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!

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