Monday 30 November 2009

Back to the Board!

What a shock. Leaving the beautiful sun and the wonderful hospitality of the West Indies and arriving in a cold London!

But a very pleasant Trinidadian Sunday which started at the local Anglican church in St Ann's celebrating Advent Sunday and the start of the Church Year. I went with one of my fellow Civil Society Committee members, Canon John who has a church in Malaysia. Then onto a pleasant lunch with my Limrick cousins who were fattening me up before I got on the plane for Blighty. Told them I had been singing the praises of my cousin Matthew, the media star, to the T+T Minister for Social Development who I was next to at lunch on Saturday.

And the BA flight was full of returning delegates. Spoke to David Miliband MP, though let me be clear he was in business and I was not (don't want Tania from Charity Finance getting excited at this point). "You get around" was his fond greeting. Indeed.

It's a long flight so had both a biography and a couple of improving booklets, one on the Innovation Exchange, which I shall blog about later, and the other "The Ownership State" by the so called Red Tory, Philip Blond. His new think tank ResPublica was launched by David Cameron last week.

He makes some interesting points : he argues that whilst public services spending has seen a real terms increase of 55% over the last 10 years public sector productivity has continues to fall by 3.4% over those 10 years. By contrast private sector productivity rose by 27.9%. In his booklet he does not give a figure for third sector productivity but I have heard him say he believes the figure to be even higher.

His key thesis is that the public services need a new form of ownership. He describes this as social businesses or a new power for " civil associations".

Real improvements in services, " depend on harnessing two powerful forces. The insight and dedication of front line workers, and the engagement and involvement of citizens and communities ".

He argues that you will not achieve user involvement and staff engagement in current structures. He is right. But why he wants to create a new form of structure is unclear to me when we have third sector organisations like social enterprises , community interest companies or charities. His work suffers from an insufficient understanding or knowledge of the modern enterprising third sector. You do not need to invent new models. Use the ones there are and outsource more to it.

He argues, and this is a central theme of ACEVO's work, "not only do engaged workers and citizens promote better public services, they also make them cheaper. "

More on this theme tomorrow.

As there is no peace for the wicked, it was straight in from Gatwick to an ACEVO Board Meeting. Inevitably the subject of Andy Burnham came up. We also talked about how we can support members in an increasingly difficult climate, with recession and major cuts which may adversely affect organisations. These may be tough times for CEOs and ACEVO has to be there to support them. We also had a presentation on the recent Board appraisal that we have all undertaken, which we will be discussing in more detail at the next board. It is the second appraisal we have done and so are able to benchmark against the results last time as well as against the results of other organisations. Fascinating! All Boards should undertake regular appraisals of themselves. Naturally we used the ACEVO appraisal tool. Click here for details of this.

Sunday 29 November 2009

One more meeting.

Just one more meeting before I depart- a roundtable between the Commonwealth Foreign ministers and the civil society committee. A rather grand affair with a rectangular, and very long roundtable...and country flags for the Foreign Ministers.
Foreign ministers for Australia, the UK ( Glenys Kinnock) and Belize

An old friend , Glenys Kinnock , representing the UK Government ,was there and made a number of good interventions. The Foreign Minister of India was particularly impressive talking about the "transformational and development role" of civil society organisations and how they often act as a " catalyst for change". This was in stark contrast to the Foreign Minister for Tanzania who gets the wooden spoon for objecting to our statement condemning anti homosexual laws, especially the proposed new laws in Uganda. Amazing how he thinks that a section of his poeple should not have human rights. Delighted to hear from Glenys she has been taking this issue up directly with her colleagues.

Rushed straight off after the meeting for some personal first hand experience of the T+T health eyes giving me problems so had them checked out and remedial action taken.

And on the subject of health , back to Andy Burnham. A very interesting article by Paul Richards , the brilliant Independent journalist. Let me bring you some of his pearls;

"When Labour’s programme reflects the demands of consumers, it tends to meet with electoral success. That’s what happened in 1945, 1966 and 1997.

When we retreat into a comfort zone, and allow policy-making to be captured by vested interests, we lose the support of the majority of the electorate.Which brings me to Andy Burnham..... I think he is making a big political mistake. By endorsing the health unions’ campaign that in-house service providers should be given preferential treatment over private, voluntary or co-operative movement service providers, he risks four things. One, it looks like Labour is in hock to a powerful trade union lobby, which never goes down well with the voters. Two, it is a slap in the face to the voluntary and mutual sectors, who have been developing excellent and innovative services within the NHS. No wonder they’re so annoyed. Three, it makes it look like Labour’s NHS reform programme has ground to a halt, which puts Labour on the wrong side of public opinion. The public is always more ambitious for the NHS than the politicians..... In a general election year this is especially daft.

In my experience, you don’t deal with the unions in the hope they’ll say thanks. The modus operandi of trade unions is to pocket the concession, and move onto the next one. It is strength they respect, not compliance.

Today we have a better NHS because we put the consumers of NHS services – patients and their families – first, and disregarded the siren voices of vested interests.

The point about NHS reform is that if you take your foot off the brake, NHS improvements don’t slow down, they go into reverse. "

Well said.

Friday 27 November 2009

The Queen goes Green; opening of CHOGM.

Well the day of the official opening of The Heads of Government meeting has arrived. The Queen came Thursday to great a fanfare - there is great interest in her visit. And everyone commented, as the headline on the main newspaper put it, on the "Green Queen". She was wearing green coat and hat and excellent it looked too.

The Official opening gives the host country a chance to showcase its history and culture and Trinidad has built a new Academy of the Performing Arts and this meeting is the first to be held there. It's a mini Sydney Opera House but non the worse for that! Great controversy over the building as it was financed by China and built by imported Chinese labour - so not exactly creating jobs for local people! Indeed shockingly many of the workers were convicts taken from Chinese prisons.

After the opening the Heads of Government go off to a retreat. I do hope Gordon gets some sun. He clearly needs it! And let's hope they manage an accord on Copenhagen. Gordon Brown has said he hopes the CHOGM will be a springboard for Copenhagen- which is why having the likes of Sarkozy and Lula from Brazil is important. He has also proposed a Fund to support poorer and more vulnerable nations. It is perhaps more likely there will be agreement in the Commonwealth on the need for action than elsewhere.

Embarrassingly for T+T's Prime Minister it has been revealed that the country is one of the world's worst polluters on a per capita basis.

You will not be surprised to hear that the Opening ceremony which should have started at 10 am was delayed nearly half an hour. I was not surprised!

So our job is over. Time to pack those bags and return to England's green and pleasant land (though somewhat soggy from what I hear).

In the meantime my effervescent Director Filippo Addarii has been busy - this time seeking an audience with the Pope no less! He has certain connections in the Vatican naturally.

The idea of the meeting is in response to an Encyclical from Pope Benedict in June that emphasised charity as a solution to the economic crisis.

Catholic organisations have a significant presence in the third sector in the UK and throughout Europe, but Popes have never been interested in the sector as a concept before, The Encyclical puts it at the centre of economic theory."

Tobago and Climate change.

Pigeon Point, Tobago.

I am unused to rising at 4.30am but that indeed was what I did in order to get the first Ferry across to Tobago. Escorted from the Hotel with a Police Escort!

Tobago must be one of the most gorgeous islands in the beautiful Caribbean: lush forests and palm trees dropping their coconuts on the golden sands of the spectacular beaches. They like to describe themselves as "the capital of paradise" and you can see why!

We started at a local school where we had a presentation on various civil society organisations.

One of the best established on the Island is Environment Tobago - ever watchful of degradations against this beautiful island. They have a particular watch against attempts to open oil and gas drilling near the Island . They have been mobilising communities against crude attempts to exploit and spoil this wonderful island. It was also interesting to hear about Rotary. There are two Rotary Clubs in Tobago. I must admit to knowing little about Rotary and probably irrational prejudice about them. I had not realised it was founded in 1905 in Chicago by a businessman who was sick of the unethical business practices he saw. So this is an organisation ahead of its times in advocating corporate socially responsibility. Interestingly they are leading a big campaign to raise awareness of Diabetes and campaign to get better knowledge about good diet.

We also heard about some of the dissatisfaction with the union of Tobago with Trinidad. Before 1898 Tobago was a separate colony. Many people feel that the central Government in Port of Spain has too much power - for example in allowing exploratory drilling by Petro Canada with no consultation with anyone here and disrupting the livelihoods of many local fishermen.

Now let me introduce Matthew Limrick, aged 10, media star. My cousin, twice removed, appears on national TV every hour in an advert filmed to welcome delegates to CHOGM. It stars a number of young people from across T+T and the Caribbean . Here he is:

Matthew Limrick : Media Star

I had a superb supper with the Limricks last night and caught up with family news.

Well we have all had lots of excitement over the MPs expenses scandal back in the UK. So interesting to be in a country where expenses and other "perks" are very much part and parcel of the Parliamentary life. Wednesday's main Paper had a front page photo of the Prime Minister being presented with a gold hand crafted Swiss watch specially made for him for CHOGM. The paper reported lovingly that it's worth thousands of dollars. I am afraid there is a culture here where such gifts and other arrangements are very much part of the culture. Of course I may be wrong and he intends to hand this over to the State, as would happen in the UK ? Or perhaps give it to a cancer charity for a fundraising auction?

Parliamentarians apparently have fingers in lots of lucrative pies , especially property. Planning laws are elastic and the Government is closely involved in running Hotels etc. Is it any surprise that in a gas and oil rich nation some 40% of people do not have running water in their homes?

There is great controversy here over plans for building an aluminium smelter. The wishes of the local communities have been ignored, even though the risk of cancer will increase for people who live close to it. And a large amount of beautiful forest will be sacrificed. If we are going to tackle climate change then all countries need to do their bit. And that includes Trinidad and Tobago. Amazing that in a country with so much sun I have seen not a single solar panel. Certainly not on Government buildings - not even newly erected ones.

The wealth that oil brought has certainly enriched some , just not the people. So perhaps we should keep our own problems over expenses in proportion.

Back to the UK- but sticking with climate change: Yesterday BTCV (the country's biggest conservation volunteer body led by the magnificent climate campaigner Tom Flood: ACEVO member naturally) launched its biggest-ever climate change campaign. BTCV believes that actions speak louder than words. So while the world talks at the UN Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen in December, BTCV and thousands of UK citizens will take practical action to tackle climate change. (click on this link for the website)

During December, BTCV's Carbon Army will be taking frontline action on climate change.

Shadow Minister, Nick Herbert, and BTCV supporter, Charlie Dimmock, will join scores of volunteers who will be planting a kitchen garden at Waterlow Park, London. Kicking off their campaign with a local food growing project to reduce the carbon impact of food miles.

And I am doing my bit in my own back garden at Clinks. We can all grow more food ourselves. My tomatoes in particular were a marvel ! Make up for my own carbon miles!! And tom will no doubt help me plant a forest to atone for my travel!

But now I must stop. It's off to experience the brilliance of the natural habitat at Bucco Reef!

Steel band player during lunch!

Thursday 26 November 2009

Civil society Talks ( at length...) Burnham and Limricks.

On to the last leg of the deliberations. We appear to have come up with a document of some 37 pages and 139 paragraphs. This process appears to have no facility for editing or prioritising. So we have a rag bag collection of everyone's ideas and hobby horses. A shopping basket where you presumably dip in and choose what you want. This is supposed to go to CHOGM Foreign Ministers on Saturday. Whether they read it I must doubt! I think a better way of acting must be found. After all the top two issues at this CHOGM are climate change and the global recession. Those are the issues we should have concentrated on.

This reminds me a bit of the third sector in the UK some decades back. Unnoticed and unloved till we got our act together and became more professional in our approach.

But nevertheless a great gathering of sector bodies and people and there is always value in the interchange of ideas and the challenge of debate. After all in some parts of the Commonwealth, respect for civil society goes as far as jail if you get too stroppy. So no good me telling them about public sector service delivery! We are reminded of the problems civil society faces when a number of leading Zimbawean leaders were arrested put in jail and charged. Fortunately their trial led to their release. As Stuart Etherington said, "Nevertheless, it was shocking to be reminded that in some parts of the world simply speaking up on behalf of your community can get you arrested." It's a good reminder that at the root of our third sector is an independent spirit that can challenge Government or established ideas and practises. And often the great advances in society come from just some small voluntary groups or visionary sector leaders. Never underestimate the power of one individual to change the world was how the sociologist Margaret Mead put it.

Tomorrow it's a different pace as we go to Tobago to meet with civil society groups and hear about efforts to conserve the local habitat. As this involves a visit to Bucco Reef it is going to be popular, even with getting up at 4.30 am to get the ferry.

Now back to Andy Burnham's policy change on commissioning. I feel sorry for officials in DH. But I was amused by the Orwellian newspeak of the spokeperson who had to reply to the Health Services Journal on the Andy Burnham story . The Journal reported:

"A Department of Health spokesman said the voluntary sector would continue to "make a valued contribution".

He said: "These decisions will be made locally and we will not choose to exclude either NHS or private providers on grounds of ideology - quality and what is best for patients must always come first."

So let's unkindly dissect this piece of newspeak. The Third sector is "valued". Just not valued as much as NHS provision which is now their " preferred supplier". And as for not excluding sectors on ideological grounds at local level I do just wonder how this is consistent with advice to them by the DH that one sector- the public sector NHS- is now the preferred supplier. Perhaps my Oxford English Dictionary is an old edition when it suggests preferred means choosing one over another?

But I should not be too unkind to him. He was doing his job in the finest traditions of the British Civil Service. Not his fault the Boss has tied them all up in knots. We must hope Andy will see the difficulties he has caused for the third sector on this. I believe that with proper pressure we can get this changed or modified. We must- our members demand it.and it is not that I think Andy has any animus against the sector. Far from it. He has shown great support and sympathy in the past. He is a strong supporter of delivery through the third sector so I remain confident that sense will prevail.

But let us take them at their word. If they think patients always come first they will issue a statement withdrawing the " preferred supplier " statement or make it clear they still want the third sector treated on" equal terms" as their Manifesto commits them to. I await developments.
However this is nothing compared to the thoroughly disgraceful attacks on charities in the letter's page of The Guardian. What I find particularly deplorable is that unions have members in our sector but feel unrestrained in denigrating their work. Its reprehensible. They see them as second class members. They even patronise Macmillan nurses (CEO, CiarĂ¡n Devane, is a member) by spelling their name wrong and saying they just provide " add - on services" as though this vital service is somehow a dispensable luxury and not really mainstream at all. Perhaps they think hospices are "add- on "? Or Marie Curie nurses or the vital work of mental health staff in many third sector organisations. In other words staff in third sector organisations are not really that important and ought to know their place in the pecking order. "Public Sector good , Third Sector bad" is now the new motto of the unions.

I have already had reports from members that commissioners at local level are changing their tune. Certainly the unions are now very active working against third sector provision. We are going to monitor the situation and if we see anti competitive behaviour we will take appropriate action on our members behalf.

We now need a firm statement from the Conservatives that they will reverse this policy change.

Now I'm off to see a cousin of my Mother's, Paul Limrick, who lives out here with his family. He is one of the famous Limricks of Union Hall in Ireland and a namesake of his, the Revd Dr Paul Limrick was the first Bishop of Calcutta. So perhaps not surprising to see Paul ending up in Trinidad. We shall have a fun night.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Climate change and the Financial Crisis at CHOGM. But does the Commonwealth matter?

A day in the People's Forum Assembly on the financial crisis. Debates raging between the smash the wicked capitalist system and more moderate partnership folk. But it's fascinating to hear the stories of how this global recession has affected all parts of the Commonwealth and how much people are clear on the need for reform.

The other issue that is really grabbing attention is climate change; with all the signs that Copenhagen will fail the test of decisive action. Deeply irritating to hear a news report on BBC World from the Foreign Minister of Sudan arguing that developing countries should try and "bury Copenhagen". I'm glad to say no one makes those noises here. We are all in it together as I think someone in the UK likes to say! Many Caribbean countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change and rising sea levels and they want action on climate change and a reduction in carbon emissions. And there is an obvious link between the need for socially responsible finance and business and sustainability.

Group work session

I get called out of the Assembly to do a local TV station interview on the crisis and the idea for a Commonwealth Social Investment Bank. I argue how loan finance is needed to help development. I realised I had inadvertently failed to put on a tie so rushed off to remedy this before the interview. Standards to be maintained even in the heat! And I don't want to be mistaken for my Deputy who has been known to appear full frontal media wise dishabille. It was a full on Bubb performance and all I can say is well done to the interviewer for managing some questions. You can also see me on the Commonwealth website. But that's not obligatory!

The Commonwealth Secretariat are developing a new partnership platform "CP3 " to link organisations and people around the Commonwealth and encourage mutual learning and development.

Always interesting to read local media. Main story recently was on the swine flu vaccine. They are starting a programme nationwide but the priority categories start with MPs and members of the judiciary. Imagine the outcry if that happened in the UK!

And back home it's good to see the stories in The Times today and The Guardian yesterday on the Burnham u turn on making the NHS the "preferred supplier". Click here to read it.

This is a direct contradiction of the Government's Manifesto pledge which said the third sector will be treated on equal terms. I make this point in The Times piece. And my Deputy and three other sector leaders (Jeremy Swain, Simon Blake and Stephen Burke) have written to Burnham asking him to rethink - reported in The Guardian.

This is a serious matter. We cannot afford to see the NHS turning its back on more cost effective and patient centred approaches to provision of health care. When spending is tight the NHS should be in active discussion with the third sector on how we can expand our role. End of life care, long term conditions like diabetes type 2 or dementia are areas where we can give a better citizen focused service. We have to move resources into prevention. And what matters is the quality of care not who provides it. To favour state provision over third sector is simply doing a disservice to patients and to communities. A backward step but ACEVO is working hard, previously much behind the scenes, to promote our case and ensure that the new Commissioning guidelines being written now reflect the role the sector can play.

Many members work in health and social care, whether as direct providers, as volunteers or as advocacy organisations. There is deep concern at how this may affect our ability to provide better services, and indeed expand to provide more innovative ways to treat or prevent ill health.

When William Beveridge wrote his famous '43 report which pre figured the setting up of the NHS he wrote we must not crowd out voluntary action. We have a growing role to play. It should be welcomed. A patient centred approach requires the active involvement of citizens, of patients and of our communities. Caving in to union pressure to put jobs above patients does no one any favours.

Any way! Back to Trinidad: the evening rounds off with a reception by The Royal Commonwealth Society who have been undertaking a major survey of attitudes to the Commonwealth and are releasing a report today on "Common What?". It contains the emerging findings of a Commonwealth wide study on people's attitiudes to "The Commonwealth". Click on this link for their website.

It makes disturbing reading. As it says, "this conversation has unearthed an association that seems to be loved by too few, too often for the wrong reasons. Policy makers have asked what role the association has in today's world......members of the public are largely unaware of what the Commonwealth is or does. "

Disturbing findings. But they ring a bell. Once The Commonwealth seemed to carry clout. Does it now? And yet this is the biggest gathering of world leaders before Copenhagen. It could carry a great clout as a grouping of developed and developing nations. It could have a voice for change. Will it?

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Civil society talks ,Marcus Garvey and hard times ahead...

I have discovered the timing thing here. Being English I turned up well in time for the Opening ceremonies - supposedly at 6 pm. In fact in my seat by 5.30. Mistake. Got started at 6.30. So Monday a late breakfast and I turned up for the opening session at 9.30 though it was supposed to begin at 9am. Spot on!!

And that gave me time to wash out shirts. I have some splendid Brookes Brothers non iron, Oxford cotton ones, which I recommend to any well travelled third sector CEO. Saves on those appalling laundry charges you get in hotels and keeps luggage weight down. So there you go; a handy tip for the CEO ! I should do a book!

The Chair of the CS committee, Phiroshaw Camay (who runs the co-Operative for Research and Education in South Africa) made a strong statement about the role of civil society but warned that we have to have good governance ourselves. No good us railing against corrupt Governments if we have dodgy governance ourselves. Right on. It is a message we need to understand better in our own sector in the UK.

I also liked the quote from Marcus Garvey, a local hero, who said , "If you have no self confidence, you are twice defeated in the battle of life! "

It was good to hear the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth using the term "third sector". He used the analogy of the three legged stool; the private and public sectors and the third sector. You need all three legs for the stool to work. And each leg has to be the same size! So the next time I hear David Cameron trotting out his trite remarks about how he doesn't like the term third sector because it implies we come third behind the other two I shall use this story!

I am helping facilitate the Assembly on the Financial and Economic crisis. The majority of Commonwealth countries are experiencing negative growth and bearing the brunt of the recession in ways which much more seriously affect people than in more developed countries. And these are also countries adversely affected by climate change.

I talked about the work of our Social Investment business and ideas behind establishing a Social Investment Bank and we had an interesting discussion on the scope for some form of Commonwealth Bank! It was interesting that there was a lot of interest in how to use loans to expand NGO work.

One of the delegates from Barbados was strongly supporting the idea. She said they have been trying to get loans from their banking sector to support youth work, but with no joy so they need a social investment bank!

The world is getting more difficult for NGOs. The UK has a proud history of NGO work. Big national charities working internationally. Efficient and with proven track records of success in tackling world poverty and sustainability.

Christian Aid, led by the towering figure of Daleep Mukarjee (ACEVO member), is one of the world's most important anti-poverty campaign body. It is a charity I have supported myself over 30 years. It is set to cut 20% of its UK workforce as part of urgent cost savings prompted by a sharp downturn in donations and the fall in the value of sterling. It will axe up to 90 staff, they employ 800 worldwide with 450 in the UK.

Christian Aid's core funding – from donations and corporate sponsorship, has fallen from a projected £63.8m to £57m. It has been hurt by the depreciation of sterling, which makes buying equipment overseas more expensive.

We know they are not alone in suffering from the recession. Oxfam and CAFOD are also looking at their cost bases. Most ACEVO members, whether in NGOs or working in the UK are bracing themselves for swingeing cuts in state funding whilst the recession continues. 2010 is going to be a tough year for us. although ever an optimist, I do not think we can relax. As I said at our conference, we face a biblical "7 years of famine".

But as Daleep said: "Like other charities, we are ... making every effort to adjust our budgets and prepare for the future. Christian Aid will emerge from the recession stronger ... and will continue to make a significant contribution to ending poverty and social injustice."

That's exactly the message we should be giving. And looking for the opportunities - for example from continuing Public Service reform and from innovation.

But the final point must be that we need reform of Gift Aid. In the light of evidence of problems on giving it is incumbent on Government to ensure that Gift Aid works fully and effectively. We lose millions as a result of unclaimed gift aid and unnecessary bureaucracy. We must demand that Alistair Darling announces changes in the PBR statement on December 9th. Angela, I'm relying on you!

Monday 23 November 2009

The Commonwealth

For some years I have been a member of the Commonwealth's Civil Society Committee and so I am now out in Trinidad for the CHOGM (as those in those circles call it) otherwise known as the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. At each CHOGM thay have a rather grandly named "People's Forum" which brings together civil society organisations from around the 53 countries of the Commonwealth for seminars, assemblies and discussions; so some 700 people are here. The new Secretary-General of the Commonwealth said civil society is "stitched into the fabric".

I can't say its a great hardship being away from the rains and cold and shan't irritate you with telling you how hot it is, or describing the fun and vibrant place that the Port of Spain is! Mind you there are plenty of umbrellas here - but not for protection from the rain!

Last night saw the opening of " the People's Space" on the Queen's Savannah - the large and glorious expanse that occupies the centre of the capital. Anyone who's a fan of the Notting Hill Carnival will imagine the sound of the steel bands as they played in the very home of the steel band. I was lucky enough to come here 30 years ago for Carnival and it is great to be back. But enough, before you start to think I'm enjoying myself!

Arrived at the weekend for various Committee meetings but the great thing about the Commonwealth is that alone amongst all the international bodies this one does not have to trouble itself with translators. We all speak the mother tongue - that will no doubt annoy Sarkozy who is turning up for CHOGM, though goodness knows why. Cheeky really when France still has Colonies in the Caribbean who are not independent yet! And the President of Brazil, UN Secretary General and PM of Denmark will join the Party. Speaking English naturally.

The Commonwealth Foundation (their great CEO, Mark Collins, is an ACEVO member) plays a big role in developing and supporting NGOs and civil society as well as working with member Governments to promote civil society. That is not without its tensions. There will be debate here on the role of Sri Lanka in repressing Tamil civil society and in the abuse of human rights by many Commonwealth Governments who have repressive anti-homosexual laws. Indeed there may be a bust up with Uganda, which is proposing new laws which involve the death penalty and even jail sentneces for those men found touching other men in "a gay way". Imagine such a law in the UK. The gaols would be full to bursting! I and others hope to ensure this matter is brought up strongly at the meeting we have with Foreign Ministers.

Worth also mentioning the work of the Royal Commonwealth Society (The Director is Dr Dhananjayan - Danny- Sriskandarajah, who is an ACEVO member). They have a superb building in Whitehall with good restaurant which you can use if you are a member of the Society, as I am. Members of ACEVO can join at a reduced annual membership fee of £130 (usually £230 - £280) and the The Royal Commonwealth Society will waive the joining fee of £200.

And however quaint people might think The Commonwealth is, let's reflect on the absurdity of the EU. All that fuss about the Treaty of Lisbon and we end up with Rumpy and Ashton. International mega stars not. Names to conjure with hardly. The EU has done itself huge damage by completely ignoring the need for popular mandates and doing an old fashioned stick up. Cathy Ashton is a fine individual. But she has never been elected to any position at all.

Still I guess for those of us who look to Quango Chair roles perhaps a brighter future beckons? After all I have great knowledge of both European and international affairs ........

But unless Europe gets to understand it is more than just the institutions and the bureaucracy it will never win people's support. One of the basic themes of Euclid's work is to carve out a stronger role for the third sector. The EU could learn from the Commonwealth - they should have a strong civil society presence in decision making. They should have a "People's Forum". They should aim to win support, not through bureaucracy and institutions, but through expanding and growing Europe's civil society and third sector.

If we were stronger as a third sector in Europe we might be able to put a stop to the obscenity in a continent that is supposed to value democracy of an old fashioned smoke filled room deal done by a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats. We should not personalise this by attacking Belgians or Baronesses, but the reality is that these individuals have no mandate to speak on anyone's behalf and yet they now occupy key international roles.

But back to CHOGM - the morning started early as I went to the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Trinity for the 8.00 am Mass. The Church was founded in 1823 in the glory days of the expansion of the Anglican church throughout the Colonies. And Anglicans are still a strong force here, and throughout the Commonwealth.

The President of Trinidad and Tobago
A meeting of the CS committee and then the formal grand opening of the People's Forum" Partnering for a more equitable and sustainable future". As well as the formal bits with Prime Ministers and officials there was a "cultural presentation" by the artists coalition of Trinidad and Tobago.

But now it's the reception so blogging over and that enticing rum punch is craving my attention.........

Friday 20 November 2009

Governance; getting our act together?

We are helping to organise a meeting of people interested in reforming charity regulation and governance in York next month. (Thursday, 10 December between 10.30 and 12.00)

The meeting is part of the project by Kevin Carey, Chairman of the RNIB, to set up a Progressive Governance Association.

Carey gave a speech at our Annual Conference earlier this month in which he called for charities to be allowed to pay their Trustees and for Executives to be permitted to sit on Boards.

Giving Trustees higher status in an organisation than Executives encouraged charities to prioritise strategy over implementation is Carey's message.

"You can't do implementation without strategy, but the most important thing for any organisation is implementation," he told TS magazine.

Carey believes that charity regulation should focus on improving performance rather than legal compliance.

"Most people don't have problems with fraudulent fundraisers or bent accountants, which is what the Charity Commission is most worried about."

"The biggest failing of the sector is that we are all underperforming. The sector is good at being critical, but not about the right things."

Carey said he had not thought about the sanctions a new Regulator should have, but he doubted the need for any. He said he hadn't made his mind up about who should decide on charitable status. But Company Law should be sufficient to police charity accounts.

That should be a lively meeting. If you are a Chair of Trustees do go. Contact Andrew Fellowes, Policy Officer at ACEVO North ( for more details on how to attend.

And it is sad to report on the death of Winifred Tumim at 73, a stalwart of the sector and a keen advocate of governance reform and a more professional sector in her time Chairing RNID and NCVO.

In 1992 the Charity Commission and NCVO set up a working group under Winifred to look at the role of Trustees. In the Obituaries it reports she had said her concern was a sector run by people afflicted with "mad Chair disease". The Group concluded that two thirds of Trustees had no idea of their duties and liabilities.

She had a great deal to do with arguing for the reform of Charity Law.

Perhaps Kevin Carey is now taking the need for a radical agenda forward in the 21st Century, albeit in ways Winifred may not have recognised. It is clear that the need for reform remains , whatever advances have been made since the days of Winifred in her prime. There Is always a need for a radical voice, especially when much of the sector establishment seems to be complacent of the need for change.

Thursday 19 November 2009

"Giving what you can"

Great story of a new charity in Oxford set up to encourage more people to give more. The founder, an academic, has promised to give 50% of his salary. That is impressive.
I was pleased to get a comment on the Blog from Martin Brookes of NPC who challenged the claim by Liam Byrne that giving is" up dramatically".

It has recovered from the doldrums of the late 1990s, but it is low as a share of GDP or household income, has not risen over a longer period on these measures, and fewer people are giving. We may not be far away from less than half the population donating to charities. As Martin says " I am not sure that is such a healthy situation as Liam Byrne suggests."

The response I got from Liam's office is that the data point they had was average household giving was up from £1.50 to £2.50 though I think 08/9 a down year.

This is no academic debate. We do not yet know how the current recession will affect giving and donations. John Low of CAF has warned that there are problems ahead. We may well see a fall in giving next year. And this will occur at a time when cuts in public spending hit grants.

That is why charities are looking to the Chancellor to come up with reforms of Gift Aid in the PBR announcements expected December 9th.

But we also need to continue to encourage giving by citizens. I always liked the idea promoted by Greg Clark when he was third Sector oppo to Ed Miliband that we need to encourage a giving norm in society. Francis Maude MP talked of encouraging the return of the tithe tradition. But this needs to be underpinned by a better gift aid scheme.

I was pleased that David Blunkett MP responded to our briefing at our recent dinner and took this up with the Chancellor.

We will watch the Chancellor carefully. We have been led a merry dance on this so far!

BLOGS to watch!!

The marvellous Seb Elsworth has started blogging. You can access them here.

And the great Allison Ogden Newton also brings you tales from the social enterprise world. Click here to read it.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Reforming the banks. Building a better financial future.

It does indeed look like the Government will now intervene to stop bankers and financial institutions from abusing the people's trust. We shall see! Nice to see Angela Knight from the British Bankers' Association trotting out the old line about if we tax etc these wonderful people too much they will flee our shores- oblivious to the fact that many of us are thinking what a shame these very people did not indeed flee our shores so much earlier and prevent the plunge to disaster. Perhaps just a little hint of regret? Acknowledgement of failure? Learning from mistakes? Clearly not. Like the Bourbons in France. They "regret rien".

In the meantime I am delighted to plug a new report from the New Economics Foundation "Banking reform or bust – towards a new ecology of finance".

It argues that only radical reform of the UK banking and financial sector can deliver institutions capable of investing and lending that is economically and socially productive. They have produced an alternative white paper on banking reform in anticipation of the Treasury’s follow-up White Paper on banking, expected this month.

Rather than seeking a technical fix for our sick financial sector Government should be having a philosophical rethink. A return to business as usual would prevent the Government’s own stated ambitions of a more competitive and diverse sector from being realised. So we need to reform the entire banking and financial sector according to what the proper function of finance should be. No longer wedded to short-term and profit-driven models of lending and to risky, volatile speculative investment, the banking sector would, instead, form a highly diverse ‘ecology’ of institutions that range in structure, market sector and scale; adapted to the complexity and shared long-term goals of the economy.

Reforms to rein in the excesses of the financial system must be combined with positive measures to harness the potential of both mainstream and alternative financial institutions.

Recommendations include:

· Separating retail from other banking and preventing deposit-taking banks from engaging in other, risky activities

· Setting up a social investment bank

· Regulating financial institutions according to their functions and how risky their activities: the bigger the bank the higher the capital requirements

· Reforms to encourage more mutuals, co-ops and community finance

· Legislation to force banks to be open about their lending and to lend to the financially excluded.

The report is available to download from their website click here.

I'm sure this is required reading by my friends in the British Bankers' Association. Time for change.

I would like to see the Government going further. The Queen's Speech is a good start but we need to ensure feet remain firmly held to the fire. And we need the Government to be radical in their reforms.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Personalising our public services. Listening to Members.

The launch of the interim report of the ACEVO Commission on Personalisation yesterday. Chaired with brilliance by Matthew Pike and with members drawn form across the third sector, with commissioners and users. It is well worth reading. Click here to download a copy.

As a sector we welcome a bigger role for the users of public services. This is about a transfer of power from the state to the user and to the citizen. There are three strong reasons for this reform:
  1. its our right as citizens
  2. its a more efficient way to deliver services and
  3. its a way to improve outcomes for people-i.e. better health by being in control.

Paul Jenkins, of Rethink, spoke of how important it has been for people with mental health illness to have power over the way they are treated, to move from a "poverty of aspiration" to achievement. .

And our sector role here is both in the provision of personalised services, in campaigning for a fully funded and regulated service, and in providing advice and support for people under a personalised regime.

It is a challenging agenda. Instead of having one contract with a local council there may be 2000 contracts with each individual user. And they will need to be persuaded to buy their service from us. As opposed to other private or public providers. Or even other third sector providers. We will have to sell our services. Be much more accountable.

Councillor Lorna Campbell, the Cabinet member in Lambeth for health and social care, spoke about the project we have in Lambeth to look at the implications at local and community level of this change. This is part of the overall work of the Commission which is due to report in full later in 2010. So the Commission is working at both a strategic and a very practical level.

But to be clear, against a background of spending cuts, we have to watch any attempts by local councils or health authorities to use this as a cover to cut spending on these services. Matthew made a great point that this is also about delivering more bang for the buck. Making a pound work harder and deliver more. It's " Yes we can" from our sector!

Then back to a meeting with members in the ACEVO office to discuss issues for our "Ask" from the Parties in their manifestos. We had a particular focus on volunteering and the value it plays. I was particularly struck by the example of the Ramblers Association (their CEO, Tom Franklin, is an member) who talked of the work they do for their 125,000 members and some 14,000 active volunteers. One of their projects is about encouraging people with obesity problems to walk more! A great example of how our third sector can make a serious contribution to promoting better health and preventing ill health.

Mick Aldridge of the The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association made an excellent point about how we need a framework for citizen participation- which ranges from active volunteering through to just giving. Governments need to encourage and implement measures to promote that participation at all levels.

So I was well buoyed up by the time I went for a catch up with the excellent third sector team of Angela Smith MP and Tessa Jowell MP, who bat for us in Government and who are both such fans of what our sector can achieve.

I am often struck by the level of enthusiasm, talent, ingenuity and sheer energy amongst CEOs in our sector. It is no wonder that Governments look to us for answers!!

Monday 16 November 2009

A Glorious weekend...

St Nicholas' Parish Church in Chadlington is a delightful 13th century clerestoried Cotswolds church set above the Evenlode valley, surrounded by beautiful countryside and looking across to the ancient Wychwood Forest. I was there on Friday evening at a fundraising event to support the local CoE Primary school.

Our MP was being interviewed by Jane Moore , a local resident and , regrettably, a journalist with The Sun newspaper. I'm surprised she didn't sizzle walking past the Holy Water stoup.

A terribly pleasant English occasion, introduced by local worthy Lord Chadlington. Polite questions on matters of moment such as youth unemployment and the plight of the world's poor. I couldn't help thinking of the difference in the constituencies of out current and our potential PMs. DC's response on youth unemployment was to talk of the young lad with a 2.1 from a good university who could not get a job. I suspect GB would have talked of the despair of the lad on an estate blighted with joblessness and where generations have been out of work.

But perhaps the more interesting bits were whether David Cameron knew the setting for coloured clothing on the washing machine. He did. And how he proposed to Samantha (un romantically on the sofa watching a video). His favourite PM - Robert Peel - because he put his convictions above party interest. And how he was a direct descendant of William 1V by the bastard line (unimpressive to someone descended from Edward III by the bastard line ). I had a quick word before hand on his recent Lecture - I said the book was in the post - before the Vicar claimed him.

There are many delights of living in the Cotswolds but not the lack of public transport. So I walked back the five miles along the unlight road in the driving rain until a passing local gave me a lift for the last mile. I have never learnt to drive - a virtue in these climate challenging days but somewhat of an inconvenience in the countryside.

Saturday morning and its the annual Church Bazaar. I always help out at this glittering event, and pick up some useful Christmas presents, though the plant stall was a severe disappointment this year, even despite the Duke of Malborough's cyclamen.

Saturday evening is often the highlight of the week. A relaxing moment, unwinding from the rigours of a Lecture filled week with good food; usually a locally produced roast, bottle of fine Claret and starting with a bottle of Champagne. I was through the Champagne and onto the Claret when I had this nasty feeling. Was I not due to do the George Galloway phone in at 10.15? Yes, horror, it was, as a text from my superb and on the ball Head of Comms that reminded me. Too late. Lots of coffee and a bracing walk in the rain and wind (Hound not impressed) but a good interview. George very kind and I got a good opportunity to spell out the case for the sector. Inevitably the wretched Divide campaign against the sector came up, but I defended the salaries of their General Secretaries (£308k ) and lamented their attack on their fellow third sector colleagues. I think the words " gross hypocrisy" may have slipped past my lips! I loved his description of me as the "capo di capi " of the third sector. Its rather apt I suspect. Hubert wpuld approve! Apparently 2.5m people listen to this programme. But it would be a sad reflection on the life of a charity CEO if they were listening to George Galloway at 10.15 pm on a Saturday night!

And let's not forget the Bubb birthday celebrations. Picture shows us all enjoying lunch at the Fishes pub in North Hinskey.

My nephew Alexander has his birthday just two days before mine. Couldn't he have waited? He is currently at Exeter (College not City naturally) reading for his Doctorate. And my nephew and niece, the twins Miranda and Oliver, are preparing to sit their Oxbridge exams so go to look round prospective colleges - Brasenose and Worcester are favoured - whilst here!

I congratulate myself on managing to be up for the 8am 1662 HC at the Parish Church then its back to Brixton. Ready for another heavy week fighting for the cause.

And in case you think I'm becoming too improbably grand I had my Sunday roast lunch at the Effra Day Centre, a Lambeth Council Centre to support people with mental health problems.

Then as it was a glorious Autumn day I took Hound for a run in Brockwell Park. As you see Brixton is not without its beautiful spots!

Friday 13 November 2009

Doing Local Government.

Didn't get much of a lie-in before I had to be at a "Stakeholder" meeting with DCLG. Stakeholder engagement is all the rage in Government. Bit like consultation; beats having to work. Still, never knock a networking opportunity. And it is always good to see Peter Housden, the Permanent Secretary. And I must not be cynical - we had a presentation of the results of a stakeholder survey which formed the basis of an interesting discussion about how we are involved in policy formulation. This is a Department that wants to involve the third sector. That is good!

It is clear relations with local councils are going to assume centre stage soon. ACEVO intends to get more closely involved in work with Local government. I have many links and a strong background. After all, if you have been an elected member (I used to represent the good burghers of Clapham) and a top official for over 10 years you do know a thing or ten.

Then it's bag packing, hound collecting time and off to Charlbury. A meeting in Chadlington Church tonight with our MP. Shan't take the hound though. And tomorrow I am doing a live phone-in with George Galloway. Saturday evening, talkSPORT, I think it is - on frequency 1089 and 1053 kHz . On third sector CEO pay would you believe. I shall be defending the salaries of our friends Mr Woodley and Mr Simpson. They deserve their £308.000 package. As do my members. I shall be robust. No doubt comrade George will be too. I shall make no reference to pussy cats.

Bubbian robustness, Blair and Rowan.

Bumped into Dame Suzi Leather (feisty defender of the Charity brand) on a pedestrian crossing in Westminster so we had a chat on the topic de jour; top salaries. She was pleased to see that I was defending charity CEOs with my usual " Bubbian robustness". I thought a rather splendid compliment! Earlier I had spoken to The Times for an interview on said topic. I gave no quarter. Indeed I am only surprised that Unite (or as my friend Robin Bogg calls them "Divide") have the brass neck to continue their attacks . They seem to have decided on an anti charity campaign - this week they have been attacking us as the " Trojan Horse" for privatisation. A few weeks back it was an attack on social enterprise. Well, an interesting way of making friends and influencing people?

I'm sure all their union members working in charities and social enterprises will have been delighted at these insults. But I do not believe all unions are on the same page and I am delighted we have a Trade Union general secretary as a member.

But enough. Let's move on. (And yes I know only yesterday I said I would leave off the topic; I lied!) I was actually on my way to meet Helen Ghosh, the Permanent Secretary at DEFRA. An impressive woman. Oodles of experience from outside the civil service as well as in it. She is a great leader for an important Department. We talk of the wider role of the sector in helping deliver sustainability, as well as the work of many third sector organisations in delivering services - members like the RSPCA and the Woodland Trust and my friend and ACEVO Trustee, Tom Flood of BTCV or Tony Hawkhead of Groundwork. This is as well as the many members giving voice to those who want a better and more sustainable country, a country that values its countryside and the beautiful farming communities that shape and define it.

Then it was off to John Low at the Charities Aid Foundation for a video conferenced Board Meeting of Euclid, our European network, currently doing so much good in arguing for funding reform at the top levels of the European Commission.

In the evening I went to a Lecture given by the Archbishop of Canterbury at The Tony Blair Faith Foundation. My good friend Ruth Turner runs it with flair and determination.


The Archbishop of Canterbury in conversation with Rabbi David Rosen

His Grace pointed out that the majority of the world's peoples are people of faith. Yet we often ignore those faith demands and cultures in our development programmes. He argued that religions often form the backbone of civil society in many developing countries. Is there a stand off between development agencies and faith groups? Religion arouses suspicion in the development establishment. We need to understand the rights and the faith of communities around the world

Let people be the "Agents of their own change."

I liked his quotation that. "the poverty of another is my poverty". Or a quote from a medieval monk that "our life and death are with our neighbour ".
I was also struck by his analysis of patronage. There is an inherent imbalance in the power relationship between a patron and client. And he argued that this imbalance of power is potentially corrupting for both patron and client. He was arguing about international aid but clearly the argument can apply here. In bad grant regimes in some local authorities for example we can see that happening.

He also argued that development must not necessarily be linked to economic growth. Well being and happiness are also valuable.

He commented that we can sometimes be sentimental about "community" in the West. We need communities that are " intentional". They have an intention and awareness of mutuality, shared learning and cooperation. That insight is so true when you think of communities that allow the torment of kids with learning difficulties or the poor woman in Cornwall who suffered years of abuse in her community and sadly recently died in her house when locals put a firework through her letter box.

It was an a most extraordinary tour de force of erudition and learning and a privilege to be there to listen.

He also made reference to the Mothers Union on three occasions. Excellent, as I said to him afterwards. My mother is a very active member and the key link between the UK Anglican Church and the Diocese of Burma. And Reg Bailey, the CEO of the Mothers Union is one of my members!

Back home exhausted. Three Lectures in a row this week. Think a lie-in tomorrow is well deserved (hope my Chair is not reading! )

Thursday 12 November 2009

Long term funding, active Government and Liam Byrne.

OK OK , no more on the City culture creeping into our unions' top salaries ..... I have said enough. For the time being.

I was in the pound shop in Brixton not long ago and got hold of two rather good books: showing political balance I bought Cherie Blair's autobiography and "Cameron on Cameron". What strange reading habits I have!

There was an interesting interview by Cameron and it is worth reproducing. He said:

"We need to give the voluntary sector longer-term contracts, we need to trust them more, we need to be prepared to say we’re going to give you larger bits of work, and we’re going to give you the money to do it. And we’re going to take some risks. If you fail in business it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t start again and succeed. The idea may have been good, and so next time we attempt it we’re going to do it in a different way. We should encourage people to take risks, and acknowledge that sometimes that might mean failure. In the public sector, or in crime prevention, or solving problems like drug abuse or whatever, we don’t encourage entrepreneurialism, and we should. "

Spent last night at an Institute of Government Lecture by the excellent Rt Hon Liam Byrne, MP, Chief Secretary to HMT. He was speaking of the Smarter State; active Government in the 21st century. An interesting counterpoint to the Cameron speech of last night. Liam is always so dapper and dynamic. A great speaking style somewhat reminiscent of one Tony Blair! A great grasp of facts and historical sweep.

He was arguing that there has been a huge reform in public services but the next decade ahead needs to change shape, size and scale of the state. We should not be depressed about the decade ahead. How do we change the means of delivering services to deliver the end of a fairer society . How do we draw on civil society? Give people more power. More choice.

We must ensure people power drives reformed services he argued . Shift power from Whitehall by developing a rights approach.

There is a new force in civil society. And it is a positive force for change.

Charitable giving is up, and 40% more staff employed. It is stronger. He attacked the approach of Cameron in his speech last night and over the last 12 years.

I challenged him on outsourcing and what I see as a clear divide between the two Parties on this, with the Tories being much clearer they expect more delivery through the third sector. I also suggested that the Cameron speech deserved more attention in the role that Cameron sees for the State. I have to say he gave me an impressive answer which precised Tory philosophical thinking starting with De Toqueville!!

Good to have a word afterwards on one of my favourite subject, The Social Investment Bank. And a Social impact bond where I think we will see progress soon with a timetable for action.

I agree with Liam that a rights based approach is a strong way of driving reform. It is coupled with the personalisation agenda; and here let me give you prewarning of the launch of the interim report of the ACEVO Personalisation Commission, chaired by Matthew Pike. It is this Monday 16th November at 9.30am. Will be interesting. Thought provoking. Incisive. And hopefully starting a debate in our sector on how we prepare for this revolution in delivering services.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

We need Woodley sized salaries!

My breakfast was immeasurably improved when I opened an email from one of the top charity accountants, Pesh Framjee. I reproduce it as part of my Defend Charities from Wicked Attacks campaign. He makes a great point.

" We need to understand this issue better. Many of the larger charities are complex businesses (and I use the word advisedly) and the staff who manage them have to be highly qualified in addition to being highly committed. The fact is that the there is much evidence to show that voluntary sector salaries, particularly at senior levels, are significantly lower than the salaries that many of these individuals could be earning in the private sector.

We want the charities we support to be well managed by experienced, committed individuals. They do not get special rates on their mortgages, on their supermarket bills or on their travel costs just because they work for a charity.

I work closely with many charities, some are the largest charities in the land and do not see that their "ethos is being eroded" simply because they try not to underpay their staff.

I support well run and well managed charities that are demonstrating that they are doing excellent work and I am not in any way put off that their staff are fairly paid to do this. I know that those criticised in this way would be earning much more in the private sector and comparisons with city pay demonstrates a lack of understanding about the facts. Indeed, many of those working in charities have given up pay packages which were significantly higher.

I would in fact like to see greater parity between pay scales in the voluntary sector and in other sectors. Please do not construe this as meaning that I am advocating city comparators but just because a person is working for a charity should not mean that they should earn a lot less than if they were working in another sector. "

It was a point I was making vigorously in an interview with BBC Humber. Poor interviewer found it difficult to get a word in as I defended our salaries and castigated our ill informed critics. Poor chap at the end thanked me for my " vigorous" defence. Indeed. But it's what I am paid for!

And as for one of the comments one my blog about " shouting loudest", well I certainly shall. There is every reason for our sector to be paid at the professional levels one expects in the other sectors as Pesh argues above. No one attacks my members without me shouting loudly. And when it is to attack the Puritan Hair Shirt brigade I do it with gusto.

There was a calming moment in the Office today as we paused to observe the Armistice two minutes silence and to watch the service from Westminster Abbey. ACEVO has many members in charities working with the armed services or in conflict situations. It was right to pause to Remember.

And so I had calmed down by lunch time; just as well as I was in the Atheneum with my old friend Sir Rodney Brooke (who is a Trustee on Capacity builders ) and the interim Chair, Stephen Dunmore. Rodney is a great connoisseur of wine and we had a stunning 2006 Meursault. All most agreeable. So right for a discussion of capacity building I thought- strong, developed and fine tasting! How umbrella organisations should be! Capacity building for our sector institutions is crucial. It must continue. It is such a shame we have rather mucked some of it up.

David Cameron, Big Society and ACEVO.

I went to hear the much trailed David Cameron speech on civil society last night at The Guardian . The only third sector person there as far as I could see. And got a chance to talk to him about the role of a bigger civil society in delivering citizen and community focused public services.

The speech itself was very interesting. I found quite a lot resonating, especially about the state delivering less and us delivering more! With our role in galvanising social action. In encouraging volunteering. Its worth seeing the whole thing. We will put it up on the ACEVO website. But in the meantime these are my Blackberry notes taken by me in the stalls! You can read the unexpurgated version on

Speech notes
  • Size and role of the state: State now inhibits work on progressing well being growth of the state has promoted less responsibility for individuals and communities. However it is not automatic that a smaller state is better. In general can't assume state retrenches and things improve.
  • So need a "Thoughtful re-imagination" of role and size of state. Create avenues and power for families and communities and individuals.
  • Re imagined state helps people take control of their lives. New role in actively creating " big society" and social renewal.
  • Move from state action to civil action. Use the state to actively help remake society.
  • Bringing two worlds of rich and poor together is key. Talked of the book "The Spirit Level" ( its on my desk but have never got round to reading it. So now I better!). Showed that GDP less significant than gap in wealth within society for well being.
  • Fair reward for talent can't afford to lock out people as we have done.
  • Need to focus on those who don't have chance for good life.
  • State has positive role. Most significant that size of state risen dramatically but society broken. One in three jobs under Labour have been created in the state.
  • So we need to remember the Tory tradition of celebrating small and local. Strand of political thinking that values this and not state power. Fabianism required state control. Did that work? Did it tackle poverty? Society role shrunk and gap rose. Poor got poorer. Social mobility frozen.
  • How can state spend so much fighting poverty with so poor results?
  • How change; firstly through eduction. Second through creating a stronger society; (for example sure start must have stronger role for charities.)
  • Payment by results. Change benefits system. Emphasis on responsibility. Family.
  • When we saw welfare state set up there used to be a wide panoply of civil Society orgs , co-ops, mutuals, charities . But these were squeezed out by State.
  • Big Government spawns perverse incentives.
  • Attempts to play a role in society means checks and intrusion.
  • Philip Blond says we have "disposed people".
  • What to do with state? Can't just step back. Not retrenchment. Civil society damaged. Can't take for granted that civil society simply springs back to life like freeze dried shrimps out of the fridge. Need to support a renewal of civil society.
  • The state must be smart and strategic. Not laissez faire. State acts as instrument to create "big society". Won't just happen. Use state to help remake society
  • Redistribute power. Decentralise power from central to local and individuals. But when collective is needed then communities- housing.
  • Where neighbourhood not possible then Local Government.
  • Increase responsibility and innovation. Need more transparency.
  • Non state collective action more effective in solving community problems.
  • People must have Power over services they use. State must help people take advantage. So need a special response. How achieve more involvement. How get communities and civil society more engaged?
  • Galvanise, encourage community engagement. Charities come together with others. Encourage Social action.
  • Social action projects in each constituency by Tory PPCs. Transform social action when in power.
  • Three groups needed:

1. Social entrepreneurs. Soon to be ennobled Debbie Scott mentioned (actually she runs a charity but let that pass) Lighthouse group- work confined to just four Cities. Should be everywhere. Identify best like them and scale up. (We need to tell him about the Innovation Exchange!) Franchise them to deliver public services from them. Fast growth.

2. Community activists. Want to help them to do more in communities. State must help with training and support to exploit opportunities. Help to start up groups etc. He mentions Chicago alternative policing and the Harlem children zone. (Note: must visit next time I'm there!)

3. Also engagement of population to get involved. Broad culture of engagement needed . Change social norms. Nudge social change. Facebook needs an extra line on social action on people's profiles- (what a great idea. Why don't they just do that?)

  • New national citizen service. Serve their local community. Inspire new youth. Need civic servants not civil servants.
  • "Loans as well as grants are essential ".
  • Can do and should do all this. New answers from a bigger society not state.

I asked a question. (Indeed the first of three; no flies on ACEVO when it comes to putting the third sector case.) Obviously.

On will we be asked to provide services on cheap as Government cuts spending. He said its the "Polly Toynbee" question! And the answer is NO. Don't intend to use us to achieve cuts. I mentioned ACEVO's book of 2003 "Replacing the State?" Where we argued the economic and social case for more third sector delivery of mainstream public services. And what we had argued was a bigger role for us in mainstream delivery. He agreed. He said he would rush out and buy the book! Problem is we are down to two last copies. Peter Kyle - give me that one back. David wants it!!

And it was then interesting to watch the news coverage of it. The speech got good attention and what I think was excellent was that we had the rare chance to listen to a discussion about the role of the third sector in community development and service delivery. There was a fascinating exchange between Theresa May and Yvette Cooper on it. This was a nice counterpoint to a discussion we had in a brainstorming of the Impact Coalition and its role and whether the public understand the modern enterprising third sector. I think if we have more debate on the issues that David Cameron has raised in the media and amongst public analysts and policy makers this is good for the sector.

Tuesday 10 November 2009

"An attack on one is an attack on all"

Did that used to be a trade union principle?

My excellent, estimable and on the ball Deputy, Dr Kyle, has written to the Unite Union Officer responsible for their third sector membership. I thought it deserved wider dissemination so I reproduce it here ;

"I see from public records that Derek Simpson earns £97,027, with pension contributions of £26,779 and other benefits of £62,820. A total package of £186,626.

Tony Woodley earns £93,815, with pension contributions of £16,347, and other benefits of £11,946. A total package of £122,108.

That is a total of £308,374 Unite spends on the CEO equivalent position - or to use the index you set this morning in The Guardian, 26 times the salary one of your members on minimum wage."

Your organisation represents millions of members and operates in a complex political and policy environment, you need great leadership and rightly pay the right amount to attract the quality you need. If called upon, ACEVO would defend Unite's remuneration package upon these grounds. This makes it all the stranger that you have chosen to openly attack charity CEOs', who's average wage is £57k - it is rare to earn more and where it does it reflects the kinds of challenges and complexities that your organisation faces.

ACEVO has invested significant amounts of charitable money in building relations between unions and charity CEOs' in the last year, and has a number of ongoing work flows that could further break down the significant barriers that unions face in extending its extremely poor representation within the third sector workforce. I would have thought you would look kindly upon this kind of activity. So I'm deeply confused by your actions today. I hope you can take a little time to let me know why you thought this attack would be of benefit to anyone, particularly the vast numbers of people who look to both unions and third sector organisations in this time of greatest need."

Sums it up really. And I used similar sentiments when I spoke to The Independent who are running a story on this. I guess the upside of this story is it does give us a chance to put the case for professional pay in our sector. The attitude of the unions reflects the attitudes we found when we conducted our survey of the public over the summer. A modern enterprising sector delivering services and advocating on behalf of communities needs strong leaders. And they need to be paid professionally. That must be part of the role of the Impact Coalition. We meet this week to brainstorm ideas for a campaign.

And for light relief from all this aggravation and annoyance I spent the evening watching the latest Harry Potter. Great. Especially the parts filmed in my old College. And perhaps hints on a few potions to cheer up crabby Union General Secretaries?

Fabulous news this morning on Debbie Scott - soon to be Baroness Scott! David Cameron has asked Debbie, the CEO of Tomorrow's People, to become a Conservative Peer. Debbie has been a long standing and active member of ACEVO. She is a doughty fighter for unemployed people and also great fun. I loved her quote when she said "I've always seen my job as helping people to focus on their destiny not their history".

I ring to congratulate her. She momentarily phased when I ask her on her mobile "Is that Baroness Scott"!

She will be joining Lord David Freud, another key ACEVO ally, in developing Conservative policy on welfare to work. Great!

Monday 9 November 2009

People in glass houses

So , as I thought , the union Unite has a cheek to criticise charity CEOs.These are the facts.

The joint General Secretaries of Unite have a remuneration package of £ 308, 374 ! That is £122,108 for Mr Woodley and £186,626 for Mr Simpson.

As I don't know of any charity that has 2 CEOs I think it is interesting that Unite pay such rich rewards at the top . But to be clear , Unite is a professional third sector body and I believe in professional pay for a professional job . Unite is a large and complex organisation . But I'm afraid if you choose to attack charities in this gross way expect retaliation .

On the index that Unite have devised for the Guardian story, Unite are paying their CEOs 26 times the salary of a member on the minimum wage!

And to be clear , if an excessive city culture is pervading charities could Messrs Woodley and Simpson tell us which charity CEO gets a bonus , or share options , or private health care , or chauffeurs or a top pension scheme etc etc . There are none .

So pack it in guys. I'm sure you earn your salaries and are worth every penny . Do not attack my members for doing the same.

Unions and Bankers

Walking the Hound through the wetness of the mill fields I'm disturbed by a call from a member. Apparently the Union, Unite, have attacked some charities for paying their CEOs a professional salary.

I speak to The Guardian journalist covering the story and take a robust line.

Tony Woodley, the General Secretary of the Union appears to be developing an unpleasant penchant for attacking the third sector. Just recently he had a go at social enterprises in the NHS in a most uninformed manner and making absurd comments about the quality of social enterprises. Myself and Allison Ogden-Newton of Social Enterprise London wrote to him asking for a meeting but now we have another unwarranted attack.

Mr Woodley and Unite seem to ignore the fact they have thousands of members in the third sector. Clearly they thinks they are second class members to those of his members in the public sector.

And he clearly has a thoroughly old fashioned view of our sector. Perhaps he thinks we are all volunteers? Jam sales and raffles? Or lovely people working at the margins on a lowly stipend to reflect the fact that we are not doing proper jobs at all.

The Union says that an "excessive" city pay culture is creeping into charities. Pardon? Which CEO exactly is receiving a bonus? (Answer none) - let alone a bonus the size of an average charity CEO salary.

What underlies this attack is an unpleasant and patronising attitude to the third sector which assumes that we are all small scale and amateur and therefore not capable of earning a proper professional salary - unlike workers in the public sector.

As I tell The Guardian , the average ACEVO member earns £57k. I suspect that is less than some union General Secretaries? I must research that. What exactly is Mr Woodley paid? I shall enquire.

And our recent pay survey indicates that some 20% of members took a pay freeze this year. Again I wonder if Union's GSs showed such restraint?

Perhaps Mr Woodley would care to constrain his attacks to the real City culture of bonuses and accept that in our sector we should have a professional level of pay for a professional job. When some of our CEOs are running organisations of thousands of staff and turnover of over £100m pa then we need to pay effectively. And as I told The Guardian journalist, our survey also showed that many members coming from the private and public sectors took a pay cut to become a third sector CEO.

What disgusts me most about this attack is that it comes from a fine Union, one that I worked for under the great Jack Jones. He would not have dreamt of making such squalid attacks on charities. Shame on you Mr Woodley.

Hugely disgruntled I returned to my Roast Beef only to discover the boss of Goldman Sachs telling us he is doing "God's purpose". John Low, my former Chair, speaking at our recent conference said we need to avoid " bank bashing". To an extent he is right. We need banks to return to profitability and contribute to a growth economy. But the problem is they are just often so unrepentant at past bad practise it is difficult not to have a go.

The boss of Goldman Sachs is probably a better financier than he is a theologian. He is clearly a little hazy about his Gospels. Especially the story of Christ turning the money changers out of the Temple or when he declared it will be harder for a rich man to enter Heaven than for a camel to get through the eye of a needle. And saying that the meek and poor will inherit the earth.

But I have a deal for the British Bankers Association. I will desist from attacking bankers if they agree to "tithe" their bonuses. Francis Maude MP told our conference last week that Victorians would regularly tithe 10% of their wealth to charity. This is a biblical practise. So if Goldman Sachs and others agree that 10% of their wealth goes to charity they may well indeed be doing God's purpose. The facts however point in a different direction. With honourable exceptions many rich people's giving is meagre. Indeed the poor give a higher proportion of their salary to charity than do the rich.

I look forward to all this changing. Angela Knight- time for you to tell your members to tithe.

Friday 6 November 2009

Dinner, Conference, Party

Well , it was all quite an event. The dinner went off incredibly well; so many guests I missed some off in my welcoming speech and had to be reminded by my excellent Deputy of the people I missed. Eight MPs, two Permanent Secretaries, three Baronesses (all dinner parties should have at least one) two Ministers, the Head of No: 10 Policy Unit (Nick Pierce, who used to be an ACEVO member. So plenty of meat for my members to get stuck into.

We had speeches from our fraternal guests from JACEVO - and they looked marvellous in their full formal Kimonos! Michael Leahy, the General Secretary of the Union Community (who is an ACEVO member ) , the 2009 winner of the charity award ACEVO member Jennifer Rogers, who runs Leap Confronting Conflict.

Angela Smith MP, gave our main speech. It was a pleasure to welcome her and it was an excellent speech, just the right mix of humour, a gentle piss take of me!! And serious points on the role of the sector. My chair rounded things of with our wish list for Angela on what we want her to deliver:

*gift aid reform

*a Social Investment Bank

*the third sector as the " preferred " supplier to the NHS.

Easy ones really.

And we managed some discreet briefing on Gift Aid during the meal with one of our influential guests who is speaking to the Chancellor on this and will be taking the ACEVO demands to him.

It was particularly nice at the end to have a quiet drink with Angela to celebrate my birthday. If you were to suggest we were drinking champagne to mark this auspicious occasion I could not possibly comment. Angela is both a committed sector person and an excellent Minister. An advocate at the heart of Government. And as I said if my constituency MP is David Cameron , Angela is my Parents MP!

As CEOs we like music and song and we had both. The photo shows " The Choir without a Name", a group of homeless people who sing! As I said , we like third sector singing!

I'm afraid I returned home rather late, indeed in the early hours and I was the first speaker opening our conference at 9.15am. An action packed morning session with more top speakers than you could shake a stick at!

Patrick Diamond, from No: 10 Policy gave a fascinating overview on policy. He ended with an interesting point that the next decade will see a move away from emphasis on the individual and their rights and needs to more attention to community and fellowship, on family and faith. This is slap bang in the middle of the third sector's territory. And it was an interesting lead into the speech from Rt Hon Francis Maude MP. We have had Francis at a number of events know and I like his discursive style. He always has some very interesting things to say. I was struck by the point that he intends to build on the past decade achievements and not sweep them away. The Tories will keep the Office of the Third Sector. Indeed he was indicating they have rather given up on the search for a different name! That will disappoint my friends in NCVO who have gone hell for leather on "civil society"!

Francis was followed by Tessa Jowell. A clearly well crafted speech and one I know she gave a lot of attention to. We will have it up on the ACEVO website. An extremely good resume of the achievements and progress of the sector over the last decade. She challenged the sector to think of its own role, in professionalism and growing strong but remaining true to an independence and reflecting on needs to reform.

Charities must be transparent and flexible to keep public onside she said. Organisations will have to become more transparent and adaptable in order to maintain public support, public confidence in the nature and role of the sector had been significantly challenged since the banking crisis began. She quoted from the ACEVO and YouGov poll we conducted over the summer showing public awareness of charity lags significantly behind today's reality.
The morning ended with a fascinating double act from the CEO and Vice Chair of an American non-profit, The Center for Leadership Innovation. They spoke of their major funding challenge when they had grown enormously on the back of big Government contracts but realised that the payments were simply not covering full costs. They withdrew from all the contracts and returns to a major drive to get foundation and commercial support. A hairy time but ultimately successful. It was a timely warning of the need for us to continue to ensure we get FCR in contracts. This will be a challenge as cuts come and public sector bodies try to trim back on contracts and expect us to subsidise them from charitable income. That must not happen.

Left to right

Seb Elsworth, ACEVO's Director of Strategy, Jeff Nugent, President, The Center for Leadership Innovation, Abdul Rasheed, Vice-Chair, The Center for Leadership Innovation

The morning session was superbly chaired by my talented Director of Strategy, Seb Elsworth, who had also chaired all the morning speakers. The afternoon (and yes Robin the lunch was fabulous) had a very revealing session on social investment and the potential for bonds and a social stock exchange. Sir Ronnie Cohen was magisterial, and the debate good. Toby Blume, member and CEO of the Urban forum made a hugely effective speech on the need for more responsible financial systems and the potential for a community reinvestment Act in this country acevo and a range of community and social enterprise and sector financial bodies are joining together to mount a national campaign to promote responsible finance. ACEVO is providing the Secretariat for this. This will be a sector wide campaign , drawing national and local , community and large TSOs together around a common theme of a more responsible banking and financial sector. This is a matter of massive importance to us and our beneficiaries and to the community at large.

I had begun my speech with the quotation from Genesis. My ACEVO North Director, Jenny Berry also ended with Genesis. The group!

'We came from the South
And we came from the North
With picks and with spades
And a new kind of order
Showing no fear of what lies up ahead'

A great concluding thought for us CEOs!

Then off to Party! My brother Nick did a superb job with the fireworks. The remand prisoners on B Wing clearly enjoyed it, though difficult to quite make out what they were shouting at one point! And the stray rocket that hit the roof did not, I'm glad to say, spark a break out. It was also the birthday of my wonderful Head of Comms, Carina McKeown, so we jointly cut the birthday cake! As I blog I look at the splendid lemon tree my sister gave me. The consumption of bubbles was on a grand scale as befits my 57 years!