What a superb city is Norwich. I'm only sad that my latest Gig on the Big Ask tour did not allow time for a visit to the magnificent Cathedral. And it is also home town of the marvellous Seb Elsworth, doyenne of the sector (who says he has now been with ACEVO for four years, to which I said, and you will be here in another four!).
I walked from the station into town and, a real bonus, I was able to see St Andrew's Church - one of Simon Jenkins top 1000 English Parish Churches. But quite by chance. It was locked, despite a sign outside ironically proclaiming "Jesus welcomes you". However the Sexton was just coming out and so he asked if I'd like to pop in. And it was a real treasure: including the magnificent Elizabethan tomb of Suskind, the inventor of cribbage! However the church has apparently been taken over by a happy clappy Evangelical Vicar who has sacked the choir, put in a piano!! - and a large projection screen in the Chancel. An outrage. In an English Parish Church. If he wants to do this sort of thing why doesn't he do it in a village hall somewhere.
But to the Gig. My Chair was with me - even more gorgeously apparelled than my Vice Chair (she reads the Blog!).
A really superb discussion. But I'm afraid they were not having a simple vote on "are you optimistic or pessimistic" about the sector future. We had a discussion on what that means and what the time frame is! One member described herself as "realistically gloomy seeking solutions"!
We were meeting in the offices of Voluntary Norfolk, run by ACEVO member Brian Horner. He has been a real social entrepreneur, now running a range of CVS style organisations in East Anglia and has an organisation of 100 staff and 3m turnover. He is clear on the need for CVS rationalisation. I think as cuts start hitting local infrastructure bodies will need to think about mergers and partnerships.
And so inevitably the question of national infrastructure rationalisation came up - and also the question of NCVO and ACEVO. Clearly this wider issue is one we will need to address. It will clearly be one of the issues we report to the Board. Again commissioning and the poor record of local authorities in handling the third sector came up.
We also had good feed back on ACEVO services. One of the things we want from these Gigs is how members think we can provide more help and support. We had good honest feedback. One member stressed how we had to have top quality in all we produce. It was feedback that will help us improve our services. Not everything we do can be top quality and any organisation has to get views to help improve. Another said that ACEVO had "transformed her charity" and helped her up her game. It has to be said that brought a lump to the throat of ACEVO's CEO.
A good group - ranging from housing to a foundation, to a national charity based in Norwich (BEAT) who deal with eating disorder, a development trust, a number of disability organisations, animal and arts bodies...
Then a brisk walk back to the station with my Chair guided by local boy Seb!
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