item on the charitable sector!!! My ears prick up to hear him introduce 'Stephen Bubb'! At this point I slow down and start to listen way more intently!! 'It's our Stephen on the radio' I say to myself!"

And another driver listener:

"Good to hear you on the radio this morning as I struggled down the M5."

"just listened on-line - very good! John heard you in the shower but didn't catch the introduction and couldn't work out why he knew the voice

But the key to The Today programme is that we have had very positive feedback on the YouGuv poll and the Impact Coalition launch. We now need to take this forward and see if we can get the sector behind an awareness raising campaign.

So good news indeed as I struggled to keep awake in the afternoon- but at least I got home to plant my new apple tree; Discovery. I now have plum, gage , olive and grape trees in my garden at Clinks. Excellent to know that I am making a sterling contribution to the country as Minister, Hilary Benn, wants us to grow more local produce. So I am doing my bit! And my composter has arrived! Just in time to dispose of my useless lettuce. At least my tomatoes are grand - goodness do they taste so much better than the wax coated , perfectly shaped things you get in a supermarket !

The highlight of my afternoon was a visit from Diogo Vasconcelos. He was a Minister in the Baroso government in Portugal. He is Head of the Business Panel on future EU Innovation Policy created by DG Enterprise (European Commission) to provide inputs from a business perspective on priorities for future EU innovation policy.

If you are interested see their mandate and members here: <>

The panel is due to provide a final report to the new European Commission in early Autumn 2009 which is intended to provide a major input to a new European Innovation Plan.

The consultation debate will be open until 31 August 2009. The results of the debate will feed into the Panel's final report, which will also provide underpinning evidence and rationales for the panel’s ideas and recommendations. This report will be delivered to the President of European Commission by the Autumn.

Consultation doc:

It's worth the third sector making a strong contribution and pointing out the role the third sector plays in innovation. No policy from Europe that does not give our sector a big role is worthless. So get your comments in. Pronto!

In our discussion we talk about how Futurebuilders ambitions to help develop a European Social Investment bank. It could fit well into ideas for developing social innovation in Europe and a new social innovation fund in the European Investment Bank.

Also have a look at the " Fixing the Future" manifesto that has been developed with Geoff Mulgan and the Young Foundation.

So that's enough websites- I'm off to breakfast at The Wolsey with the marvellous Nick Wilkie, member and CEO of London Youth, which he leads with distinction and verve!!

Monday 10 August 2009


Awake at 5.00 am. Torture. I am not an early person; indeed was amazed that it was actually light at that hour. I was on "The Today" programme for the 6.50 slot. This is Radio 4 's finest programme and I am an avid listener so its a real privilege to be asked on for an interview. ACEVO has published the results of a YouGov poll which shows there is a big gap in perception between what the public think of charities and the reality of today's dynamic and growing third sector. As we are one of the country's most trusted institution we cannot afford to allow such misconceptions to persist.

The Edelman Trust barometer, which records levels of public trust, reveals that charities are among the groups the public trust the most, second only to doctors.

According to our research, high numbers of respondents are unaware of the number and size of charities or have any idea of their income, expenditure and funding. The research also shows low public understanding of even basic facts, including what kinds of organisations have charity status and which do not.

Public trust in a sector not fully understood by that public is not sustainable.

People give to organisations they trust so they need to know how to separate the myths from the information that matters; does that charity make a difference for those it exists to help? Charities need to be more honest with the public about what they do so the public can make informed decisions.

Difficult economic conditions have led to a fall in charity income and an increased demand for their services. We have also witnessed the impact that scandal wreaks on the standing of institutions with confidence in banks and our elected representatives plummeting.

Our sector is different, but we cannot be complacent. Charities continued high regard depends on our raising public awareness.

For this reason, ACEVO is leading a coalition of 240 charities to draw up a ‘transparency manifesto’ which it will be urging all charities to sign . We need to see charities explaining what they do and the difference they make. Not apologising for overheads but explaining why they are vital. Explaining the added value of our work and how it adds to the economy and society.

We have nothing to be afraid of – we have a great story to tell. We are a diverse and growing sector that is, necessarily, increasingly professional and commercial. Charities have grown in size to better meet the big challenges of society's ills. we are proud of our many achievements and want to share them with the people on whose esteem and generosity we rely. And we want Government to better understand our growing role.

People argue that a more professional and bigger sector is dangerous. But just as Tesco grew because it met customer needs so the third sector has grown ; to better provide the key services and support people and communities need. And just because you are poor or elderly you still deserve the best quality service. Being efficient and effective is what our clients and beneficiaries deserve.

So we aim to be loud and proud about our growth and reach. Employing more staff than the banks. A turnover bigger than the car industry and farming. Delivering major public services. Making a difference. its a record that as a sector we need to trumpet- not just the individual achievements of a particular charity, but the third sector as a whole.

So ACEVO will work with the Impact Coalition to raise public awareness and get the third sector to tell its story more loudly.

I did the interview with Ed Sturton. A good crack at explaining what we are trying to achieve. After I get a range of texts and emails from the most unlikely listeners! A member listening in on the M2. Someone who informs me my dulcet tones awoke them in bed. The verdict so far is good.

I also bump into two old friends in the studio; Hilary Benn MP and Chris Huhne MP. They are not talking about charity awareness - but I get the chance to fill them in!

Then it's off to breakfast at the Cinnamon Club (a very lovely Bombay scrambled egg) and then its back to reality as I sit in eye casualty at St Thomas'. I had my eye stitches out on Friday and so have some more eye drops, which I promptly leave in Charlbury. And it isn't just a simple matter of getting another bottle. Oh no. I have to go through the whole procedure of being seen again. So I sit and wait. A humbling reminder that I might have been on "Today" but that ain't worth a jot here!

Friday 7 August 2009

Bath and Mountains

Back from the gorgeous Georgian City of Bath. Having had lunch with my mentor Paddy Fitzgerald. Paddy has been mentoring me for over 6 years now. An invaluable source of advice and ideas and a listening post. I have always believed having a mentor is crucial to a sector CEO. It is one of the services acevo helps provide for its members. A CEO role can often be a lonely one and having an external support, someone who you can moan to about your problems and outline your ambitions can be invaluable.

And the lunch of Cornish crab and a superb Chablis helps aid our discussion as we mull over the future and dissect staff. A walk back to the station through the market and I came across the wonderful RSPCA collecting box, as featured. My hound, Sparkles, would have found it amusing I thought!

We had been planning on a fish restaurant in Wells, until we discovered it was the day of the burial of Harry Patch and thousands were expected at Wells. Interestingly the funeral arrangements were partly arranged by ACEVO member, Andrew Larpent, who was the head of the care home were Patch spent his final days. And how impressive that the service marked peace and reconciliation, not military might. And one of the pall bearers was from the German armed forces: a real lesson about the horrors of war. It is marvellous that the last living Briton to serve in the trenches had such clear views of the futility of the WWI.

ACEVO certainly employs talented staff. Let me give you an extract from a local paper about Emma Levett, PA to Seb and Peter.

" CELEBRITIES have helped a resident take on the biggest adventure of her life by signing and decorating baby grows for an exclusive auction.

Emma Levett, from Orpington, is raising money for charity SCOPE before climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, following in the footsteps of nine celebrities who did the hike in March for Comic Relief.

As part of raising the £3,250 for the cerebral palsy charity to do the trip in January next year, Miss Levett, 23, came up with the bright idea of asking celebrities to decorate a baby grow for auction.

So far, fellow Kilimanjaro climbers singer Alesha Dixon and presenter Ben Shepherd, actress Dame Judi Dench and comedian and writer Stephen Fry have returned the signed and decorated baby outfits and presenter, Fearne Cotton, has also agreed to take part in the charity initiative."

And if you want to support her:

Thursday 6 August 2009

Preposterous BBC

The BBC is beginning to make a habit of being absurd. Their decision to ban the DEC appeal for Gaza was a disgrace. Now they simply make themselves look ridiculous by banning Alagiah from being a truste on the Fairtrade Foundation. On what possible grounds have they done this. Is sitting as a third sector trustee now seen as threatening impartiality altogether? Or is it just some charities? Will they be developing a list of "prescribed charities". So you can be a trustee of the Royal British Legion but not Shelter. WRVS is OK but not the RSPCA ?I look forward to seeing their list? Will it be published? Perhaps Kevin Curley will be submitting an FoI request to find out, when he has finished attacking two of my acevo members that is.

I liked the Mirror's comment on this:

"Alagiah's resignation comes after BBC1 controller Jay Hunt was given the all-clear to carry on helping her husband run a media training firm which is paid to coach corporation staff."

Ex-BBC newsman Peter Sissons said making Alagiah quit the Fairtrade Foundation showed double standards. He added: "There seems to be one law for management and another for presenters."

Quite. So we must now assume a purge of the BBC staff's involvement in charity will now commence?

And what they fail to realise is that by discriminating against an organisation like Fairtrade they are showing they are not impartial. So only deeply establishment and non campaigning charities can now be favoured with BBC Trustees.

We have had Mark Thompson BBC DG (a good guy) at a number of ACEVO events. It's a shame I'm going to find it difficult to invite him to any more- on health and safety grounds as he might get lynched.

Tuesday 4 August 2009

The Northern Hub and Frivillighet Norge (Association of NGOs in Norway)

The dinner at the stunning new Norwegian Opera House was fabulous. The Opera House is an architectural masterpiece. The pure lines of the white marble walls and gently curving roof make an impressive statement set against the bay of the Oslo Fiord. Unfortunately it was raining or Brigitte tells me she would have walked me up on the roof (see her in photo above!).

And for lunch I had gone to The Grand Cafe; for no other reason than Ibsen used to lunch there. Apparently he left his office nearby at the stroke of 11am and walked to the Grand Cafe where he sat at his regular table and ate herring. Such anally retentive behaviour goes a long way to explaining the difficulty and gloom of his plays! I ate frugally (though not on herring) as some of the dishes appeared to involve a mortgage application as well.

Today I have been talking through our plans for the Northern Hub for Euclid and the growth of the Norwegian sector. It is always fascinating to contrast and compare notes on the way sectors have developed. The sector here is strongly geared around volunteering and there is only a small amount of public service delivery. We had a long talk about whether that will change with political developments. Already Sweden is moving to more third sector delivery and Denmark has a strong tradition of such delivery.

It is clear too that Norwegians take very seriously their obligation to volunteer, with an impressive 60% of the population actively engaged, as opposed to the UK's 30%. And they tell me to have a career in the sector here you have to be a volunteer yourself to give you credibility!
And there is a very strong youth sector, where the emphasis is on organisations run by the young people ( defined as over 12) themselves. All out of school activity is run by voluntary organisations and so its a strong part of the sector.

I had an interesting meeting with the Head of the Norwegian Association for Adult Learning. We talked about leadership development and third sector learning- he has joined Euclid. And that provides me with a great link to my sister Sara who has just produced yet another book on teacher development, " The Insiders guide for new teachers"! To order it click here

I'm told it's the "bees knees" on this subject!

Monday 3 August 2009

Sanatoria and Scope

I'm blogging from a Sanatorium in the hills outside Oslo. And no I have not been sent away because I have swine flu! I'm here meeting the magnificent Nordic figure of Birgitte Brekke. She is the CEO of the Norwegian alliance of NGOs. In other words the NCVO of Norway. It's quite a young organisation and Brigitte is a keen member of Euclid and helping us develop the "Northern Hub", which draws together third sector leaders across the Nordic countries.

Tonight we are having dinner at the new Opera house - just opened and an incredible piece of modern architecture. Tomorrow I meet with leading members of Norway's third sector.

And the Sanatorium? Well it's a conference centre and hotel run by the Norwegian Medical Association, up on the hills surrounding Oslo and with fantastic views out over the Fjords and forests. It's called the "Soria Moria" because Grieg stayed here once and said it reminded him of the castle in the old Norwegian folk tale. So staying here supports the third sector- and it's cheaper than the outrageous prices of hotels in central Oslo; Norway is not a cheap country!

I was delighted to see that Jon Sparkes, the Chief Executive of Scope and an active ACEVO member (he is Chairing our union relations group) has secured a new role as Director of Workforce development at NHS Cornwall. I know he has wanted to move to this part of the world for some time. Jon has done a brilliant job at SCOPE: he’s managed to do all those tricky things that Chief Executives sometime come unstuck if they don’t do right; instilling rigour on the finances, service improvement whilst modernising the governance structure whilst keeping the needs of disabled people at the heart of what they do. I ring David Fielding at Tribal who is handling the recruitment to congratulate him and offer my views of who I think could do this job... It really is a very attractive job, so here is the link to the micro site here:

Now I'm off for a refreshing walk in the gentle drizzle of the surrounding forest before the hike into Oslo. On public transport naturally (the Lutheran vibes must be getting to me).