Wednesday 4 November 2009

Meeting Heroes: Nick, Gordon, Ronnie and Mandela.

Another early start! The hound was not impressed at being disturbed again! This time a breakfast (at ACEVO'S offices please note Robin! ) with Nick Herbert MP, the Tory spokesperson on DEFRA. Having come across Nick on quite a few occasions now I am deeply impressed; he is one of the Tories most engaging and thoughtful frontbenchers. Bright, thoughtful and charming; I'm a fan. When he had the Justice brief he was clear the third sector had to play a much bigger delivery role inside and outside prisons.

We began with a little banter on meat eating (as you do!) when I asked him what he was planning to do on farting cows . His recent Blog was eloquent on the glories of Roast Beef and the iniquity of the recent Stern pronouncement on cutting out meat eating to save the planet. This led to comments on the absence of bacon butties in the ACEVO breakfast offering, though the croissants were particularly excellent.

There were a group of CEOs from sustainability charities and we had a lively debate ably chaired by the sector's very own Lord Stern, one Tom Flood! What was clear was the passion that Nick brings to this brief and the understanding of the need to mobilise and use the strength of the third sector.

He argues, correctly in my view, that we need to encourage and incentivise people to be sustainable rather than penalise and punish bad behaviour. If people are told they can't eat meat then it risks turning them away from taking sustainability seriously. We must beware the "hair shirt" brigade who want to scare and punish us all. Hear, hear ! No hair shirt tendency in ACEVO I can assure you !

And on the role of the sector, Matthew Thomson of London Community Recycling Network gave the example of the Merton Vintage Lawn Mower Association offering the council a deal to cut the grass in their parks with their splendid lawn mowers. An offer refused by the Council who contract this out! Much of the environmental services industry is dominated by the public and private sectors. Yet the third sector - local, community and national organisations could deliver more. Many organisations could be scaled up to take on more recycling and promote sustainability. Jonathan Lewis from the Social Investment Business was there and thinking about how SIB can increase loans for sustainability.

Then on to lunch with one of the heroes of the social enterprise sector, Gordon D'Silva, of Training for Life, who set up the impressive Hoxton Apprentice and is now behind four other enterprises, including the Dartmouth Apprentice. His philosophy is simple - people have been put off learning and need to be turned back on by showing its practical relevance; hence Hoxton where unemployed young people get a chance to do an apprenticeship in catering. It has been successful and widely admired. Amusing to have lunch at the Magdalen restaurant on Tooley Street, a very fine restaurant (the lemon curd and nettle soup were splendid) with Gordon and my Vice Chair "Hilda" aka Allison Ogden- Newton, rather than at his eatery. But I think he approved. Again I very much liked Gordon's style. I've not had a chance to talk to him before and I discovered a soul mate!

Then back to the office for a meeting with a Global Hero, but at many removes. I was meeting Victoria Kluk, Shane Jedeikin and Marek Grasshoff from The Mandela Foundation. I had met Victoria at the Tory conference in Manchester; she is a real enthusiast for the power of civil society. We talked about how ACEVO could support the leadership development of civil society leaders in RSA. We are taking the conversation forward and the Foundation is to establish an arm in the UK and I will help with registration and advice on trustees. It's a real privilege to support a Foundation established by the Mandela family. There are few figures more admired globally than Nelson Mandela and what a thrill to now be able to support this endeavour when in the 80s I was active in opposing the wickedness of the South African apartheid regime.

Then on to a meeting with another Hero of our sector, the great Sir Ronnie Cohen. I was with my colleague Hugues Sibille who runs Credit Cooperative in France. We were there to talk about the possibility of a Social Investment Bank, or banks, in Europe. Ronnie is not just one of the pioneers of venture capital in the UK but the author of the idea of a Social investment bank here, funded by unclaimed assets. He must be so disappointed at how the Government have let him down, but he is busy getting on with setting up Social Finance to do loans to the sector anyway, and on an international scale.

It is one of the joys and honour of the ACEVO role that I am able to meet with such eminent and interesting people. And hopefully to convert those contacts into making real change for our sector and its Chief Executives .

1 comment:

domenico moro said...

I am not sure you are 100% right. My understanding is that a small part of that huge saving is due to volunteering. Anyway the most interesting bit for me is that a huge saving comes from efficiency allocations of resources that third sector organizations were able to achieve.