Thursday, 29 October 2009

A Lambeth Third Sector Dinner!

It was quite a trial dragging myself out of bed at 7.00 am this morning. I had to be at a meeting in No: 10 with Andy Burnham and Tessa Jowell, so obviously it was important to be there fresh and bright as a button. However, that is not how I felt.

Last night I had a "Third Sector Dinner" at Clinks, my Brixton house. My local Councillor is Steve Reed, who happens to be the Leader of Lambeth Council. He has a strong interest in the third sector and how the Council can develop better links and relationships, and use the sector more dynamically. So I got together two of my dynamic, nay brilliant, Lambeth third sector Chief Executives: Nick Wilkie, who runs LondonYouth, and Matthew Thomson, who runs London Community Resource Network (LCRN) and we were joined by the irrepressible and irreplaceable Director of Strategy, Seb Elsworth.

And the champagne was flowing! Matthew was celebrating the birth of a new baby boy, just one week ago. He was describing how his commitment to the third sector meant that he and his partner decided the birth would be at home, in Brixton, and that they would use a third sector midwives' organisation to assist in the delivery. What commitment! Of course I was explaining how my brother, sister and I were all born at home and couldn't understand all this business about having to have births in hospital. Though I did admit I am not an expert in this area (nor do I want to be).

I think during the course of a rather wonderful dinner, prepared by my partner, we solved some of the major challenges facing our sector but I fail to make a note of these.

This week has been somewhat full-on. It started off with an Away Day for the Social Investment Business (Futurebuilders as was). And where better to hold an Away Day than the gorgeous Cotswolds town of Charlbury. The Bell Hotel provided us with comforts and enjoyment at an extraordinary reasonable rate. I am a strong believer in the need for Boards to have time away informally in order to discuss strategy and direction. So we had 24 hours where we came up with the plan of action to expand our ability to loan social finance into the sector. We produced a one-pager setting our ambitions, which I have now been able to talk to various Ministers and advisors about. The Social Investment Business now has the strength and depth to be able to capitalise on its loan book and really expand our operations supporting and developing the third sector from community enterprise to big national charities or social enterprise.

I was able to talk this through with our Third Sector Minister, Angela Smith, over an extremely pleasant lunch at The Commons. I very much like Angela's style. Her commitment and engagement with the sector is first class.

And then at a different level I joined Peter Housden, Permanent Secretary at DCLG, and some of his colleagues to discuss leadership in the public sector. Peter has asked me to join a group that is examining the role of leadership academies and leadership development across Government. Leadership development is core to our ACEVO purpose. It has always been an area of huge interest for me, even before I joined ACEVO. And of course we have mixed experience of our own with the Third Sector Leadership Centre. In ACEVO we have just appointed a new Head of Professional Development, Julia Richards. She has a fantastic background and I am looking forward to working with her to develop further our professional leadership programmes for Chief Executives. Julia will be based in our ACEVO North office in Leeds. It's a strong indication of our commitment to operating across the UK and our commitment to our ACEVO North members. Our Leeds operation is central to ACEVO's operation nationally and basing our Head of Professional Development there is an indication of how we want to ACEVO to develop its links across the UK and in the English regions.

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