Wednesday 24 February 2010

Being businesslike (or not)

I have been reading Michael Edwards' book Small Change: Why business won't save the world to review for the next edition of ACEVO's much acclaimed "Network", our quarterly leadership magazine. It is a splendid attack on the arrogance of philantrocapitalists and the demands that we all become more businesslike. Indeed he argues what is needed is for business to become more civil society like. Having to jump through hoops to prove our impact before the purse strings are loosened. Indeed he wonders, in the light of recent events why we think bringing in businessmen to run our schools, hospitals etc is seen as such a bright idea.

It's a great antidote. Read its refreshing critique. Now he is not arguing against professionalism; just the arrogance of the assumption business is good, civil society amateur.

So having just finished my review I was amused to pick up "Third Sector" and read the wise words of Dragon Den's James Caan. He writes,

"I think charities should be run like businesses, and I'd be more likely to get involved with a charity that was professionally run. But that doesn't mean wasting money on running its own organisation at the expense of the cause."

Er, run that one past me again James. So you want us to be professional; I guess by paying staff properly, having good HR policies, a strategic capability and good finance and audit capacity for example. The sorts of things you did James when you ran your companies?

But you don't want us to "waste money on running the organisation". Um. And how much exactly did you waste on running your own businesses James? Or do you imagine we do all this professionalism by waving a magic wand?

A meeting of the Board of the Social Investment Business last night. Now that's both a professionally run organisation and one that is making a huge impact in our sector; investing for good.

A presentation of our investment record;

# 88% of money distributed is loan, 12% grant;

# 44% invested in TSOs with a turnover of less than £500k;
(So we reach all parts of sector small and local, large and national)

# largest investment £6.7m;

# 238 contracts won as result of a Futurebuilders loan (against The Cabinet Office performance target of 130!)

# customer satisfaction at 75%

And a number of key decisions - for example supporting 3SC, which is now the biggest provider of Future jobs Fund places and has established the fact that our sector can put together a consortia of small and large organisations to deliver results. And reviewing the potential for bonds.

Due to a superb piece of Chairmanship the meeting was done and dusted in an efficient two hours. In time for Phil Archer's funeral. That's the Archers for the less well educated. So I listened on the radio in the SIB offices. A rather moving episode.

Tonight it's the SIB Parliamentary reception. Over 200 coming and a good range of speakers from Maude to Smith to Armstrong and even music and poetry. Although I do not have high hopes for the wine; the Commons do not exactly excel in this area.

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