Friday 29 January 2010

Down Memory Lane and Charity Appeals

Last night a rather fun dinner at The Reform Club. A gathering of the Duke of Edinburgh Leadership Forum (Class of '95). Just as I was starting at The National Lottery Charities Board I found myself on this three week leadership journey that took us around the country examining leadership challenges. It was aimed at bridging learning from across the sectors and examining how we could work together on better outcomes for the country. The group I was with consisted of 12 rather splendid people and we have kept in touch ever since. We have six monthly get togethers, though I missed the last one, which involved a midnight tour of York Minster and trying on Bishops Mitres. Oh how I regret not being there!! A diverse bunch;and it has been fun to watch careers progress over those years. Indeed one of our group, a very senior guy in BP, who was hosting the dinner, is about to "retire". So we have a senior civil servant,leading church grandee, two trade union national officials,a Dame, a university lecturer to mention but a few! I was recounting the tales of our hilarious final dinner on the Forum in 1995 which was held in the magnificence of New College Hall (Oxford naturally) where our little group had got far too merry and behaved with gusto, including a very OTT interchange with the Duke of Kent whose leg we were pulling (in an entirely proper manner of course).

You may listen to the BBC weekly Charity Appeal. These are always good and feature a wide range of brilliant causes. This Sunday the BBC Radio 4 Appeal features environmentalist and writer, Jonathon Porritt, who will make a passionate plea in support of BTCV. They are the countries biggest conservation volunteer and led by the omnipresent Tom Flood, who is not just an ACEVO member BUT a Trustee and therefore by definition one of the sector's great and good!

Listen out - Sunday 7 February at 07.55 and 21.26, and Thursday 11
February at 15.27 on BBC Radio 4.

Now it's time for me to pack my bags and the hound and head for a relaxing weekend in Charlbury. Joy!

Thursday 28 January 2010

The BIG ASK - Manchester.

The first of our 12 meetings around the country; taking the temperature of members, asking what they want from a new Government and checking out ACEVO is giving our CEOs what they need.

As it's a Big Ask I confine the intro from me to a short context setting around the theme of "ambition". Any CEO has that in abundance. For themselves, their organisation and their mission in life. I was told by one of my staff to remember that its the Big Ask not the Big Tell so not to speak for too long. As if!

We met at RBS Manchester offices. Great to have their support for events like this and I was a good boy and the word bonus did not cross my lips. In fact RBS provide a good service to many of ACEVO members! And an entirely appropriate selection of quality canapes and refreshment to delight the weary palate of the challenged CEO at the end of the meeting.

Paul Martin, who runs the lesbian and Gay Foundation with such eclat, Chaired our discussions with a mixture of verve, no nonsense and humour. Just what you need! And happy to mention you again in my Blog in return for your delightful plugging of same.

For all of our events - 12 around the country we are asking the same four questions.

They are;

 What do we want from the next Government?
 How should we respond to public spending cuts?
 What does the sector itself need to do?
 What do you want from ACEVO?

Anyone reading this - feel free to post your answers! When we have the results of this major consultation we will be publishing "The Big Tell": what we want from Government.

But perhaps the most telling moment came when Paul asked members whether they felt optimistic or pessimistic about the future for our sector. There was an overwhelming vote for optimism! Only a couple on the pessimism side and one abstention! An interesting observation on the "mood" of the sector.

And it was great that when Paul asked members what they wanted from ACEVO, one member said he wanted to thank us for the work we do representing the sector and as far as he was concerned it was "carry on please". Now I am not naive to think all members think in exactly this way but if you are running a membership body it is always good to get that encouragement. And it being the third sector people are not shy in coming forward with criticism. Let's hope this continues.

Before the event I had fulfilled an obligation I had made to Tony Okotie, the Director of the Tameside Third Sector Coalition (it's what other areas may call a CVS) and an ACEVO member. He had challenged me to come up and see what a great local infrastructure body can do. And I have to say it was a great day. Tony is a clear thinker and progressive. He believes the sector needs to be proactive in developing partnerships, alliances and mergers. There is obvious scope for this amongst CVSs as well as at national level.

Tony took me first to meet the CEO of Tameside Council, Stephen Pleasant. Now not all Council Chiefs have an enlightened view of our sector, but this guy was a star. A clear view on our growing delivery role and our voice and reach. He works well with Tony in drawing on the strength of the sector in Tameside.

Then we had a roundtable lunch with some of Tony's members. We met in a very agreeable Italian restaurant "San Rocco" in James Purnell's constituency (that was nice!). I had a pint of Boddingtons and a Sole in asparagus sauce and I shouldn't mention the ice cream cos I'm not allowed that!

It's probably naughty to only single out a few of those I met but it was an education to chat to Ian Young who runs an innovative and successful youth counselling scheme called "Off the Record" (not yet an ACEVO member....). He ran through the awful experience they have had of commissioning. They were a weak form closure but survived. Ian is one of those great sector folk with a cheerful optimism and an understated passion for the job which I think just makes our sector such a special place.

Then there was Karen Butigan who runs the St Peter's Partnerships, a community enterprise and development trust. The Tameside Chief had been singing her praises earlier in terms of their stunning work on community cohesion, in particular bringing together two communities, equally challenged and in deprived areas, one black , one white. And it is the work of groups like this that have stopped Tameside going down the route of Oldham, the next door Borough.

So it was back to London weary but buoyed up. The train journey proving a wonderful opportunity to email - over 100 emails back to the office etc. What a great invention; the Blackberry!

The Third Sector; what a fabulous place to work! And what magnificent people ( particularly those in ACEVO, and why wouldn't you be)

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Mission Accomplished

Great news at the Board of The Social Investment Business last night!!

The case for Social Investment has been proven. The Futurebuilders Fund has reached capacity!

We are having to close the Futurebuilders Fund to new applicants following huge demand from the third sector for social finance. The Social Investment Business has been receiving £60-90m worth of enquiries over recent months.

The Futurebuilders Fund has confirmed the sector’s appetite for affordable loan financing - even in these challenging economic times. Futurebuilders has shown what can be achieved through social investment.

So the message is: Now it’s time to get cracking and set up The Social Investment Bank and clearly we need more than £75m.

We now have a proven model that can deliver social investment on a large scale, investing for social as well as financial return.

The Social Investment Business wants to see billions more brought into the sector. The SIB will build on this success in attracting money from private as well as public sources, so that we can help more charities supporting communities and individuals most in need.

Through loans, grants and business support, this Government Fund has strengthened hundreds of third sector organisations, including charities and social enterprises. It has built the capacity of organisations large and small, national and community, improving their capacity to deliver public services.

Since the Futurebuilders Fund was established, it has received thousands of applications and made over 370 investments, leading to over 230 public sector contracts worth over £46.2m in the first three quarters of 2009 alone.

So to those who say there is no demand for loans; you're wrong. To those who said we couldn't get the money out of the door into our sector; you're wrong. And to all those whinging about Futurebuilders when we won the contract; Eat your hat!!

And to OTS the message is find us more money to invest. And to HMT fingers out pronto on a Social Investment Bank!

Tuesday 26 January 2010

At Windsor..and Chancellor responds.

First- positive news. We have had a response from The Chancellor to our letter from 260 CEOs about how to make cuts that can be positive through a greater sector role in delivery.

It is a strong and positive response, inviting us to submit evidence and asking for a meeting worth some of those who signed the letter. We shall do.

A few extracts:

"I welcome the constructive stance your letter sets out in engaging with Government on public sector reform and the tighter spending environment. The Government appreciates the role of the third sector in delivering innovative public services and in recognition of this has committed significant resources through the Office of the Third Sector and other Government departments over the current Comprehensive Spending Review period to increasing the participation of the sector in service delivery.

We intend to strengthen this through recent Government announcements on the Social Impact Bond pilot that will test innovative ways to invest in early intervention programmes, and the development of the Social Investment Wholesale Bank to ensure a greater flow of investment into the third sector.

Further, as you know, the Prime Minister established a Cabinet Committee specifically for the purpose of considering issues relating to the third sector’s involvement in public service delivery, which is chaired by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. The Committee, which met last week for the first time, provides a forum for Ministers from all the large delivery departments to discuss and seek to resolve the important issues of both barriers to market entry for third sector organisations and the value and wider potential for third sector delivery of public services."

He goes on to say,

"I was interested in the many examples of added value in service delivery by the sector that you outlined in your letter. I would therefore also be grateful if you and your members provide Government with further examples and information to build the evidence base around the third sector’s ability to deliver efficiencies for Government. I look forward to discussing this evidence with you and this will also help inform and direct discussions at the Cabinet Committee.".

Spending a fascinating time at Windsor. A particularly interesting discussion about leadership and whether the current consensus to concentrate on individual leadership traits misses the importance of systems and organisational culture. In other words to get the best leadership in an organisation you must both support and develop individuals (the fish) and the organisation (the fish tank). There is some strength in this. For example is your organisation one where people can work across boundaries, raise concerns and fears without retribution and promote different answers and ideas against the norm. Listening to the Banker later that evening I did wonder the truth in that. It was clear that the culture there did not allow challenge and encouraged risk based on personal reward. We had a brilliant contrasting example from the person who was the Paratroops Commander at Goose Green and his talk on leadership in crisis (The Falklands War no less) and the moral obligations of a leader to people. Although few of us will face that ultimate test there were some important messages about the morality of leadership which would ring a bell with most third sector CEOs. And as our ACEVO members face continuing challenge and as cuts bit and we have to make redundancies, how we do this will be a test for our own leadership. It is an issue I shall be raising with my members as I start the "Big Ask" tour in Manchester tomorrow.

The day ended with Sung Eucharist in the splendid St George's Chapel, sitting in the stalls of the Garter Knights (the plate behind my head was that of Emperor Hirohito). It was the Feast Day of the Conversion of St Paul, "that enterprising bigot" as he was described in the sermon. Later that evening we had a private night-time tour of the Chapel. Amazing when I saw the Long Sword of one of my ancestors (I reckon about my Great Grandfather x 20 ish). A great warrior and Leader, conqueror of the French and the Scots! Is there a leadership gene I wonder?

One of the garter stalls was cordoned off - the stall for the former Governor of the Bank of England, Lord Richardson. His obituary today was affectionately amusing as often these Obits can be. Described as one of the great City Grandees and "an aficionado of lunches and soirees". He was said to be a "man of consensus, but where preferably the last word was his". I like that definition of consensus. I follow it myself (it's a leadership thing you know!).

View from my bedroom

I talked to the Dean of Windsor over dinner. He is my type of Churchman; bemoaning the decline in Anglican standards in the pursuit of relevance. As a signed up member of the Prayer Book Society; and we are talking 1662 obviously, we had an amusing chat about modern day prayer books and the general decline of good English. Just hope he does not read my Blog!

Monday 25 January 2010

No 10 and Windsor Castle

I hate breakfast meetings. Nasty Americanism; but when it's at No: 10 with the PM and Lord Mandelson somehow you need to be there.

It was the launch of the Young Persons Guarantee and a clutch of other initiatives to support the Backing Young Britain campaign, so a range of employers as well as me,Clare Dove from Social Enterprise and Tony Hawkhead from Groundwork (both ACEVO members naturally).

I made the point that the third sector is involved in 2 crucial ways:

One because we are major employers and we have given strong backing to the guarantee and, of course were crucially involved in establishing the Future jobs Fund, which was a brainchild of my superb Policy Head, the miraculous Michell. I paid tribute to the Government for the initiative (no one bothers to give thanks at these events I find).

But secondly the sector is concerned to promote social cohesion and prevent social exclusion. I said that many communities loose out in rising unemployment; particularly the disabled, people with mental health problems and older workers. I told the array of Government Ministers present they should be really radical and extend the jobs guarantee to all workers. I think there is a economic strong case for this as well. I saw a brief nod from the Employment Minister Jim knight MP.

Also some members are reporting that the emphasis on this campaign is distracting from work to support disabled people. Leonard Cheshire have produced some startling statistics;

They have found that disabled people faced greater discrimination at work with employers more likely to make them redundant during the economic crisis than non-disabled workers.

They also uncovered high levels of poverty among disabled people with dependent children in its survey Disability and the Downturn.

Fifty-two per cent of 1,253 respondents felt that they had experienced discrimination in the workplace in the past year - an increase of 11 per cent since 2007.

And 43 per cent of respondents also reported they had been turned down for a job because of their impairment - an increase of 7 per cent since 2008.

Most shocking of all was that three-quarters of all respondents with dependent children said that they were living below the poverty line.

Disabled people who are able to work are more likely to be in temporary, part-time and vulnerable employment, the charity revealed.

Currently, the number of disabled people on low pay is 10 per cent higher than non-disabled people.

This just emphasises the need for a wider guarantee.

I'd managed a brief word with the PM over the coffee, which was as well as he then left after his introduction, leaving Peter to take over(as no doubt he would rather like permanently!). And I quipped with Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary, over the article in The Observer suggesting Cameron wants him for another five years. He looked amused - in a Mandarin sort of way!

Then it was a quick walk across Westminster Bridge to get the train to Windsor Castle; that has a certain ring about it eh! I'm there for two days for an "Annual Leadership Dialogue" organised under the auspices of St George's House, a Foundation set up by Prince Philip and the Canons of St George to promote leadership learning. This particular event is focusing on "governance, ethics and accountability". It's of great interest, not just in my executive role as a CEO, but also in my role as Chair of the Social Investment business, now responsible for managing a £450m portfolio. And I go from here to a meeting of the SIB Board where we are discussing governance and a move to establish a unitary board (non-execs and execs as in the commercial world). It also means moving from a current thirteen non execs to eight so the Chair's role will be interesting!

And good governance is at the heart of the job of any third sector CEO which is why ACEVO has such a key interest in governance reform.

One of the speakers is the former CEO of HBOS. Now that will be fascinating. Read my Blog tomorrow!

Saturday 23 January 2010


We want it! And ACEVO has even published a book on it; our country's third sector makes a huge contribution to the well being of our country. And in case you think I have got all sloppy and hippy like, let's remember that the American Constitution seeks to guarantee life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness .

I guess we are all to serious to think that one of the missions of our organisations is happiness, and I doubt it appears in many strategic plans. Anyway the dynamic Young Foundation has published a new Report on this.

The State of Happiness: Can public policy shape people’s wellbeing and resilience?

It is produced as a result of The Local Wellbeing Project ; a unique initiative designed to explore practical initiatives that improve the wellbeing and resilience of individuals and communities. It brings together the Young Foundation with three leading local authorities, Richard Layard from the London School of Economics, and the Improvement and Development Agency for local government (IDeA).

The publication draws on the experiences of the Local Wellbeing Project as well as other national and international developments in this field, and explores the implications for policy of the growing body of knowledge on wellbeing.

The report can be downloaded here free of charge.

For CEOs enabling a sense of fun at work must be one of our objectives! I hope you would find that at ACEVO!

And another HAPPY story. Get hold of a book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World.

John Wood left Microsoft and founded Room to Read after a trek through Nepal where he saw various schools and the paucity of books for the kids. They have reached 10 million kids. In 2008 they established a library every four hours and distributed a book every three minutes. So how about that for IMPACT all you bean counters!

Click here to read more.

And finally, happiness is Obama's firm action to curb the Banks greed and arrogance. Let's hope we will now follow his Lead.

Friday 22 January 2010

Pernicous Preaching

Deeply irritating day when my Head of Comms , the talented Ms McKeown points out an article in The Times written by Andy Benson , of the improbably named " National Coalition for Independent Action". ( Quite who is in this organisation is unclear or indeed who on earth it represents )

Thoroughly furious at the specious and unwarranted attacks in this, but I calm do I know that Mr Benson has not been away in a Monastery for the last year and unable to read papers or listen to newscasts , thus out of touch with what goes on in our great sector? He writes that , " most of the representative groups "( he means acevo ,navca , ncvo etc ) " have money from the Office of the Third sector so they don't criticise. When something bad happens they say , " can we afford open conflict with government."

Er , pardon ? I guess Mr Benson you were deep in your Breviary on the 24th November when the Times published a headline story on the Burnham preferred supplier u-turn and my comments denouncing this move in no uncertain terms . Perhaps he missed the subsequent case brought against the implementation of this policy to the DH Competition Panel by acevo.

The Abbot must have cleared the copy of The Times of December 29th which ran a front page story on the DH trying to consolidate the accounts of Hospital charities into the NHS accounts . I attacked this attempt to undermine their independence , and was forthright in various newscasts m including BBC News on this attempt to nationalise charity assets . So Mr Benson , note the strong defence of Independence by acevo and how when its threatened we are upfront with our criticism . Where were you on this issue Mr Benson , or do you just write about independence, as opposed to doing anything about it? Or , being charitable , perhaps you forgot to post your letter to Mr Burnham when you were at your Devotions ?

And we have just had clarification from DH that ,following acevo's trenchant critique and comments they are going to put the whole idea on hold for further discussion and review of the governance of the charities. So acevo not only sticks up for independence when it matters but does something about it . And it is worth pointing out that acevo recieves a strategic grant directly from DH for work we do with the Department . It does not , has not and will not ,confine our right to criticise.

Perhaps Mr Benson has no access to the Internet or he would have read my Blog . Not that I'm suggesting its compulasory ! So not seen the somewhat forceful comments on various government iniquities ; wimpishness on Banks for example , or discourtesy from Chancellors and failure to act on gift aid" .

The idea that acevo stays silent on issues that affect its membership is laughable. Bubb silent? Hardly!

The article attacks contracting for service delivery , indeed apparently they are " sapping the life out of the voluntary sector ". Preposterous. What contracts are doing is enabling thousands of charities to deliver much needed services to our citizens and communities . The meals on wheals service of the WRVS , providing care and supp rot for lonely and vulnerable [people in every locality) . The work of the great disability charities , providing help and support , training and jobs to thousands , the big addiction charities working to save lives. Marie Curie and Macmillan nurses providing succour and comfort to the dying. Crisis providing shelter for the homeless . Turning Point working with deeply vulnerable young people the county over ( Victor Adebowale hardly a shrinking violet when it comes to Government policy ). The Children's Society supporting thousands of children but publishing a survey deeply critical of Government . Barnadoes working with difficult youth and Martin Narey forthright denunciation of Government policy on treatment of the children of asylum seekers. Yes , there are flaws in contracts , and acevo has done a superb job working with Government to improve and develop better commissioning . I'm very proud of the work acevo members do with contracts to deliver public services. Strangly Mr Benson does not once mention the needs of beneficiaries in his theological rant on the independence of the sector.

Then , shudder me timbers , the extraordinary claim that " when we talk to people in charities 95% agree with our views". Amazing . What survey was that exactly ? Was that the one you did on your annual Christmas visit to the Dog and Duck , carried out on an entirely random sample at closing time . Or a random sample atop the 88 bus?

He ends by praising community organisations as a " national treasure " so at least something is right in this diatribe . But so too are the great national charities fulfilling their historic role to bring support and help to their beneficiaries . They want to see more contracting with the sector . And acevo . as their representative body , will continue to push for that .

And I shall continue to work with Government to promote better services , give praise where it is due and slap wrists when they need correction . We believe in kicking arse where that is neexded but only to effect change . Generalised whinging , unsupported by evidence but motivated by bile has no place in the third sector . So Mr Benson , confine your preaching . It is not wanted here.

I can't remember my Dante's Purgatorio , but is there a place in purgatory for scribblers of pernicous tales? Anyway , a trip to your confessor . I wont dare suggest the penance ,but a reading of the entire last 9 years collected works of Bubb might be in order !

Recession Summit and Tory Summit

It's Thursday and the quarterly Recession Summit at NCVO. As it's on the recession I put on my brightest tie (Duchamp naturally), and when I say bright we are talking in your face orange sunflowers. I notice Mr Lottery, the great Peter Wanless, is also in a Duchamp tie, but his is elegant and understated as befits a former senior civil servant!

The tie was to emphasise my view that the future is bright for our sector. The decade ahead will see growth and expansion , even against cuts and gloom.

I make a contribution on public services and our growing delivery role. I suggest that we will see a dramatic increase in delivery through third sector organisations and therefore a major growth of the sector.

But to be effective we need:

  • access to investment funds
  • a Social Investment bank
  • more collaborative ventures and consortia
  • more partnerships- both with each other and with the private sector
  • capacity building and infrastructure development
  • asset transfers from the State
  • a Community Reinvestment Act to mobilise commercial finance.
I said the evidence of the Futurebuilders Fund is that demand rose rapidly last year and loans are rising significantly.

I also said it poses challenges for the sector. Do we "gear up or whinge up". Do we rise to challenges through partnerships and alliances and consortia working.

Stuart made the interesting point that whilst agreeing delivery will increase, will there be more relabeling, rather than sector delivery i.e as happened in local government leisure facilities being effectively rebranded as social enterprises.

There was also discussion on how the recession had seen a big rise in volunteering and the challenge is finding strong and meaningful volunteering opportunities to meet that demand.

John Low from CAF reports interestingly that they have had some large philanthropic donations out of recent Bonuses. That's an excellent sign. Though I'm still waiting on the news from the British Bankers Association on their advice to all bonus getters to GIVE.

And we ended with a salutary reminder from Belinda Pratten at NCVO that if Government sorted irrecoverable VAT and Gift Aid that would bring in an extra £1.25 billion to the sector. Now that's an agenda for change. And Yes we can!

One of the most useful things about these Summits, and this was the third, is the analysis that Karl Wilding provides on how the recession is impacting. Evidence of a lag but also a sector coping and rising to challenges. It was ever thus.

Took a call from Nick Hurd MP about our upcoming Tory Summit and I spent the afternoon in a teleconference meeting with colleagues in the Community Alliance, NACVA, NCVO etc on the upcoming Tory Summit ACEVO are organising. A great discussion; we agree fantastic opportunity for us all to row together. It's great for the sector to showcase the potential of our growing service delivery - both to benefit our clients and to provide cost effective solutions for public spending. We will put the emphasis on practitioners, on the CEOs who do the delivery so know the potential and the challenge.

Then off to a roundtable at Tribal, our strategic partner, under the intriguing title of "Learning from Local Government". Yes, I know but it was fascinating. Not only did I have the pleasure of meeting David Fielding but his Director of Research, David Welsh, and his other colleagues Barry Honah, a finance guru, and his Chief Executive, Julie Towers. Amongst others attending were Helen Bailey HMT, David Henshaw, NHS Northwest, Lorraine Langham, OFSTED and Barbara Moorehouse, Department of Transport. Helen Bailey is one of HMT top officials there so a chance to talk turkey on cuts. Then as a reward it was onto the Charlotte St Hotel for dinner. I had lamb shank so I could take the bone back for the Hound. In fact I took my neighbour's bone too. The wine was pleasant but no champagne. Times are hard!

Thursday 21 January 2010

Yes, its true; we do have more Impact!

Every so often we beat ourselves up about our "evidence base". We bemoan the lack of statistics that show the impact third sector service delivery makes. How more cost effective it is. How much better at delivering personal , client focused service. But we know its true. It's obvious and its commonsense, so don't give in to the accountants who wants us to measure everything.

But dear David Brindle rides to the rescue in Guardian Society this week. In a brilliant and humorous Leader he writes,

"Finally, we have it: pilot-tested, fully costed, independently evaluated, cast-iron evidence that investment in preventive social care services more than pays for itself in savings to the NHS . For every £1 spent on such services to support older people, hospitals save £1.20 in spending on emergency beds. Official."

He goes on to say:

"Now there can be absolutely no excuse, whether for not starting to collaborate across the great divide between health and social care or for chopping preventive services as an early response to the coming public expenditure squeeze.

As the Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, said on Monday at the launch of the research evidence, it made "a powerful and persuasive argument for putting prevention first – not first out the door".

We all know that public spending will be cut. Hospital care is hugely expensive. If we expand on third sector provision of community care and support , as well as our work on prevention we can help cut spending and improve services. A spectacular offer.

Wednesday started, as it always does , with a meeting of my Director's Group. 2 meaty items; our renewed Leadership Development offer and our budget. We have a new PD Head, Julia Richards who is based in Leeds. She has been talking to members about how we ensure our Professional development courses and support can aid CEOs in challenging times. No one is going to be signing up for expensive courses on airy fairy subjects beloved by trainers. They want practical support when they have difficult decisions to make.

So we will be offering some interesting, and cutting edge programmes that do that.I've signed up for one on NLP (of course you know what that is don't you!)

And of course ACEVO is in the unique position that it focuses all it does on the CEO. It's brazenly elitist. And rightly so. David Cameron would approve!

Then a fantastic meeting with Said Ahmad, the CEO of the Muslim Agency for Development and Enterprise (MADE!). They are keen to promote cross cultural learning and they have programmes to encourage Muslim Youth to get involved in mainstream campaigning and not just issues affecting only Muslim communities. For example they teamed up with Christian Aid to take a group of young people to Copenhagen to lobby at the doomed Climate Summit. They are also campaigning in their own community to get scholars and leaders to recognise the problem of maternal mortality; it is very much higher in Muslim countries and not being tackled because of what are perceived to be religious difficulties in talking about such an issue. It was a rewarding and fascinating discussion and Saif is a persuasive and effective leader. He is going to come and speak at ACEVO's faith CEO special interest group.

An evening at home (unusual) and we guiltily eat a lasagne as I notice the rating on the packet indicates I should be avoiding a high sugar meal. My Deputy, the estimable Dr Kyle, has been supervising my eating habits and checking up on my non adherence to proper nutrition and I am becoming paranoid about those lovely charts they have on packaging these days. No bad thing, of course. It's all about prevention. David Brindle would approve.

Wednesday 20 January 2010

DCLG, Sir Rodney

Now a Third Sector Partnership Board at the Communities and Local Government Department may not exactly excite - but yesterdays meeting of the Board was fascinating. A brilliant demonstration of how great our sector can be. There are a range of third sector bodies represented from community representatives to bodies like ACEVO and the Social Enterprise Coalition, Urban Forum , NAVCA etc.

The meeting was with various Ministers ; Barbara Follet MP in the Chair and all of the DCLG Directors Board led by the impressive Peter Housden, the Permanent Secretary.

I'm afraid I'm rather fearing disciplinary action as Angela Smith , the Third Sector Minister, pointed out that I made an entire speech on capacity building and investment without once mentioning the Social Investment Bank. I hang my head in shame.

It was an engaging and lively discussion around how the third sector can help develop better communities and in delivering more citizen focused services. Steve Wyler, the fantastic CEO of the important Development Trusts Association (ACEVO member naturally), made a presentation on steps to move from a "spending" approach to the growth of our sector to an "investment" approach. This looks at investment as a range of funding approaches from grants to loans and bonds. A development approach rather than one based on patronage.

Toby Blume, who is a really engaging and innovative CEO (ACEVO member naturally) made an impassioned speech about how we need better banking and financial services industry that enable communities , particularly more excluded or deprived communities to access finance and capital. The example he gave of how effective the Community Reinvestment Act in the States had been was instructive. For every $1 of finance invested in a community enterprise there has been a return of $27.

It echoes the speech of the CEO of Deutche Bank who has said that their CRA investments in the States have been less risky than others and have brought good returns. The work of Futurebuilders and the Adventure Capital Fund (now the Social Investment Business ) have amply demonstrated the power of investment loans as a way of growing the sector - whether at a local or community level or with national social enterprises and charities.

How do we harness all this talent and enterprise there is in local communities and amongst national third sector bodies to deliver a more effective civil society in each of our localities. I shall be blogging on Friday about an exciting initiative that ACEVO is launching with a local authority to set up a Commission to examine the strategic role the third sector can play.

And a nice end to the day when I am taken out for dinner by David Fielding, Tribal, Head Hunter by appointment to The Sector, together with Sir Rodney Brooke. Rodney is a friend and mentor and an old Boss of mine when I worked at the Association of Metropolitan Authorities. He has had a distinguished career in local Government; former CEO of Westminster and West Yorks Metropolitan and now Chairs various important quangos and sector bodies.

And we have much in common - an appreciation of fine wine , Opera and weapons grade gossip. Lots of people dissected over dinner and a fine Chablis Premier Cru (Fielding was not getting away with any old Sauvignon Blanc!).

In my view it is essential for any Leader to have a mentor. I have always had one - indeed for some time I had two! Acevo encourages its members to have mentors and we have a scheme for this. In a CEO job a mentor is an important support mechanism in what can be a lonely job.

As we eat I bemoan the news that Kraft are taking over Cadburys. Shocking. This great British company have for decades operated a real corporate social responsibility policy and have over a century tradition of philanthropy. Their strong Quaker tradition is enshrined in the way they relate to communities and to the staff they employ. They give part of their profits away, not as a crude PR exercise dreamt up by PR Departments (one thinks of Goldman Sachs) but because of their company philosophy. We need more companies like Cadburys, not less.

So we loose it to a crude profit driven American company who will milk the assets, as they have done with Terrys, and dumb down the products whilst ignoring the philanthropic and corporate social responsibility ethos of Cadburys.

Well I for one will be boycotting Kraft products. No Dairy Lee and those revolting cheese spread things that come in nasty plastic containers (ugh ) in any of the Third Sector please!

And finally, I do enjoy the Matt Little column on the back page of Third Sector magazine. A most amusing story about my Blog appears. See below:

Rolande Anderson, the new director general of the Office of the Third Sector, made one of her first public appearances at the parliamentary reception of chief executives body Acevo last week. She'd been told, she related in a mini-speech, that you knew you'd arrived in the sector when you were mentioned in Stephen Bubb's blog - and that honour had in fact been bestowed upon her the previous week, when the uber-networking Acevo chief lauded her for actively seeking the OTS appointment.

Actually, you know you've really arrived in the sector when you've been mentioned in the blog of Bubb's doppleganger Robin Bogg, probably under the pseudonym Roulade Andropov. A treat in store.

Yes, it is so true: to have really arrived in our sector you need to appear in my Blog!

Monday 18 January 2010

Haiti and Tory Summit

The horrifying pictures from Haiti and the devastation of the earthquake have moved us all. What I thought brought it really home was that photo of someone tossing a babies body into the burial pit. We should all be generous and donate to the DEC appeal;

Such calamities demonstrate the strength and power of our UK third sector. I am proud to say that there are many ACEVO members amongst the leading NGOs who sprang into action. DEC is a brilliant example of how major charities can work together. It is not just through mergers that we can garner the benefits of partnership.

And DEC is wonderfully led by the great Brendan Gormley, ACEVO member. The ACEVO team wish him and all those involved in the effort to bring aid to those in Hiati well in the coming weeks and months ahead.

Good to see the Prime Minister visiting DEC. Brendan is a neighbour of mine in David Cameron's constituency of West Oxfordshire.

And that leads me neatly into a recent speech of DC. He said,

"He wanted to run a Government that allowed the voluntary sector to lead the way in enterprise and the public sector. He said: “The voluntary sector is referred to as the Third Sector but I think it should be the first. “Why do we limit what our voluntary sector can do? If they want to run state schools, drug units or lead the reform of prisoners they should be able to do that. “I would like to run a government that is more ambitious about what the voluntary sector can bring.”

Apart from the " first sector" reference ( I guess he is unaquainted with the doctrine of the Co-equal Trinity ) he is spot on. I really welcome this outstanding commitment to the role of our sector in service delivery.

What we need to hear is whether Labour support this or not. Once I hoped they were as keen- but the Burnham debacle throws doubt on that. So perhaps time for a major speech from the PM along the same lines. I know he is a great believer in our sector. Let's hear it clearer.

Readers of The Blog will know we have been waiting for a response to the letter to the Chancellor that 260 CEOs wrote on how to make cost effective cuts to public spending through more sector delivery.

I am pleased to say that on Friday afternoon I received a letter from Oliver Letwin who wrote,

"I am writing to say that my colleagues, George Osborne, Francis Maude, Philip Hammond, Nick Hurd and I would very much welcome a high-level summit on these issues – which we regard as central to the delivery of more for less in public services and, hence, as a national priority over coming years.

I hope that I need hardly add that we also believe that the opportunity to apply the principle of payment by results in a wide range of public service delivery through competitive tenders – for example, in relation to our Get Britain Working programme, our Rehabilitation Revolution and in public health – offers the prospect of major improvements in public services and, at the same time, huge prospects for third sector organisations to deliver those improvements."

I replied immediately to accept this offer. We will hold this jointly with our colleagues in ncvo, the Social Enterprise Coalition, the Community Alliance and NAVCA ( Kevin was one of the signatories of the letter).

We are now working with a number of the signatories to the letter on how best to present case studies on what we can achieve. Rather than focusing on the abstract I want to showcase the work that members are already doing in delivering more cost effective serivces and how, with support, we can expand this role.

When I met Oliver he was very interested in the idea of social impact bonds which the Social Investment Business and Social Finance have been investigating. This would be a major way we could bridge the finance gap before payment by results ( which is a key part of tory policy ) are paid.

This is potentially exciting. I have always believed our sector can regain its role as a major provider of community and citizen focused services. We have begun this journey over the last decade. The next decade will , I suspect , see a boom in provision from efficient and ambitious third sector bodies led by a band of dedicated and enterprising Leaders .

And finally, pictures of flooded charlbury. So this is where all that snow went. What was once the River Evenlode is now a lake. More rain and it will be over the bridge as it was some 2 years back. But such calamaties do not eveb begin to register against the disaster unfolding in Haiti.

Friday 15 January 2010

Good for Simon Jenkins!

As he wrote In the Guardian recently ,

"There will be a tidal wave of rage. Over the next 2 weeks the executives of the leading British banks will announce that some £50bn is to be taken from accumulated profits and handed over, not to shareholders or taxpayers, but to themselves. It will be the most outrageous contempt of democratic authority in modern times ".

That just about sums it up. And the Banks and their Bankers Association will complain and whine if anyone so much as has the temerity to question their greed and arrogance.

At least Goldman Sachs has has the sense to realise this is a PR disaster for them and has told all those getting bonuses they must donate part to charity. Good for them. I hope they go further and suggest a tithe of every bonus ( that's a biblical 10% ). We would be happy to work with them on where best to direct money and how to demonstrate back to the givers the impact their gift has made.

And perhaps the British Bankers Association might spend less time attacking governments and the public for daring to even criticise this "business as usual" , approach and encourage all those receiving bonuses to follow the Goldman example. So Angela , how about it?

In the meantime our campaign to ensure Better Banking must gather pace and strength. We need to ensure banking reform is centre stage in Party Manifestos.

The new proposals from Obama in the States for a fee to ensure the banks pay the taxpayers back is something we need to consider here.

I am really keen also on the campaign of London Citizens
who are trying to persuade those executives about to receive their huge bonus pot to look at their own staffing and to ensure that their cleaners and receptionists are on a living wage. They are not.

You might think that the Banks would consider the welfare of all their staff, not just the richest minority. If there is money to distribute in bonuses- what about those at the bottom of the pile as well as those at the top? ACEVO is a member of the living wage campaign. Every third sector organisation should be.

Good news : the Conservatives are very interested in the ideas we have made on public spending cuts and we are in the process of arranging meetings etc. We are also in touch with the Lib Dems.

I met a group of members who make up Faith Action which is a collective of faith organisations involved in service delivery. We met in Canada Tower , the UK's tallest building , 100.000 people work in Canary Wharf and we had a presentation from the organisation that runs the place! And you read it here; they have some very cheap accomodation (c£6 psf ) they are offering to charities on a temporary basis- ideal for a project or a short term move so if you are an ACEVO member looking for space short term e-mail me!

It was a good discussion: I spoke about the strong faith impulse behind much service provision and of course the history of the running of hospitals and schools in this country is that many of these were established by faith charities. We agreed that the imminent spending cuts may offer an opportunity if governments look at radical ways of delivering services differently but that there is a real danger that cuts will hurt many sector bodies and we will be expected to deliver services cheaply.

I ended the day at Lancaster House celebrating the work of the government's Equalities Office and the achievement in getting more diverse appointments to public bodies .

Thursday 14 January 2010

AGMs and Carrying on!

A sinking feeling as I opened the curtains to see a new blanket of snow; admittedly very pretty! Will anyone come to our ACEVO AGM? What idiot decided to put on an AGM in January me thought before remembering...

I get my first apology just minutes later. David Fitzpatrick who says that half an inch of snow in Herts and the transport system has collapsed. He suggests ,

"How about a new ACEVO campaign? - now that Iceland is bankrupt, we invite the 300,000 odd inhabitants to come to run our transport systems?? Bound to be a winner."

But warming to my theme for my AGM speech " Keep Calm and Carry On " I soon rally. I introduce our Impact Report for 2009. See it here.

The year has been dominated by the Recession. ACEVO was, as always , quick off the mark in launching a recession website- which we did for the whole of the sector on the back of a very good financial outturn last year. And we were there to support individual members in trouble- we saw a doubling of people accessing our special one to one advice and legal services. Some members lost their jobs when their organisations folded . The wonderful Civic Trust was one well known example.

The core of ACEVO is the comradeship of the CEO network. We quoted a member in our report who said, no journey is too long in the company of a good companion" so part of our task is to run courses and events and conferences to support members and their leadership development.

We ran a staggering 160 events during the year. Such events and attracted 4500 people. And unlike many other national umbrella bodies, had 75 of these events around the UK and not in London . That is a phenomenal 45 % of the total.

And ACEVO continues to play a leading role in shaping and influencing national policy. Perhaps the greatest triumph was the Future Jobs Fund that was developed by James Purnell MP with ACEVO as a result of work done by my fabulous and 2 brained Head of Policy Ralph Michell. (Pictured here after an interview with Icelandic TV )

And as a demonstration that you can be both highly independent and work with Governmnet I emphasised our campaign against Burnham's u-turn on commissioning and the purloining of hospital charity assets.

I paid tribute to a great staff team and stunningly talented directors group. We have but 40 staff yet what we achieve for and with our members is tremendous. And as we were at the Commons I also used a qoute from a former radical reforming Tory PM; Benjamin Disraeli , who said

" What we anticipate seldom occurs ; what we least expect generally happens. "

So whatever economists , politicians and pundits are predicting for 2010 let's take it all with a pinch of salt but continue to " Keep Calm and Carry on ".

2 new members of the ACEVO trustee board were announced. Simon Hepburn who runs the Advisory Centre for Education and chairs ACEVO BME special interest group. Srabani Sen is the CEO of Contact a Family. I knew her many years back when we both worked in the AMA !

We also launched our Annual Employee Benefits survey at the annual Parliamentray reception. We do this survey with Foster denovo every year and it gives members great benchmarking information on things like pensions, insurance cover and sickness benefits as well as leave , hours of work and the like. Worryingly the survey reveals that only 47% of members have a strategy in place to cope with the changes that come into force with the 2012 Pensions Act implementation.

Nick Aldridge, chief executive of MissionFish and former deputy chief executive of ACEVO

What was really reassuring was that despite the weather we had over 100 mebers at the Commons. 200 had signed up but given the snow and transport havoc not to have a bigger fall out was grand. CEOs of the big charities, social enterprises, community organisations, 2 dames and a knight...a grerat representation of our marvellous sector. And bearing in mind many sector AGMs hardly attract any people.

And a great sprinkling of grandees and politicians at the Parliamentary reception afterwards. Liam Byrne, chief Secretary at the Trerasury gave a brilliant 5 minute econium to ACEVO. He said not a month goes by without governmnet drawing on work and advice from ACEVO. The new Director of OTS, Rolanda Anderson spoke and even mentioned my Blog! Well well !

Sam Coates, Special Advisor to David Cameron MP

The weather is playing havoc with my diary: indeed for the last 3 days I have actually had to go out and purchase my own lunch. I am now acquainted with the ACEVO kitchen's microwave, much to staff amusement and irritation as they have to wait for me to prepare my bangers and mash ( yes I know, not good for me, but it is so cold).

And finally, I see NCVO are advertising for a new Chair, someone with superb communication skills...I wonder...

Wednesday 13 January 2010

No 10 and Blackberry Blessings...

At No 10 yesterday morning - and who said I am not discrete in my blogs so I'm not revealing who I met or what we talked about...but it was great to be sitting in the State rooms under a gorgeous portrait of Lord Byron. And amusing as I was leaving to meet various Cabinet Ministers coming out of yesterday's political Cabinet. I walked out with a couple and joked I was expecting at least one, if not 2 Chapters on the Third Sector in the Labour Manifesto! We were very successful for the 2005 manifesto- even if Andy Burnham is busy breaking one of the pledges ( I managed to avoid bumping into him : it would have been too embarrassing! )

Which brings me neatly to the Tories. You would have thought they would be mounting an attack on the " preferred supplier" u turn. We have been in touch with Andrew Lansley MP , their spokesperson on health but so far he has done nothing on this. Indeed my Deputy, Dr Kyle, was meeting him yesterday to talk about this, turned up in the room booked only to find Lansley had cancelled and not even told him.

So could we please clarify Tory policy on this? Will they immediately cancel the Burnham policy if they take over? We need clarity Andrew so if you cannot make a meeting at least a firm letter that makes clear what you will do will suffice. No fudging on what is a fundamental issue for the sector. We expect you to restore a competitive policy where you encourage sector delivery.

And another irritation from that quango The Commission for Skills. A big advert in today's papers from them with an " Open Letter to Employers" signed by 10 employer Leaders, Brendan Barber, Small business federation etc. But not one single person from the third sector. Not me or Stuart. Despite the fact we employ 1.3 m staff. Deliver huge services. Engage the community and develop cohesion and have an economic power of some £130bl pa. Amazing. And inept.

But of course the Commission , like so many, just see the stereotype of the sector. Just charities. Volunteers. Working at the margins and to be patronised rather than taken seriously. So a sharp letter is on its way to the offending CEO. It is crucial we work to challenge stereotypes and assert the power and strength of our sector whenever we can.

It is something I will touch on when I talk at our ACEVO AGM at the Commons today. I have been working on the speech and praying we don't have snow to keep people away. Our AGM always attracts big audiences- some 300 last year. It's a mark of how members see their organisation and its role promoting CEO leadership. We will also be announcing the election of 2 new trustees. And the electorate have chosen well! 2 great sector leaders. More on this soon.

And finally, so good to read in the Times about the Blessing of the Blackberries at St Lawrence Jewry in the City yesterday. The first Monday after the Epiphany is traditionally Plough Monday ; when farmers brought their ploughs to church to be blessed. So in an updated service we read that the Lord Mayor of London had his Blackberry processed and laid on the High Altar. And blessed. Though hopefully not drenched in Holy Water or censed!

And let me leave you with the Rev Canon Parrott's blessing:

" May our tongues be gentle, our e-mails be simple and our websites be accessible ".

Amen to that !

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Oliver, Liam and James

Always important in running a third sector organisation to show balance; so it was breakfast with Oliver Letwin MP closely followed by coffee with Liam Byrne MP. Both politicians with huge intellects and vision. It is always a pleasure to deal with politicians who share a commitment to what the third sector can achieve and are keen to harness the strength of our great sector to deliver change. And despite the fact they are on different sides of the barricade , they have similar views on the potential of our sector in reforming public services.

It is only a shame that Liam is let down by others in Labour who have not understood what our sector can achieve. Liam , in particular can be credited with the announcement of the Social Investment Bank in the November PBR which is a landmark development for the third sector.

On public service reform Labour has lost its way in a fruitless chase for a core voter and union pleasing strategy a la Burnham. The signal failure of the Chancellor to engage with the sector in how we can take a bigger delivery role in providing more cost effective services or do anything on gift aid has been surprising and shocking.

Conversely the Tories are committed to our role expanding significantly. However if the Tories have a clearer picture of our delivery role I am not certain they yet understand our fundamental change agent and campaigning role. So yes, we want to deliver more but we will also continue to campaign; we want action to cut re offending and we want action on the causes of crime too. We may run soup kitchens for the homeless but we demand Government act on the reason people are homeless in the first place.

Will the conservatives be as comfortable with our strident voice as they are with our delivery? We will never be just simple organs for state delivery. We will often be uncomfortable bedfellows. We will " bite the hand that feeds us" as Ed Miliband MP once memorably said . I have yet to hear that from the Conservatives. The Victorians liked their children to be seen and not heard. We will not just be seen but we will be heard as well.

So this election period is a grand opportunity for our sector to test and examine the different approaches, and to put forward our own unique approach to helping deliver a cohesive society and a better economy.

And if you have not seen it, you must read a compelling article by James Purnell in the Guardian yesterday. Read it here.

James is someone who very clearly understands what civil society and third sector organisations can achieve. Good to see him at the forefront of thinking about how the Labour party must move forward in pushing progressive politics.

He argues , correctly, that the state cannot replace society. " We need more powerful individuals and a more reciprocal society....the powerless need to take their power. That will only be done by organising people to act together ...we need to move from talking about choice to giving people power and expecting them to take it. "

It is interesting how both parties are courting the politics of community and localism. This is again a great opportunity for our sector as today we are core to any effecive strategy to develop more community cohesion, joined up services and voice for the marginalised.

It's our AGM and Parliamentary Reception on Wednesday- some 250 CEOs signed up and snow permitting will be there. Exciting times. Challenging times if also worrying as we face the continuing recession and coming spending cuts.

Monday 11 January 2010

Better Banking and snowy Charlbury

So the weekend papers confirm the Banks are back to business as usual as far as bonuses are concerned. A slap in the face for the British public who bailed them out in hard times. It's difficult to imagine such arrogance.

And a reminder of how bad our banks are was Saturday's R4 Money box which revealed how tardy they are being at introducing faster banking. For most people who make a transfer of money it still takes the Banks 3 days to make the transfer- and keeping the interest they make on this for themselves.

So bad customer care helps line the pockets of financiers. It's our money that fund their bonuses. Just as they are disgracefully pocketing dormant assets and dragging their feet on handing them over to fund a Social Investment Bank.

In many industries you might find a bonus linked to better delivery for customers. Sadly not in our banking industry.

Well time for action. Time for citizens and communities to demand better banking.

The problem of financial exclusion- the lack of fair access to financial services and credit to those who deserve it- is a big worry for the third sector: it increases poverty levels amongst the lowest-income groups, which has a huge negative impact on those struggling with debt, poor housing, old age, ill-health, physical and mental disabilities, and social exclusion. Because third sector funds are spent helping those affected by these issues, financial exclusion indirectly drains millions from third sector funds. Further, it also directly impacts on third sector organisations and small businesses serving or operating in less wealthy communities, because they themselves cannot access sufficient funds.

To address the issue, we are campaigning for full financial disclosure by financial institutions, a cap on unfair credit rates for those who cannot afford them and obligations on banks to demonstrate that all who merit it have fair and equal access to credit.

To find out more, and pledge your support, visit our website, or email campaign coordinator Lucy Marples:

Now let me leave you with pictures of gorgeous Charlbury in the snow. We had some proper deep snow. The Hound loved it!

Friday 8 January 2010

A member speaks, and time to act on Gift Aid.

I thought it was worth reproducing a comment from the CEO of one of the country's largest and most respected charities, the WRVS. Lynne has been blogging about the disgrace of the Burnham reversal of reforms in DH.

As she says:

"But what’s worrying many of us in the third sector is that it seems to be part of a trend. On the one hand, DH and the wider Government talk about partnership and the encouragement of the third sector - but then guidance is issued (or proposed) that seems to give precedence to the interests of the NHS over any sort of partnership agreement. Whether it’s about volunteering and the control of volunteers managed by third sector bodies; whether it’s decisions to take on the apparently profit making aspects of third sector activities in hospitals and communities; whether it’s the DH appearing to go after charitable funds in direct conflict with the requirements of the Charity Commission and Charity Law – it all seems to express a fundamental lack of understanding of the independent rights and accountabilities of third sector bodies. And it really does feel as though the Third Sector is not yet taken seriously . "

This sums up well the feeling amongst members working in Health and Social care. It is a great shame that Labour is squandering the goodwill it has built up over the last decade.

And it is not simply in health there is this lack of interest. As I blogged yesterday the Chancellor has shown scant attention to the letter from 260 sector CEOs offering to engage in talks on sensible public spending cuts.

But the Government has a chance to show commitment by tackling Gift Aid and making changes on higher rate .

Lindsay Boswell (the great CEO of the Institute of Fundraising) and I have written to Treasury with the following demands,

" We are writing to ask that you:

•set a clear timetable for the forum’s consideration of Gift Aid reform options, starting as soon as possible in January 2010 and ending ahead of the 2010 Budget;

•enable us to engage with you productively on Gift Aid reform by specifying a small number of options that you are prepared to consider, thereby moving us on from the current position of being ‘open to all options’. Given the extensive evidence base we now have on the three options for reforming higher-rate Gift Aid detailed in your recently-published research, we would suggest these should be the options we narrow the discussion down to.

Without a clear steer from you on the two above points, we fear it would be difficult for us to work together with you in the productive process of engagement that we would hope for."

Frankly we have had two years of unproductive discussion on Gift Aid and without a clear response to these points we will not be engaging in a charade of further pointless discussion. The sector faces significant funding difficulties. Gift Aid reform would be a huge benefit for us in meeting the increased demand from all our beneficiaries. Last year it netted £1bn for charities so it is a hugely important source of support. Ensuring the Gift Aid scheme covers all the tax for higher rate tax payers would be a huge boost at a time of great demand.

Snow and Search!

The recent inclement weather led to various gaps opening up in my Diary this week as people cancelled meetings and visits. Interestingly these were sometime replaced with telephone calls or conference calls for meetings. I'm a great fan of the use of telephone conferencing; it is so much more efficient and saves time and money (not to mention the carbon footprint saving!).

The prolonged cold spell and snow should remind us of the huge value and importance of the third sector. The thousands of staff and volunteers of the WRVS for example, (the splendid Lynne Berry CEO and ACEVO member) who are doing sterling work supporting isolated and vulnerable old people in their homes, or the work of carers (ACEVO member Imelda Redmond, CBE, CEO of Carers UK), who will be battling to ensure care is provided come what may.

Just a shame that the media cover all the work of the statutory authorities but hardly touch on the work of volunteers and the many charity and community organisations that help ensure life carries on.

As Lynne Berry says in her recent Blog, " we’ve been out there maintaining services for older people throughout the country, supporting the emergency services, getting essential supplies to people living on their own and mobilising the strengths of communities to act together and deal with whatever gets thrown at them (and that’s not just been snowballs, lately). "

Whether we have snow or no, climate change is happening and we must take action on it. Following the Copenhagen disaster we will need to ensure more direct action ourselves and the third sector has an important role to play itself. The sector is involved whether as big players like RSPB or the wildlife trust to BTCV and the Green Alliance. But we all consume energy and as employers need to do more to cut carbon emissions. We are investigating how we do more with our CEOs to promote good practise.

One of the sector Greats to be knighted in the New Years Honours was Graham Wynne, CEO of the RSPB. Sir Graham is retiring so there is a great CEO post to fill if you have the interest and skill. And David Fielding of Tribal, head hunter extraordinaire is in charge of the search. And if you don't fancy that there is the CEO of Tree Aid , an international NGO , which is also vacant and where David is conducting the search. So he moves on from his recent assignments with the new CEOs for Scope and Guide Dogs ... a chap worth chatting too if your ambitious! And certainly not worth falling out with (not to mention that he is a world champion in Aikido)!

The RSPB is a good example of just how important the sector is today in engaging citizens and contributing to well being and conservation . They have 1 Million members ; which makes their membership bigger than all the three political parties, 13,500 volunteers, 1,300 staff and 200 nature reserves .

Anyway its off to wonderful snow swept Charlbury - I'm running low on logs but Ill survive!

Thursday 7 January 2010

Discourteous Chancellors and Burnham (again)

Another example of the Burnham folly of "prefered supplier" comes to light. The Guardian report today that an abstinence based alcohol treatment course has had to be shut down because the Notts PCT have not renewed funding in the light of the Burnham policy.

I'm glad to say the organisation (UK Advocates) is not taking this lightly and will be taking judicial review. Good for them.

We are now getting news from members that PCTs are ready jumping the gun to implement the Burnham public sector first policy and not use third sector providers. We have letters now to this effect. We will be using this as evidence to get the policy challenged and changed.

What I find inexplicable is that the PM says he wants to take public sector reform wider and deeper but in the NHS its been taken backwards.

I have a meeting with Liam Byrne MP on Monday. A great Minister and a strong reformer. I want to explore this further, as well as talking about how we achieve banking reform and a Social Investment Bank.

And I will be raising the strange case of the discourtesy of the Chancellor.

On December 1st myself and 260 Third Sector CEOs wrote to the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, to suggest that the third sector could play a major role in helping reform public finances by offering more cost effective and customer focused services. We proposed a summit to bring together CEOs and key ministers and civil servants ot discuss how we could do this.

Now given the state of the public finances you might think an offer to help reduce public spending would be grabbed with both arms? You might think that when key leaders of the third sector write on a matter of national importance it would be taken seriously?

But no. It is not. We have heard nothing. Not a peep. Not even the courtesy of an acknowledgement, let alone a reply. And when my Office chase it up with HMT we are told it is going to be passed onto Stephen Timms MP as, presumably, it is to unimportant for the Chancellor and Stephen looks after charity things. So discourtesy is compounded with being patronised.

I wonder how many private sector CEOs it would take for Alistair to respond to them personally ?5? 20? 260?

We are often concerned in the sector that we hear more rhetoric on the importance of what we do than the actual reality of involvement. This is but a sad example of the gap. So Alistair, if this does not interest you, I know people who are...

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Wise thoughts for the year ahead and Burnham again!

There is a wonderful new book "Keep Calm and Carry On" which contains "wise advice for hard times".

Two thoughts are particularly apposite for Sector CEOs.

"There is no education like adversity".
Benjamin Disraeli.

And the wisdom of the ancients from Horace:

"Adversity has the effect of eliciting talents which, in prosperous circumstances, would have lain dormant ".

These eloquently make the point that there are opportunities for our sector in the year ahead if we grasp them. And we will!

This was a point I stressed to Rolande Anderson when I met her yesterday. She is the new Head of the OTS, replacing Campbell Robb who is now CEO of Shelter (and an ACEVO member naturally). It was good to hear that Rolande actively sought the OTS job as she saw the potential and challenge of it!

And good to have a one to one with one of ACEVO's new members, Simon Antrobus, recently appointed as the CEO of Addaction - a great charity working on the serious issues of addiction in our society. Currently with a turnover of 40m and 1200 staff it's an important player in this crucial area of work. He stressed their worry about the Burnham anti sector policy as some 90% of their income comes from contracts. Any attempt to row back contracts from our sector and place them in house will be disastrous for them. And he stressed that the contracts they have won from the public sector have been transformational. He said in Cambridgeshire, where they took over a service from the NHS, they have radically improved services and raised productivity. This illustrates the folly of the Burnham stance - he is ignoring the huge potential for improving services and creating greater efficiency by this sop to the unions' approach.

Simon also Chaired the Centre for Social justice's National Inquiry into Youth Crime and Gangs which reported last year.

I was able to tell Simon the good news yesterday when we heard that the DH Competition Panel have accepted our complaint about anti competitive behaviour by the Great Yarmouth PCT, following the Burnham U turn on preferred supplier and will investigate it. All strength to their arm. The Panel is part of DH so we have to hope they will be robust in resisting improper influences from other parts of the Department who want to protect Burnham from the consequences of his ill thought out policy which discriminates against the third sector.

This should also be a warning to any other PCT who wants to exclude the Third sector from increasing better service supply to citizens and communities. Although this is a complaint against one PCT, it is the first instance of a PCT implementing Andy Burnham's 'preferred provider' policy, so can therefore be interpreted as a complaint against the Secretary of State's position.

The real significance of this on a public policy and political level is that the official guidance to commissioners on 'preferred provider' policy is due for clearance soon, and DH is also trying to alter the remit of the Competition Panel. Both would need Cabinet sign-off, at which time it will become official government policy. We would therefore not be able to bring this complaint in the future.

So we have a unique opportunity here to have Andy Burnham's stance judged and it is highly possible they will say that it is anti-competitive. This would mean that an independent NHS panel set up by the previous SoS could in effect rule that the SoS is rolling back on competitive practice and failing to act in the best interests of patients and tax payers.

Interesting !

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Clear out!

Must be the start of the new decade, but I arrived at work with a mad desire to clear out my office, having already rearranged furniture at home. I attack the bookshelves and desk and have a throw out. It was therapeutic.

And amazing what I found. An interesting document from the days of "acenvo", before I started in this job. In 1987 the Association was set up to represent only national bodies, though wisely members decided the sector's leaders needed support whether they were running a community organisation or a large national charity. So today ACEVO has a large number of CEOs from smaller organisations. Indeed 819 of our members lead third sector bodies with a turnover of less than £1m.

I re-read the strategic plan for 1999: at the start of the last decade. There was a strong desire to develop an "influence on policy" and to "increase the political influence on behalf of members". Well , we have certainly done that in spades!

And now that the Election campaign has begun in a flurry of adjectives, adverbs and attacks, we must ensure the crucial role our sector can play in developing a cohesive society and thriving communities is pushed to the forefront of debate.

But what I also saw from these old documents is how, as ever, leadership development was seen as the core task for ACEVO. As I blogged yesterday, this year we need a strong emphasis on support for the CEO role. It was the key message of my "All Members" email to ACEVO CEOs today.

I suspect, as my friend John Low from CAF says, we will increasingly feel the effects of the recession in this year; giving falling, cuts in public spending and rising demand for services from us. There will also be opportunities for growth and for new ideas and innovation. It's not all doom and gloom.

But this just emphasises again the need for support for the Leader at the top of the organisation.
Now back to the election. Another document I discovered was my speech to the acevo annual conference back some 8 years when we had the then Leader of the Opposition, Ian Duncan-smith speaking to us.
I said then:

"Has the sector realised its strength? We still act like a disparate group of individual organisations happy to be patronised and grateful for private sector handouts or Government contracts. "

Well, to an extent we have moved on from there - it's a mark of how our sector has grown that we are now more central to debates. But we have yet to fully realise that strength we have. So ACEVO's task remains to promote and develop our sector leadership!

And as we are in reflective mode let me reproduce some photos from the recent Bubb gathering to celebrate my Mother's 80th birthday.

My sister Sara's kids did a sketch on the life of Diana Bubb. Here they are; Julian, Miranda and Oliver.

Then this is the wider clan.

So my mother contemplates a coming decade as I work with members to ensure the continuing rise of the third sector over the Teen decade.

Sunday 3 January 2010

Back to the coal face

So a new year and new decade starts , and at ACEVO tomorrow.we will need to redouble our efforts for our members in challenging times.

I am going to resist the usual predictions ; the papers are full of them but an interesting discussion with the charming and erudite Chief Executive of London Recycling , Matthew Thompson , as we strolled round Brockwell park ; he with his young kid and me with the hound , made me think about putting down some markers for 2010 and the work of ACEVO with its members .

Whatever view one takes of the chances of recovery in 2010 , we know that the tail effect of recession in continuing unemployment and falling living standards will pose continuing strain on members and their organisations . Demand continues to rise for support and help from our clients and from communities.

Rising costs ( VAT and national insurance for example) will go hand in hand with rising demand. More will be expected of us in delivering services and less will be provided Io support that role.

So the leaders of third sector organisations will need support and advice , help and assistance in tbheir leadership role . So for 2010 ACEVO will be redoubling efortsd to provide individual support to each of our members that need that support . We are reviewing our professional development offering to ensure it provides the type of leadership support needed in challenging and difficult times. We have already seen that in 2009 we had a doubling of demand for our legal and crisis support services . So we will ensure that these one-to-one services are tailored and available to all our CEOs facing difficult times.

I guess it is a truism that the Chief Executive role is a lonely one , but only those who have actually had that role know exactly what that can mean when you are faced with making cuts , sacking staff or confronting trustees with the reality of impending deficits . At those times a CEO needs the support of their professional association so i want to ensure ACEVO has that blend of personal advice and support and professional development ready for that task.

In a time of challenge communications are important ; is our sector good at grasping the opportunities of new technologies ? This is another area where I want ACEVO to be ahead of the curve. We have been reviewing our technology , recently updating a somewhat tired website. but we need to do more .

Then finally our advocacy role will be at a premium in an election year . ACEVO has had a brilliant year ,often leading the debate and ensuring our sector voice is heard nationally. But that task will be more difficult when every lobbyist in the land will want their views and demands reflected in party manifestos. the Third Sector and its role in delivering change and uniting communities is as important as ever . Marginalised communities and excluded citizens need the strength or our campaigning for them . Our task , with our friends and supporters across the sector , is to ensure we have a prominent role in what will clearly be a pivotal election .

I'm looking forward to getting stuck in!

Friday 1 January 2010

Great Dames and absurd Knights

Blogging after a satisfying romp on Clapham Common with the Hound., now gently dozing at my feet. I'm in London rather than Charlbury as yesterday the family celebrated my mother's 80th birthday ( photos to follow ).

Great to see Clare Tickell being Honoured in the New Year list. A Dame . And well deserved. I have known Clare for many years and she is one of the sector's finest chief executives ( and a former acevo trustee), and it is a crowded field ! Good also for Action for Children , the charity she leads so brilliantly. (Amusing to see dear Robin Bogg getting his plaudits in early ). Various other great sector leaders are honoured at differ net levels. It is good to see this as an antidote to the usual suspects . important the Honours recognise all sections of society .

I am also delighted to see a range of letters in the Times in support of our stance on the Hospital charity budget and accounts issue . I think the most telling was the letter which rather pithily stated , " If , as the DH asserts, this will make no difference , then why do it ? ". Indeed . I have had a very helpful email from one of the top firms of accountants in the sector which is clear that there is no actual justification for the proposal to consolidate budgets and accounts of the Hospitals and their charities as the charities cannot be properly said to be " controlled" by the parent hospital and so subject to this new accounting regulation . . We are now considering how to take this further . There may be steps we can take to frustrate this move if we cannot get the DH to rescind this advice . But essentially it is down to the Charity Commission to show its metal and instruct all registered hospital charities not to allow their accounts to be consolidated . And if any accounts are consolidated then an immediate review of the charity and its Independence must follow. Time for robust action Dame Suzi! I am sure we can rely on you!

But back to Knights . or one in particular ; a certain Angela Knight who runs the British Bankers Association . She has issued a New Year message to her members in which , I read , she attacks the Government for " irresponsibility ." . Er , sorry , run that one past us again Angela . Did you have a parallel universe Christmas? As we survey the wreckage of our economy at the end of 2009 and reflect on the damage to our communities and to the public purse the issue of irresponsibility rests fairly and squarely with the disgraceful antics of the bankers.

Just how difficult things are is made clear by the report from the great disability charity ,
Leonard Cheshire , which reveals that one in twenty disabled people have lost their jobs in the last 12 months and worst is expected. , with living standards to continue to fall and public spending cuts ( to bail out those banks ) soon to follow. It is a mark of a seemingly deep seated arrogance of the financial sector that , yet again , they fail to acknowledge their mistakes and expect the rest of us to put up with their continued whines about not getting their big fat bonuses. Well done to the Chancellor on his bonus tax say all right minded people. It is good however to see that not all those in the financial sector take the line of the BBA. I see the top financier , Guy Hands criticising the bonus culture and arguing time for change . That has to be the right approach ; we need a strong financial sector , but it must be one based on responsible banking .

Ms Knight might be best advised to suggest to her members that a period of quiet reflection might pay greater dividends than this distasteful public display . I was at Mass this morning at the local RC Church in Brixton , the rather grand Corpus Christi on Brixton Hill. One of the readings seemed a rather apposite New Year Message for all those in the British Bankers Association ,

" And the rich he sent empty away . "