This blog promises to reveal the inside track of a third sector leader influencing in Whitehall, championing professionalism and causing a stir.
Sir Stephen Bubb is CEO of Charity Futures, which promotes better charity governance and leadership. He was formerly Chief Executive of ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) until 2016.
His blog is part of the British Library’s national blog archive.
Wednesday, 30 September 2009
Leaving Brighton, arriving Oxford...
The Irish Embassy reception is a hoot. Of course this is my country's reception as I am proudly half Irish. And the Ambassador is an old friend from Oxford days so we reminisce. He reminds me that when he was President of the Union I spoke in one of his debates. He introduced me as; "Steve Bubb, Christ Church, and I'm sorry we couldn't get his more famous elder brother Beeleze Bubb". Any repetition of this slander in Charity Finance will be frowned upon! Then there was a certain famous broadcaster from a programme not un adjacent to Newsnight who observed acidly at the Irish reception that "you'd think they'd caused enough trouble at the Grand Hotel before". And a better be unnamed observor commenting on the Brown proposals for removing pregnant teenage girls who dubbed it an " Institute for Fallen Women" it does rather reflect the oddity of this idea. It is strangely unthought through, and uncosted. If they have money for this sort of thing it would be better spent with the Children's Charities who know what they are about.
I bump into Steve Richards, the brilliant columnist and commentator for the Independent. He says he remembers me from when he interviewed me as a local government reporter and I was on the glorious Lambeth Council.
My staff have been an excellent aid to the CEO cause down here. My Deputy Dr Kyle (who appeared to have had his suits stolen), two brains Ralph Michell and the widely respected Seb Elsworth. A hugely talented team working away for the sector's Chief Executives. All CEOs need support from an effective Director team. I am grateful to have one of the best the third sector has to offer. We were ably supplemented by the Sector's top headhunter David Fielding , always on the look out for passing talent(even offering his card to passing Cabinet Minsters who assured him they wouldn't need them!). Hope they will be refreshed for the glories of Manchester.
But overall another good chance to push the third sector and lobby for our causes. We have had a series of side meetings on issues like gift aid and the SIB. It is always a good time to get people away from civil servants and in a more relaxed atmosphere. Its a key role for an umbrella body like ACEVO.
But now I'm on my way to Oxford to a reunion at my old College to celebrate 40 years service by 2 of our PPE tutors. I shall join my Brother Nick and lots of old mates for a magnificent dinner in the medieval splendour of the Christ Church Hall, now famous around the world for having been in the Harry Potter films. Its 34 years since I was there reading PPE. It will be a time for nostalgia and trips down memory lane! And fine wine too naturally, which was not on offer at Brighton. Every good boy deserves a treat!
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Conference and the Third Sector...
The evening is a whirlwind of lobbying. I'm particularly pushing the need for a Community Reinvestment Act. I think it is excellent that the government have finally got to grips with the need to control the behaviour of Banks I'm arguing that a CRA should be part of such legislation. Part of the payback for the banks bail- out. And as crucial is the desperate need for action to establish a Social investment Bank.
Today was a good lunch time fringe led by the Charity Commission " community, cooperation and compromise" as it was rebranded at the meeting. Jill Pitkeathley argued for the need for greater political sophistication in the sector. She argued that there are opportunities in the current climate and third sector organisations need to co-operate and indeed " compromise" to achieve aims. My Chair spoke about how a new model of alliance has worked in the sight loss world and that whilst there is no argument for a monopoly and there is a case for a diversity of organisations but having over 700 sight loss charities is too many. Nick Partridge of the great and pioneering charity , Terence Higgins also spoke of the value of mergers! But also the challenges of the process! The charity commission publish advice in both collaboration and mergers. Click here to read.
I got a chance to talk to Mandelson last night about his speech- of course I did know him at Oxford and he has done somewhat well since then! But I was particularly flattered when speaking to Jack straw MP to be told that he had been particularly struck by the book ACEVO had published back in 2003, which we called provocatively " Replacing the state"and how those ideas had led directly to the new contracting process for prisons and the contracts for prisons where third sector organisations are working with commercial organisations. It is a vivid demonstration of the value of lobbying and thought leadership. I was touched and heartened by this - a good example of the power of advocacy on behalf of our sector's Chief Executives.
We shall see how the Conservatives respond in Manchester!
Monday, 28 September 2009
My deputy Peter Kyle gave a very effective speech and talked about how ACEVO will work at local level to support and promote communities.
It is sometimes said ACEVO is only about large charities. This has never been true and we have strong membership in smaller and community based third sector bodies. This project is not about philosophising on small v large but getting things done. I like to think it's the trademark of the organisation I led. No whinging. Just get it sorted. Its what CEOs do. Trade unions have strong local branches. Many people are active locally and we should connect them to trustee vacancies or volunteering and to promote the areas where we have a joint agenda- better public services for example.
Friday, 25 September 2009
Amusingly as I was doing my Blog in a quiet corner this morning I am espied by Cherie Blair who bounds over and gives me a hug! I am a great fan;, indeed I told her I had been reading her Biog when I was on holiday in Korea. She gave a great speech at one of our ACEVO annual dinners. So it was good to see her. But a shame i never managed to get to see TB. Or rather , as I said to Cherie , a shame he didn't get a chance to chat to me...
An interesting session on private-public partnerships. The investment theme comes up again. But i am more than convinced a mixed approach is right. No one source of funding is entirely helpful , though the investment market is undeveloped in our sector so need s encouragement . I have a meeting with Sir Ronnie Cohen later and we talk about the huge opportunity for our sector if Government can be persuaded to go fora properly funded Social Investment Bank . I believe Ronnie's work in this area has been so important and we talk about how we might put more pressure on . We also talk about how the Social Finance and Social Investment sides of the business should work together. I wonder whether our Foundations need to look at how they move into the loan business as well as their grant making . I have been talking to David Emerson of the Association of Charitable Foundations about a get together to talk about potential . It is something the SIB would be interested in supporting , perhaps with match funding.
And then Hilary also talks about the need for investment as opposed to aid in her speech . She outlines a major US programme to invest in farming world wide.She said that development works best when it is based on investing , not aid. They are also consulting on how to develop all this. She wants a vibrant conversation and invited us all to take part; announcing you go to state.gov apparently . I have not tried that myself but you are welcome to.
During the course of the sessions Bill Clinton announces " commitments" to great fanfare . These usually involve saving thousands , if not millions of babies , trees etc. If it ain't big it ain't getting talked about here... But one interesting programme today was " Leapfrog Investments ". This is a for profit company that has been set up with the purpose of insuring the world's poor . They already have 25m customers and some $44m in their profit with a purpose fund . I understand Triodos bank are involved so I guess of some repute. The guy announcing it was cock a hoop about how he is helping the world's poor " opening the gates of the finance market to the ;poor " as he exclaimed dramatically , and MAKING A PROFIT FROM IT. Still I guess if they'd have seen an opening in the market , why not? I suspect the barriers and frontiers between the 3 sectors are diminishing and this is good.Apparently the awards dinner last night ( which I missed ) was so over the top one of the Brits headed on out to an early bed . After a while the relentless optimism and cheerfulness can get a tad palling . But on the other hand I did not hear one whinge all Conference! And there ias no doubt the Clinton Foundation has made a huge difference in the way it brokers deals and projects , particularly from big US companies.
So my last meeting finished I headed off for Macy's " The world's largest store" ( well it would be wouldn't it ) . if I return home empty handed I'm toast. And I am delighted to report I have a delightful and entirely OTT new collar and matching lead and harness for the Hound . NYC does have the most spectacular Doggie stores . A cornucopia of all that one could desire for one's Dog. Last time I was here I got a very Delicious pink collar for Hound . But a matching set is now the business. And to celebrate my purchases I went for a walk in Central Park as the sun set .
I traversed most of the Park , through Sheep Meadow , along the lake and through the rambles. It is the most special place in New York . A bus ride back , over to Carnegie's Deli ( a Jewish NY landmark ) for a burger and early to bed. The networking starts all over again in Brighton on Sunday at the Labour Party Conference . ACEVO has a fringe on Sunday evening with the union Community . The question is , will Brad Pitt be there?
"The best organised sector in the World"
Amusingly, just before I met Bill I had had a text from Angela Smith MP , our Third Sector Minister saying she was at the TS Awards so I passed on Bill's comments which she told me she used. It is interesting that the UK is seen as a beacon around the world in the strength of our sector and the power of the relationship between Government and sector. I don't think Government have sufficiently realised this could be used in diplomatic circles and how this could be showcased.
A great lunchtime plenary involves Queen Rania and Bono. I wonder if I can get some of these people at ACEVO's annual conference! Over coffee I meet one of the top guys from Facebook who says Bono is a great facebook fan. I have to admit I don't do it- though all my nephews and nieces do! Blogging is quite enough new technology for me.
I do the cocktail drinks but decide I'll give the"tastes of the world" buffet a miss. I'm off to dinner in a gorgeous resteraunt on Upper east side with my old college friend Miles Young. A Global CEO no less , which means being picked up in a car.... But never fear I manage to do business as we eat and fall back to the hotel refreshed. I love Americans. But they can be full on. So nice to get an evening of British humour, and irony. A counterpoint to the relentless optimism and evangelical fervour of the Clinton delegates. Mind you , I have not heard a single whinge or moan whilst here. Not one complaint about wicked Government or bemoaning our loss of independence. So unlike our own sector I can't help feeling? Mind you I get an email from Jenny, our ACEVO North Director saying the Liverpool ACEVO conference went superbly.
Thursday, 24 September 2009
The first session this morning looked at the need for developing infrastructure. Kofi Annan
In my Tuesday blog I mentioned the great journalist I sat next to at dinner. Had another word with her and she has accepted my invitation to talk to members about responsible journalism. My superb head of Comms has dug out her Guardian article about her 7 day ordeal in Abu Graib. An amazing article. Do read it (click here). And it changed the course of her career towards arguing for responsible journalism. She wants to talk to ACEVO under the general title of " moments that change your life".... It should be fantastic. But only ACEVO members will get this opportunity!
The relentless networking takes its toll!And the jet lag is cruel to an old man! Last night's reception at the Museum Of Modern Art was a glittering affair ...I had better not list all the people I was talking too for fear of parody. Robin Bogg would have apoplexy if I mentioned Spanish Princesses...... But the conversation that I most enjoyed was with Bill Clinton"s speech writer. Naturally I took the opportunity to get tips! And as I flopped down on a sofa I found myself talking to the guy who founded comparethemarket. com. As in those fabulous TV meerkat ads! But let me be clear; I was restrained with all those weird cocktails. You need a clear head here!
Innovation and ACEVO's CGI Commitment
Adam and I had an interesting discussion on aid v investment ie should we move away from donor aid and grants to loans and investment that build up organisations strength so they can grow themselves. He argues that this is a " bipolar cul- de- sac ". (I tell him I shall plagiarise this lovely expression.) In other words we will always need aid but we must also develop an effective investment market too. It mirrors debates on grants v loans. It is silly to pit the 2 as in oppostion. Indeed the model of investments we use in the Social Investment Business is to combine both and our business development grant scheme is there to help organisations work out if there is a case for them to move forward and to take a loan. What organisations often need is diversity of income streams- not dependent on just one source. But to be able to grow through loans is a new and exciting way forward for our sector.
Perhaps the highlight today was a session which included Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation talking about their work funding innovation. She extolled the virtue of what she describes as user led innovation. One of the bodies they fund is "Positive Deviance" (what a great title!) They explore how innovation happens so, for example they looked at the health of kids in a Vietnamese village and found there were 4 more healthy kids than the rest of the village. So they set out to observe these families to find out why. And they discovered that these families did not wash the small crabs out of the rice they were cooking, so these kids were getting a source of protein others were not. So they spread this lesson to others and so made a significant improvement in kids health. Simple but a great example of user led innovation.
She also spoke of the need for us to measure social impact. We need empirical evidence of what difference we make. But she also had a warning that such measurement must not lead to the exclusion of risk. We need to invest in things that fail. If everything is measured there is a danger we avoid risk. A timely warning. The Social Investment Business is looking at how we might develop measures for social impact and have a seminar planned in November with the brilliant Centre for Social Investment at Heidelberg.
Fascinating to go to a session on "From CEO to NGO" and hear Ted Turner being quizzed on whether rich guys give enough (Ted himself having given 1 billion dollars to the UN - and the first person to ever give a billion to charity). I thought perhaps one day we will have a session on, " from NGO to CEO ", where a third sector CEO talks about going into a big company and turning it around. And having thought that I asked the panel that exact question. Perhaps the most interesting response came from Ted Turner who paused and said he had never thought about that possibility before but perhaps that could happen! I thought, not bad to have got that point across to a guy like him.
The person I particularly enjoyed listening to was former head of general electric, who has set up "Autism Speaks" in the US to campaign for autism awareness. When asked what the big difference between his job as a top Corporate CEO and running a Charity he said, "the perks and the pay really suck"! One of the other panellists said a big difference was also you have to be more democratic and suffer fools gladly!
Core to the CGI concept is the "commitment" process. Companies commit to goals to reduce carbon emissions or to supprot non profits in Africa for example and non profits make commitments to carry out work if they can find the funding through the network of CGI. One of the themes for this years CGI is about developing human capital and building infrastructure. So ACEVO and Euclid have put together a propopsal which I have been speaking about at this CGI. It is based on the concept- core to ACEVOs work- that a healthy civil society and effective democracy requires strong sector leaders.
The role of civil society has proven critical in the path towards democracy in the Balklans and Former Soviet Union. These are two of the regions where ACEVO & Euclid Network are already playing a key role in developing civil society by connecting and empowering its civil society leaders.
We plan to expand our projects and reach to the Middle East and Northern Africa this year, where links between civil society organisations and support for civil society leaders are currently underdeveloped and unexplored. This will involve connecting civil society leaders from the region to their European peers to encourage the development of a European civil society that goes beyond the borders of the European Union. We will also focus on improving the relationship between civil society organisations and governments in the region with the aim of replicating the success we have had in other regions on this front. We will be conducting the project alongside the brilliant Dr Ani al Banna, founder of Islamic Relief, Muslim Charity Forum, and the Humanitarian Forum.
This weeks news has been dominated by the continuing efforts to find pece in the Middle East. If we can help this by supporting the non profits in those countries we can make a contribution to that process.
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
"No one can wall himself off from the world"
In previous Blogs I have written about the work of Saul Alinsky and how he influenced both Obama and Hilary Clinton on community activism. It's interesting that his early influences and experience have come from this tradition , unlike the upbringing or experience of so many politicians.
Much of the session was on the need for a more sustainable future for the planet and the need for countries to embark on radical programmes to reduce carbon emissions and waste. But it was Clinton who made the point that this is about partnership between public, private and third sectors and citizens; one of the core messages of the CGI.
But first off this morning it was a meeting of some of the NGO members attending- and interesting to see the diversity of organisations, though not surprisingly they were predominantly American! The session was run by Ashoka and Microsoft. Ashoka- and they have a great London organisation -were excellent , but the Microsoft guy lost my attention when he announced that NGOs should not be like businesses. A sloppy, knee-jerk and patronising thing to tell us. Of course we need to be "businesslike" in how we work and operate, not in the sense of corporate greed but in demanding professionalism and a desire to make a profit we reinvest in our business. Interestingly I was one of the few infrastructure bodies present and I made my pitch that funders (microsoft please note) often love a project, especially if its with the really poor, but have little interest in developing the leaders of those projects. To make the point that Obama made, if we want to develop civil society we need to develop its leaders so that aid leads to poverty being eliminated.
The evening rounded off with an " innovation dinner" hosted by Hewlitt Packard. A good dinner and lively presentations but I reacted badly to the message that innovation is simply about products and technology. So in best third sector tradition I insisted on making an unscritped speech on the power of " disruptive innovation " by the third sector. One of the things our sector is so good at is innovation in ideas and the way things are done. So the treatment of mental health or people with learning difficulties has been transformed, not by new technology, but by the campaigns and advocacy of many non profits who have shown there is a better way to work. I argued for the long tradition of our sector in campaigning for change- in attitudes and in culture. This is innovation. And as valid as new IT products. I believe in the value of partnership with the commercial sector, but there are times when our sector gets patronised and at those times I am not quiet.
Fascinating that I was talking to a number of people on my table who felt the same - in particular a fascinating journalist, Molly Bingham who has reported from war zones and who argues that the media has often been complicit in promoting a false narrative on war which has sold Government lines of propaganda. She has written on this and promises me the article; you will also have it when I get it too. My other dinner neighbour was a 24 year old entrepreneur who argues that we need more for profit answers to social problems and works for a Foundation that promotes venture capital answers to deprivation; probably something like Bridge ventures I guess?
But its this interchange that makes for such an interesting event. Not just the chance to listen to the giants of the political world but also the interchange of ideas and debate which is the core to peer to peer learning.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Barack in town...
I have been meeting with members of the CGI and had my first mentoring! I met some staff from a Foundation who invest in start up social enterprise and we discussed the value of more access to capital for our sector. They try to bring together venture capitalists with bright new innovators, but I rather hope that we can develop our own non profit version through the Social Investment Business.
Today there is a meeting for all the world NGO members. But as a break I have to admit I sneaked off to see the major Kandinsky exhibition at the Guggenheim yesterday. A stunning display of the works of this genius , though the audio tour was the height of pretension; including extracts of Schopenhauer a composer I dislike; atonal and discordant. Too much of a reminder of aspects of our own dear sector at its worst! I like to think of our sector as a stirring piece of Wagner , calling the country to arms , though Elgar , who I understand is favoured in some sector circles, is far too passe Empire for my taste!
Headlines in the papers here yesterday reported on a coalition of US companies, investors and directors who are proposing a radica overhaul of executive pay and calling for the axing of practices like huge severance payments. Companies backing change include AT+T and Cisco. What a pity there is no such movement in the UK. Our corporate class appear intent on business as usual. What we need are companies who have CSR policies to look seriously at how they will reform their practises. They could learn from their corporate cousins here.
And talking of corporates, I'm hoping to catch up with an old college friend Miles Young , who is now the Global CEO of Ogilvy and Mather and based in NYC. He runs a massive PR and communications company. Be good to catch up - and pick his brain on how to promote the modern day third sector to a national audience!
And finally, for those inspired to watch tomorrow's speech by Obama and the contributions of Clinton et al its all on a webcast. He speaks at 4pm States time - that's 9pm tonight in the UK
The live webcast is at
Sunday, 20 September 2009
Clinton Global initiative
It's a mark of how respected ACEVO is in the leadership role it plays on behalf of the Chief Execs of our sector. In fact I discover I am one of the few ngo leaders from europe. So a responsibilty to promote and project our sector and its achievements, and especially how we have developed a strong and productive relationship ith Government. The UK delegation includes Tony and Cherie Blair and Sarah Brown - I'm hoping to meet TB while I'm here.
The event lasts 4 days and there are a range of seminars and workshops with the most extraordinary line up of speakers. But the highlight I suspect, will be President Obama on Tuesday. Interestingly you get supported by a mentor while here and my mentor is to be Dr. Terry Babcock-Lumish. Her CV is interesting! President of Islay Consulting LLC, a certified minority and women-owned business enterprise (MWBE), formed in January 2005 She also serves as research fellow at the Rothermere American Institute and the Oxford University Centre for the Environment. She was on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers and on leaving the White House in 2001, she served as a researcher for two books by Al Gore. And there is also support offered by a distinguished Public Relations company- I'm going to a session with them as clearly my media skills are poor and I need more exposure !
This morning ( Sunday ) I was at the glorious St Thomas' 5th Ave , NYC's premier Episcopal Church, for Choral Eucharist; high church , BCP and proper choir ( boys from the choir school attached to the Church) . It was a magnificent service which I guess was why Kevin Rudd , the PM of Australia was there. Had a chat after with him and his wife Therese, about the growth of the third sector in Australia. They are developing a Compact and the sector there is heavily involved in service delivery. In the run up to their election I gave them advice on the core lessons from our own UK sector- particularly around core funding and longer term contracts. They were especially interested in developing a Futurebuilders type of organisation to promote capital growth for their non profits.
I can assure you , the Blogs this week will be vital reading!
Friday, 18 September 2009
Launching the Social investment Business.
So I started by commenting on the ‘retro statement’ at the TUC Conference in which members of the audience held up ‘No Cuts’ placards. The sector needs to forget such statements and engage in dialogue on reform and conveying ideas for improved efficiency. There are plenty of opportunities for the sector to move forward. The power and strength of the third sector is bigger than its ever been, employing more staff than the banking and financial sector combines; with a £120 billion annual turnover.
That means the third sector is a real economic force, which provides a real role to engage with whichever Party wins the next election.
Although great progress has been made, there is still exclusion from capital markets. I argued we must adopt the American model for a Community Reinvestment Act.
And naturally I called for a Social Investment Bank to be established. Interestingly Francis Maude MP echoed my words on the SIB (and he did not use that absurd expression "wholesaler"). He said we should set it up without delay and that we should use the dormant assets which are there to use. It is clear that though the current Government feel unable to move on this, a Conservative one will.
We have come a long way since The Adventure Capital Fund was started in 2002 at £2.8 million for a one year programme, before growing to £15 million and being evaluated as an unequivocal success, proving the benefits of loans to community enterprise. With FBE etc, the SIB now stands as a business of £410 million. We have ambitions to grow to be a £1Billion fund.
As well as speakers like Francis Maude MP, the key Tory in charge of implementation for any new Government, we had international experts. M Hugues Sibille from France was the first Third Sector Minister in the Jospin Government. He is the Director-General of Crédit Coopératif and also Chairman of a capital-raising institution for the social economy and actively involved in helping develop social entrepreneurship in France.
Crédit Coopératif is a cooperative bank that generates around €350 million per year in net banking income, employs 2,000 people and has total assets of €11 billion and €1.1 billion of capital.
It is the largest bank in France’s third sector. It is a genuine cooperative bank belonging to some 32,000, essentially third sector, organisations, including NGOs, cooperatives and mutual insurance companies.
He said: "The relative weight of what in France we call the social economy is immense. It accounts for 10% of GDP and employs 2.2 million people and is attracting ever increasing support from local authorities. Within this social economy, cooperative and mutual banks dominate, accounting for 60% of all deposits. Third sector organisations have an extensive network of local banks at their disposal.
A significant proportion of the country’s health and social sector is managed by not-for-profit organisations, which employ some 1.5 million people. The total budget of French NGOs is €60 billion, of which 40% comes from the state, social security organisations and local authorities."
Then Prof Lester Salamon, Head of Johns Hopkins Centre for Civil Society gave a tremendous and compelling vision of the scope of social investment worldwide. He said we are now in a third generation of philanthropy - moving from the largely grants driven culture of the 19th century to a 21st century one of social investment and innovation.
It left delegates with a great vision of what is possible: not limiting our ambitions. It was a privilege for me for be with a great bunch of speakers, but also to there at the launch of what will become a major force in the UK's social investment market. To be the first Chair of the Social Investment Business is a serious honour!
Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Civil service, cuts and progressive austerity!
We always run these on Chatham House rules so I'm not going into details, except to say it was a useful interchange about the modern day professional third sector, economic recovery and future public spending plans. I was keen to show that the sector can engage positively and in a way they can help improve delivery of services, both more cost effectively and efficiently.
One of the values of this type of event is that we can have an honest interchange, but also ram home the message that the sector is now a big economic player, as well as being crucial to delivering social change. I believe that the top civil service do want a strong engagement and do understand how professional and committed we are. Collectively they are impressive bunch.
I followed this with meetings of the Boards of the Adventure Capital Fund and of Futurbuilders. We agreed on the general outline of how we are setting up "The Social Investment Business". The ACF and FBE will be merged into a new group structure and we were talking though our vision statement and our governance structure. We want a new professional and business like structure. We are officially announcing all this tomorrow at our big Conference in Central Hall - over a thousand people coming. .
Cuts! Did you see the shots from the TUC conference with delegates holding up posters saying "NO CUTS". Oh dear, I thought, how retro; back to the eighties! Let's dust down those placards. Get out the flares and platform shoes and start planning those marches down Park Lane. The problem is it didn't work then. And won't work now. I know. I was there and have the scars. So let's get wise and think about a more constructive approach.
I made a speech on this subject at the Development Trust Association Conference in the QE2 Centre in Westminster.
I said the third sector cannot afford to rush to man the barricades over impending cuts to public spending. Instead we must propose constructive solutions to Government. I believe that our sector can often provide more cost effective ways of delivering services and we must tell Government what they are. So I have asked all ACEVO members to think about areas where we can make proposals for cost saving through sector delivery. This is a real opportunity. We will waste it if we descend to oppositional posturing like we saw at the TUC.
I'm so pleased that not all trade unions are as ostrich like as the Bob Crowes and Mark Serotkas of this world. We have the General Secretary of Community as an ACEVO member and we are doing a fringe meeting at Brighton with him. We have also been awarded a grant from the Government's modernisation fund to do work with them on developing third sector and community relationships.
We also had a dinner for our top 100 CEO members last night. The splendid lawyers, Bates Wells Braithwaite, laid on a superb meal and fine wine which was greatly enjoyed by the assembled panjandrums of our beloved sector. I was speaking on the future of capacity-building for the sector. I said that with spending cuts inevitable, the sector could not demand the same level of investment in infrastructure that had taken place over the past decade. I suggested that we should lead the discussion about the support we need in future. This means we must seek strategic conversations with politicians and commissioners, and avoid allowing these to descend into arguments about cuts. It is likely any Government will want to review the spend on capacity building and the grants that have gone to umbrella bodies and for what.
Capacity-building programmes for the sector have been generic up to now, but in future it will need targeted interventions more tailored to the needs of individual organisations.
I proposed that TSOs should receive individual budgets from the state and then find support from providers that catered for the specific needs of different organisations.
This would allow for capacity-building to be integrated into contracts with private sector providers in more complex supply chains, and for developmental support for the sector to be a mainstream corporate social responsibility activity.
There is a real leadership role for ACEVO here. The danger is our sector has had ten good and relatively easy years. We have grown. We have achieved. But now we must operate in a time of austerity. We better get our heads round this. And ACEVO has to be there to support and protect, as well as to warn and advise our members on how to cope in a changed climate.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
5 Minutes in North Korea and Virgin Giving!
She is proud of the new not-for-profit business, which I am confident has the potential to benefit all charities in the UK, both large and small. Virgin is now the official sponsor of the London Marathon from next year. Jo has a real energy and determination about her and I want to ensure we give her support as a new member. She will really put them on the map. Another dynamic CEO in the sector!
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
The Hope Institute
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Elderly, respect and rotundity
Earlier I had been on a tour of the Palace; the Joseun dynasty ( 1392-1910 ) was the longest reigning monarchy in Asia. And a thought for the day, not drawn from an American management text, appeared over the Royal Library.
It says, in kanji : a fish cannot live without water. This was to remind the king to protect and nourish his people. In other words, a leader has no role without followers so you better ensure they are content! As ACEVO staff are obviously.
And I round off the day with a Buddhist temple feast- no less than 30 laquer or ceramic bowls set out before me. Quite what it all was is still unclear, though I got the chilli and pepper concoctions. Eaten to the sound of the monks. And drums. I have noticed Tom's Pizzeria around the corner from my rather splendid Hanok traditional guest house. I think I hear it calling. And I notice they even sit on chairs. Luxury.
Monday, 7 September 2009
Onwards to Korea
Why is it airport bookshops are full of management textbooks? Wandering round one at Narita , I noticed such homely titles as, " What got you here ain't what will get you there" ( an obvious nonsense- ain't done me any harm) and , " What are you doing with your life?" ( If you are asking this, its time for another drink! ). Perhaps I should pen an improving management text? One that challenges all the trash you find in american style management books?
However I do make an exception for Martin Gladwell, whose " Tipping Point Leadership" I much admire. His recent book, " The Outliers" is superb and challenging. Its good for sector leaders and our style of management. It knocks the myth of innate talent over sheer hard work, luck and being in the right place at the right time.
Gladwell has an amazing study of Korean airlines and their bad safety record. I'm reminded of this as I board a Korean plane bound for Seoul! He said a study of their record showed it was the effect of what he describes as "mitigation". In other words, because of the Korean culture of respect no one junior to the pilot would ever criticise or challenge a pilot's decision ; so even if someone had spotted a failing engine or running low on fuel, they would only be able to point this out so deferentially and slowly that the pilot often failed to notice. And Gladwell goes on to point out that the majority of air plane accidents occur when the pilot is flying rather than when the co pilot is, because the pilot is able to shout if they notice an error! Korean Air instituted a training programme for air staff to correct this. It involved all staff talking in English; apparently the Koreans have no less than 7 different forms of address depending on ones seniority!
Its often true for a CEO. If staff feel unable to raise concerns or even new ideas for fear of the boss's reaction we may loose important information. Of course good talented staff soon work out how to mitgate effectively... Often a question of the right time and right approach. I'm sure that ACEVO staff have this down to a fine art!
Sunday, 6 September 2009
Sendai and the "Breakthrough Lord"
This was just a one night stop on the way to our 4th and final JACEVO Launch in Sendai in Northern Japan. More questions on social enterprise and the concept of loans. Then a final dinner with the cream of the non profits in Sendai- jolly lot shown in photo here
One of the younger activists , who is also an artist drew out my name in japanese kanji characters and the translation means " breakthrough knight". Well , well, not inappropriate I thought !
Sunday was a relaxing day, being taken around the City by one of the non profit sector trustees. We have a final breakfast ( and goodness it was with cornflakes) with the President and CEO of JACEVO. We have been discussing drawing up a joint membership agreement and they are planning on translating some of our publications, particularly on public sector reform and the case for more third sector delivery. It is clear the new Government are very interested in such reforms and also giving the sector a more formal role working with government. So we are clear that our links will grow and strengthen. So now its back to Tokyo and onward to Korea. This time for holiday......
Friday, 4 September 2009
" Imperial Kyoto, Launch 3 and Blast against reactionary UK third sector subversives.
At the Launch I am struck by just how well informed the delegates are about our UK sector. I get questions on FBE and on our links with other UK umbrella bodies and it's clear they see our sector development in the UK as a beacon. I wonder if we fully realise how valuable this is as an export? It certainly gets scant attention in the FCO. There is plenty of money spent on trade promotion but this rarely includes the trade of the third sector! There is also real interest in the concept of the sector having wider access to capital and to loans.
The declaration states, "we vow to develop a new culture of co-existence in which there will be a compassion for the life connected from the past to the present and on into the future. "
Thursday, 3 September 2009
Nagoya- Launch No: 2 and EU funding.
I also ponder with them the notion of JACEVO helping develop other Asian third Sector Leader networks. CHACEVO and KacEvo for example ! We know in ACEVO the value of peer to peer learning. Leadership knows no boundaries and a growing international CEO network for non profits has to be an amazing but possible ambition.
And news from home- or rather Europe; from Euclid Network, our Pan-European sister organisation . This week they have become the only third sector body to be leading on developing solutions for the reform of European financial regulations. The EC is the largest donor in the world, contributing roughly €50bn per year to civil society, its financial procedures are allegedly the most expensive administratively and inaccessible in the world. Thanks to its contacts within the EC, Euclid Network has been invited to provide recommendations for the review to make the regulations more cost effective and third sector friendly. To take part in the consultation click here <http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=mloZ9UemIUKW3sGuQlt1EQ_3d_3d> .
So for the many third sector bodies in the UK who have had EU grants, or want to apply - do take part in this consultation. Its important. ACEVO will want to get concepts of FCR and longer term funding fully embeded in the proceSs. These grants are important but often our members don't get full access because the process is so arcane and cumbersome. So Euclid, rather than whinge about it are doing something to change it for good. Help us do that !
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
The Tokyo Launch of JACEVO!
It was incredible to think that not only have the Japanese sector decided to set up an ACEVO type organisation they have flattered us by actually calling it JACEVO and not using a Japanese name. Imitation is, after all, the sincerest form of flattery and we are certainly flattered! I spent time on the presentation with my Director Filippo (it will soon be on ACEVO's website!). I talk through the range of services we offer our CEOs, the support mechanisms and wide range of events (we lay on an event every four days!). I talk about our mission to deliver a modern enterprising third sector led by strong professional leaders.
I then talk about how we work strongly with Government to push CEO interests and our great achievements; FCR, long term contacts, public service delivery and commissioning reforms and the OTS. But I stress that one of our most important roles has been to raise the standing and profile of our sector and its leaders nationally. My message to the mass audience here for the launch, is that JACEVO should have a similar huge ambition.
They are particularly interested in how we might deal with a change in Government in the UK. Since their own massive election change they want tips! I tell them that as well as contact at all levels in government- civil service and ministers we have also had strong links with the Conservatives at political and policy making level. They rather like my many photos on the presentation; shamelessly I show me and Tony Blair at No: 10 , with Gordon Brown and a cute picture of David Cameron with a small puppy. Oh yes, I say, we love dogs.
I make a personal link in my talk with my own interest in Japan. I was born and brought up in Gillingham, Kent and every day on the way to Grammar School I would pass a memorial to Will Adams who is regarded as the founder of the Japanese Navy. He left Gillingham in the late 1500s and was employed by the great Tokagaru Shogun to build western style ships. He died in Japan. So he was working in Japan at the time of the great codification of our charity laws under Queen Elizabeth I.
After the launch we board the bullet train for Nagoya, Japan's third largest city and home of Toyota for Launch No 2. We arrive in time for another pleasant dinner, this time with the charismatic and popular Mayor of Nagoya , Takashi Kawamura. He was previously a member of the Diet for the Democratic party and attempted to stand for PM. He has a strong populist streak and since election as mayor he has slashed the salaries and pensions of the local councillors and is attempting to move to parish style government in this city of some 2 million. He has written a number of fun books such as "The country is in ruins, though Diet members remain" and "Hey Kawamura! When ya gonna be Prime Minister? – The Rebellious Samurai Takes on 10 Opponents Back to Back for Social Reform"! He has a strong commitment to a bigger role for the third sector and is helping support the growth of JACEVO.
Dinner is again served with us sitting on the floor. My back rather rebels at this but fortunately the Sake helps kill the discomfort and removes the embarrassment of me walking into the restaurant having forgotten to remove my shoes. Oh horror!
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Negotiating the train and metro into central Tokyo is an interesting experience but I find the hotel and get a few hours kip before I'm off to The British Embassy to see Her Britannic Majesty's Ambassador to Japan; David Warren, an old friend from Oxford days. Amusingly I have arrived in the middle of a typhoon which hits Tokyo with some force. Strong umbrellas definitely needed here Robin!
Ushiro explains that JACEVO will be the first pan umbrella body of the Japanese non-profit sector. Currently there are only sub sector specific bodies, those these will be represented on the ruling JACEVO Board. The website is up and running. See http://www.jacevo.jp/