Friday 28 May 2010

Speech, Lansley and Dunkirk.

Straight from IDS to a meeting in the Commons with my old friend Gordon Marsden MP, who is helping a certain Labour Leadership candidate and wants to develop third sector policy. As we all know Labour got itself hopelessly compromised on service delivery. They now have a chance to sort it. Gordon got an advance copy of the Speech. In fact four of them. And I spotted Sam Coates, Political Editor of The Times, so he got a copy too. He eyed it suspiciously, "is there an executive summary"? Answer; " No, it's a masterpiece and needs to be read fully". I expect an Editorial to follow!

Then off to deliver The Speech. "Big Society; from romanticism to reality". You can read it in its full glory here. Click here.

I did manage to keep it below 50 mins. And then a superb ad hoc discussion over drinks and canapes. Fascinating debate on BigSoc. Nick Young, doyenne of our sector and CEO of Red Cross, Chair of Volunteer England, Beat Bullying, NPC, Cambridge House, Social Finance and The Social investment Business, The Development Trust, Ash; Deputy at ResPublica and of course my Chair. All gold star contributions. It was civil society at its best! And the conclusion was that it is our job to define BigSoc not Government. We form the backbone of Civil Society so we don't expect to be told how to achieve it, though we need Government as a real partner, facilitator and capacity builder.

"A miracle of deliverance".

HMS Monarch

Did you see the wonderful pictures of the small boats off to Dunkirk, a re-enactment of the wonderful flotilla that rescued our troops from the advancing Nazis 70 years ago? Well, my younger sister Lucy was on one of the main boats. She was one of the choir that formed part of the official ceremonies.

The Royal Choral Society getting ready to sing

The coalition programme published after the election committed the Government to "much greater involvement of independent and voluntary providers" in the provision of health services.

So good news that Andrew Lansley MP Secretary of State for Health has agreed to give the keynnote speech at our major Health and Social Care Conference - Implications for the third sector after the election - on 14 July (10.00-16.00) in London. You can book here by clicking on this link. But places are limited and priority for ACEVO members obviously.

This will be one of Lansley's first major speeches since taking office, a sign of real commitment to us.

I spoke to him at the Tory Summit and know he's a great friend of the sector. We have such a huge membership amongst our health and social care CEOs it will be a great event.

And finally; a competition. What shall we call ourselves? Not third sector? Civil society has not taken off and so last week Government was talking of, "charities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations".

This week it was "charities, social enterprises and cooperatives".

So in two weeks we have lost voluntary organisations and community organisations. Careless surely! What will we loose or gain next week? What will next weeks's "nom de jour" of preference be? And how long before we are back to "third sector". It's just so much easier!

Thursday 27 May 2010

Listening to IDS

At Caxton House. Listening to a speech by the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, otherwise known as IDS.

Trailed heavily in the media and with a Guardian article which describes our welfare system as broke. A bold statement. And let's hope we can sort it. I say "we" as the third sector is a crucial part of the reform answer.

I'm sitting in the front row in a phalanx of the third sector: Clare Tickell of Action for children, Martin Narey, Barnados, and Kate Davies of the Notting Hill Housing Trust. And we have the "Red Tory" Phillip Blond next to us!

IDS speech is impressive in his clear determination to tackle poverty and put DWP at the forefront of this battle. And he is right to pinpoint the despair of those stuck in a system unable to secure a job. There is a cycle of dependency that those of us in the third sector know so well and try to tackle.

He said that one of the key tests for all their programmes is "does it deliver a positive social return on the investment". He wants programmes to help those at most disadvantage. Work is the best route out of poverty, as he said.

It was great to have such a strong commitment to working with the third sector. And yes, he said "third sector". Good for Iain.

As you would expect I asked a question, though also making clear we know that he is committed at a personal level to work with the third sector. I said that we need both goodwill as well as a framework in order to secure change. I asked if we can expect reform of the commissioning process to ensure a key role for the sector in delivery. This question was also followed by a colleague from CVS who raised the issue of prime contracting.

The response was interesting. First of all IDS said he wants to talk to us about this and "his door is open". He asked officials to sort this out so he can hear from us about. I shall be on to this today!

Chris Grayling, Employment Minister, said that they were absolutely committed to ensuring small voluntary and community organisations can play a part in contracting. He said they are determined to do this. He said they know the problems with prime contracting and were determined that small organisations are not cut out. Both he and IDS said they need to ensure that large and small work together in this and how we achieve scale that is inclusive.

A very positive response to questions from all the third sector people here. I reckon 90% of questions came from us.

And IDS revealed that he as been asked to Chair a Cabinet Committee on social justice. At the end I wished him well in this task.

Big Society in the Cotswolds

What could be more appropriate? Discussing BIG Soc in the constituency of David Cameron MP !

The annual Awayday of the Adventure Capital Fund, the charity that makes loans to community enterprise and is part of the Social Investment Business, took place yesterday in Kingham.

It's a charity that has only been going for eight years but was a pioneer in getting social finance into community enterprise and helping them grow. It has an "engaged investor" approach as it is very clear that community organisations don't just need loans they need capacity building support. Perhaps infrastructure is out of fashion but actually its an essential ingredient for growth.

Muhammad Yunus in his brilliant book on setting up social enterprise said you need a framework and goodwill/passion. Goodwill and passion on its own won't do it. So for all those parents wanting to run their own schools; yes you can do it but enthusiasm alone is not sufficient.who will provide the framework? It was one of the issues we talked about: how can we help provide capital to support this enterprise.

Kingham Church

We debated how we help put framework round the Big Society ideas. The fresh Cotswold air stimulated our thinking and the excellent Cotswold fare fed our brains.

The only sad part for all my Trustees was that because it was Kingham, the Blessed Hound was not able to attend. She has been at many of the previous Awaydays and has much enjoyed taking advantage of Trustees' dinners.

And before "anon" comments on cost I can tell you all this was at a most reasonable rural rate, as you would expect. None of that conference hotel rip off for us!

And during the course of the day I work on my speech for tomorrow on BIGsoc. I get to draft six and some kindly soul on my Trustee Board says "have you timed it"? I say no. She says "allow two minutes per page". So that's 50 minutes then. Good job we are providing drink for the comatose tomorrow...and my Deputy and Director of Strategy, hearing this, fled to New York where they have been sending me annoying photos of them enjoying themselves.

Yippee. ID cards dead! Not before time. What we could have done with the vast sums of money poured into this disgraceful scheme to attack our ancient liberties. I have always taken pride when I travel, especially in the States, of informing those that demand ID cards to allow you access to meetings, events etc that we don't do that sort of thing in England so I don't have one! And never will! Wonderful story in papers today of civil servant from Home Office who tries to use her ID card (purchased for £40) to prove identity only to be told they wouldn't accept it. Hah!

And finally, interesting to be told by Dame Denise Platt, one of our Trustees and on the Parliamentary watchdog, that the fuss about no one earning more than the PM, ie £142k, ignores the fact that the PM also gets his MP salary as well. So in fact earns £205k! As you can't be PM without also being an MP the £142k benchmark is somewhat spurious. That will at least reassure some of our Union General Secretaries amongst others! Interesting. Not many people know that!

Wednesday 26 May 2010

The Queen talks third sector

How fabulous to hear H M The Queen talking about us in The Speech from the Throne. Don't think I've heard that before! She said,

the role of social enterprises, charities and co-operatives in our public services will be enhanced.”

Measures to give a bigger role to sector organisations in the running of public services will be introduced by the autumn, the Government has promised.

Announcing the Conservative-Liberal Government's first legislative programme, supplementary information from No: 10 said that radical reform of public services was needed and third sector organisations were one means by which to improve outcomes and reduce the national debt. Correct!

Primary legislation is not expected, but No: 10 said that public services markets would, in appropriate areas, be opened up to allow third sector organisations to bid to run public services.

But of course in education the expansion of academies and plans for Free Schools, some run by Charities, is good news for many of my education members, like Neil McIntosh who runs CfBT and plans to expand.

And no more, "preferred provider" nonsense! Not that I'm crowing. That would be inelegant....

"Barriers to involvement will be identified and measures will be implemented, "the statement said. Roll it on !

The Government also pledged to give public sector workers the right to form employee-owned co-operatives and bid to run the services they deliver.

It is said early measures, which are not yet specified, would be in place by the autumn.

Good. What ACEVO has argued for consistently for a decade. Now we have to see how it will be implemented, against a background where many local councils and health authorities are looking at major cutbacks. Our commissioning process needs radical reform and we are committed to working with Government to do this. It was recognised at our Tory Summit, by the many Tories there who are now in power, that this was a priority. And I know in particular that Francis Maude understands the challenge and has a clear vision on where changes are needed. Will he be able to deliver?

Our "Big Offer" of cost effective service delivery is with Osborne. We await the opportunity to meet with HMT to talk the "HOW".

We have to be engaged in the process of reform. Making sure it works for us. Us at the heart of plans. But we will also have to protect our members who will also face the prospects of the spending cuts. There is a real problem of time on this. Austerity measures now, reform of public service delivery later.

And finally, back to our very own Lambeth third sector. There is now a rather strong contingent of Lambeth TS folk and we had dinner at the home of Matthew Thompson (Czar of all that is recyclable in London; I was careful not to leave any possessions lying around when I visited. He would have had them in the recycle bin in a flash). And with us were a groupie mass of TS folk; Time Bank, Leonard Cheshire and my very own Seb! Wonderful gossip. Shocking dissections of TS colleagues who have not yet learnt the correct path.

And now I am in Kingham (just up the road from Charlbury but still in the constituency of The Prime minister) at the Adventure Capital Fund Awayday. This is the charity I Chair and which is part of the Social Investment Business. It loans to community enterprise. Highly successful, it has grown many grass route community organisations. Ones that have ambition, dynamism and drive and want to grow. Ones that are not stuck in a grant trap dependent on beneficent local councils (and they will be thin on the ground now!).

Tuesday 25 May 2010


It is disappointing to see Government Departments making cuts trying to defend them by defaming third sector organisations. Perhaps they should remember we are expected to deliver "Big Society" and may be less willing partners if Government tries to blame us when times are difficult.

Let's look first at DFID. A very angry member has found their contract has been cut.

They have been delivery partners funded by DFID through various grant programmes for ten years, with huge success in support of learning outcomes on their behalf.

Despite this, and the Department not content with cancelling their contract, decided to give the organisation a bad press.

They are mulling over a challenge on the basis of 'defamation' because they have been splashed all over the national press under the headline 'DFId Axes Frivolous Aid Projects' and lots of quotes from the Secretary of State about 'ensuring value for money' hence cutting these projects and thus implying these charities are wasting money.

This is astonishing. DFID need a partnership with third sector organisations. Suggesting that charities have been engaged for the last ten years in frivolity is a slur on their reputation and this can do untold damage for their reputation.

It's sad they feel they need to justify cuts by attacking charities.

Then we turn to the Future Jobs Fund which it was announced will end after the current contracts finish. It must be remembered that this scheme was one devised and supported by the third sector. The sector stepped up to the mark, got stuck in providing much needed jobs to young people who otherwise faced unemployment. Some great schemes were put in place, with quality jobs and where many member organisations had looked to continue support. It must be hoped that the alternative work programmes will be there in time to provide the apprenticeships that are needed and to honour the job or training guarantee.

What however is quite unacceptable is to describe this scheme as "ineffective". I much agree with the comments made by Peter Holbrook of the Social Enterprise Coalition who said,

We knew some tough cuts would be coming but it’s still very disappointing to see an end to the FJF.

‘I very much disagree with the Government’s description of the FJF as an ‘ineffective element’ of employment programmes and applaud all the social enterprises who participated and created thousands of new jobs as part of the scheme.’

Given the relative newness of the scheme and the fact that it is ongoing how is it possible to make an objective decision on effectiveness of the scheme?

Indeed I would like to know from DWP what advice they took from the academics who are currently undertaking the evaluation of FJF about their conclusions on the scheme. Did they say it was "ineffective" or is this a piece of spin?

Perhaps those in DWP who were responsible for this description should reflect tht in so doing they have insulted many great social enterprises, charities and community organisations who have provided a professional and dedicated service that has put young people in work.

We are still analysing the full implications of the £6bn cuts package. Clearly member organisations are affected. we will want to provide full support for those members.

Monday 24 May 2010

Oxford jaunts but cuts to come!

What a superb few days of sun. I spent a glorious day on Friday revisiting old haunts in Oxford. I was taking my Deputy, Dr Kyle, to dine in my old College, Christ Church. And we were joined by my Head of Policy M, who read History at Christ Church, though separated by several decades from me obviously!

Alexander at Exeter

We had tea with my nephew Alexander at Exeter College surrounded by the glittering youth playing croquet and overlooked by Wren's magnificent Radcliffe Dome. Then on to the Turf Tavern; scene of many of the Morse dramas. Dinner on High Table was a treat. And it was a somewhat tired and emotional Bubb that finally made it onto a bus back to London.

But enough frivolity and nostalgia! Saturday afternoon was spent listening to David Miliband MP.

A competent, amusing and interesting speech. But it failed to set out a clear prospectus for his Leadership bid. And I am afraid none of the candidates seems to be setting out a strong manifesto for the future, as opposed to what may be good for Labour members and core supporters. And they have nothing to say on the role of our sector or the need for radical reform of public services. Indeed they seem scared to tackle the entrenched power of the unions who seem set on defending public sector jobs. Now that is their role, but I expect a political party to put the needs of citizens and communities first when deciding how public services are delivered. I am hoping my old friend Ed M will rectify that! I have certainly told him the Labour Party had run out of steam on policy for the sector. I get a text from him on Sunday.

It's down to earth with a bang on Sunday when I get forewarning of one of the cuts to be announced today. It's difficult times ahead. This coming year may prove more difficult for many of my members and if we do get a double dip recession then the work we do with our beneficiaries is really challenged.

Friday 21 May 2010

Warning; trouble ahead!

To hear some of the swooning and slathering coming from some of my colleagues in the sector over Big Society you would imagine the Heavenly Host had appeared to gather them Homeward. Well my friends there is trouble ahead. An emergency budget. Council cuts. You did not imagine the Big Society came with lashings of funds to implement it did you?

I am already getting many reports of grants being removed or cut. Contracts rescinded or altered. Refusals to allow any cost increase and demands for lower prices. This will get worse.

We made a "Big Offer" to Government. But we have yet to see how they will respond to expanding the third sector delivery role. This will require fundamental changes to the commissioning process. I have no doubt our role will expand and many third sector bodies will grow. It will happen. But the problem may be in the disconnect between cuts now and delivery expansion in a few years time?

But the fear is that we will see salami slicing cuts. Cuts that protect the state bureaucracy at the expense of services delivered by our people. This has happened so often in the past. Council chiefs who say, well you can just deliver it for less. Find the money to make up the service from your charity.

That is why ACEVO is going to be expanding its cuts protection services. We are allocating more budget to this and supporting members as they face hard times.

We are getting legal advice to members to resist attempts to cut or change contracts. We are advising charities they have a legal duty to challenge contract changes or cancellations in the Courts. We will not be fooled by officials who try it on.

And we are advising members to check the details of their grants. Many grants are encumbered with terms and conditions that make it a contract. Don't be fooled by that clause that tries to say "nothing in this grant is to be construed as a contract" because it often is. Ironic that we will be saving grants by showing they are actually contracts!

A few moons back the DH tried to wriggle out of Section 64 grants. My good friend the spectacular charity lawyer Anne-Marie Piper had a look at it and said "it's a contract" so I told the DH Permanent Secretary if he didn't withdraw his threat and confirm the grants I'd see him at Judicial Review. I won. Often unwise to take on Bubb.

So we will support our members in stopping any nonsense by Governments or other parts of the State if they try foolhardy salami slicing of budgets. We want fundamental, root and branch review and where the third sector can deliver cost effective service closer to the citizen we should be empowered to do it.

So I wait for a reply to our offer of talks with HMT so our members can support the work of David Laws and George Osborne in making reductions that enhance our delivery role not undermine it.

I will expand on this in a speech next Thursday evening which I intend to use to provide a proper perspective from our sector on what Government is proposing in both Big Society, service delivery and deficit reduction. It will put a balance to the swooning. And it will help Government to avoid mistakes that harm the growth of our sector.

More is BIG and reunions

Let's not forget that there are four over arching themes for the new Coalition, as outlined in their Agreement yesterday.

One, cutting the deficit,

Two, reforming public services

Three, Big society and

Four, political reform and decentralisation.

The role of the third sector is to contribute across these themes so shall we should stop thinking silo or that we are only players in the big Society space.

For example our role in delivering public services is set to expand dramatically. That helps cut the deficit by cost effective services and it delivers services that are citizen focused and closer to communities. Much of the commentary has focused on social action and has forgotten that delivery role. That has the danger of again stereotyping our sector as only key to delivering volunteering and doing good works in communities. It forgets our economic role. ACEVO will continue to play that key leadership role in driving this agenda on behalf of the sector.

So it was good to see that our old friend Greg Clark MP, who was such an effective the third sector spokesperson for the Tories when Ed Miliband was Minister, has been talking about our delivery role.

He is the new 'decentralisation' minister. Greg Clark has said the coalition Government's plans will mean third sector organisations will have more freedom to decide how they run public services.

And meanwhile back in the Labour Party we see them conducting a leadership campaign that appears to be focusing almost entirely on what the candidates see as good for Labour Party members. Great to see Ed Miliband standing. As I predicted in my Blog years ago I see Ed as a future PM. Maybe it is going to happen!

But Ed and others will need to reflect on how they lost it with their third sector policies. It was clear they had become tired and run out of ideas. Worse still, they had become hopelessly compromised by the unions on public services. Typified by the preferred provider dispute. I wonder if Andy Burnham will become Labour's "preferred provider" of leadership services? But that is not my bet.

Talking of the unions I see that Tony Woodley of the union Unite has returned to his disgraceful attack on charities. He has asked Hutton, who is doing a review of public sector pay, to look at charities and whether we breach the new Dave rule of the top salary being no more than 20 times that of the lower. (We don't.)

Now as the combined General Secretaries of Unite are on over £320,000 (not even mentioning travel and housing perks) I guess that means that the lowest paid members of Unite are on at least 16k? And good thing too I'm sure. I shall write to Will Hutton and ask him to investigate union salaries just to make sure.

A great reunion earlier in the week. In March 2002 I attended the Civil Service's premier leadership programme, the Top Management Programme. I was on TMP 63 and our cohort group of 26 got together at L'Escargot in Soho on Wednesday to celebrate. As we are all getting older it was no surprise that three had retired; one to Portugal, one an executive chef in France and one, who used to be Deputy at an organisation with three initials beginning with M advising on security things.

But the rest of us are still at it. I said I was looking forward to my retirement in 20 years and my seat as an elected Senator in the upper chamber! But an exotic array of jobs around the table; someone working on the Budget, someone running the Olympics, someone in charge of air safety, Scottish Power, the Lottery, police, anti- terrorism and someone married to the Royal Family, to name a few!

Thursday 20 May 2010


As I've blogged before, it's extremely reassuring to see such strong and firm affirmation of the role of the third sector in delivering social change reiterated in the Government's plans for Big Society.

But we must ask the question if "society" is to become bigger, then whose job is it to make that happen and define its characteristics. Ours in the sector? Or Government? Or indeed a partnership of us both?

There is an inherent contradiction in the idea that the State's role should be reduced and but it then tells us how we are to be organised.

A fascinating snip it from the PM speech at the launch of Big Society. He said,

"it’s going to be the voluntary sector, social enterprises (no longer to be called ‘the third sector’, from now on: that phrase is to be abolished). The office of the voluntary sector and social enterprise sector will be a bigger part of government than ever.”

Perhaps he was being jocular when he said the phrase "third sector" is "now to be abolished". A small point. After all who really cares what we are called. As I said in my recent blog, "a rose by any name would smell as sweet". But do we accept that Government tells us what we are allowed to call ourselves?

So as part of the assertion of our right to define ourselves and what we want from Big Society I am calling a roundtable of key members, experts and think tanks next week. I shall make a speech on what ACEVO and third sector CEOs want to see from all this. More on this soon.

Of course we must work in partnership with Government. It is what CEOs in our sector do. We are the ultimate pragmatists. But on equal terms if we are to build a Bigger Society. Indeed difficult to see how it will happen otherwise. And I hope the meeting next week will help us make a constructive contribution to this ongoing and important aspect of new Government policy. I know that the new PM is passionate about how our sector should grow. Let's ensure it is done in a way that our non profit, third sector, social economy, civil society, NGO, voluntary and community, charity and social enterprise sector is put in the driving seat!

Commonwealth, Harriett and Banks

Blogging from Marlborough House! I'm at the Board of Governors of The Commonwealth Foundation. Sitting between Tonga and Swaziland! One of the key items of discussion is the setting up of an "Eminent Persons Group" which is looking at how the Commonwealth develops.

One of the unique aspects of the way the Commonwealth works is that it places strong emphasis on civil society. Every Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting has an input from a "People's Forum" and from the civil society committee (which I sit on from the UK).

It is probably fair to say though that Commonwealth countries have differing views on the role of civil society organisations from those like Canada or UK and Australia, which strongly support it, and those that see civil society as a challenge to Government in exposing undemocratic practices or corruption. It is always worth remembering there are countries in the world where civil society and third sector activity is dangerous. The UK's leadership role in using and promoting the third sector is underused.

One of the items raised today was the need to develop social investment banks in Commonwealth countries. At the last CHOGM, the statement adopted there by the Commonwealth People's Forum called for the establishment of a Commonwealth Social Investment Bank. This is a very real demonstration of the power of UK thought leadership and example.

It would be entirely naughty to suggest I'm available to Chair it. I'm somewhat busy with arguing for the UK one and Chairing the Social Investment Business. SIB had its strategy group meeting last night to look at how we play our part in developing and implementing "Big Society" ideas. It will need a strong capital base. Social finance is core to empowering communities and strengthening the third sector.

After my meeting today I go on to Chair the Board of the Social Investment Business. I shall start off by welcoming the election of my Vice Chair, Harriett Baldwin, to the House of Commons representing the good people of West Worcestershire and those lovely Cotswold towns of Malvern and Pershore!

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Good News at The Charity Commission

Sitting on the 59 bus going over Waterloo Bridge and I get a call from the great Suzi Leather, Chair of The Charity Commission. She is phoning to tell me that they have appointed a new Chief Executive for the Commission - an excellent appointment it is too: Sam Younger.

I know Sam from the time he was Chief Executive of The Red Cross, before Nick Young. But he has an impressive track record. He was the founding Chair of The Electoral Commission and a previous Managing Director of BBC World Service. Most recently he has been interim CEO at Shelter before Campbell took over. And, not of course that this is relevant, but I knew him at Oxford; he is a year older than me and was at New College with a number of my good friends.

I wish Sam well. The Charity Commission has a really challenging task ahead as they face cuts in their budget but an expanding charity sector. Our ACEVO taskforce, looking at regulation in changing times, is currently drafting its report, so I will be looking forward to talking to Sam about all this.

Sam is taking up his post in September and we wish Andrew Hind well as he moves on to his next challenge.

Big Society

Well, I was wrong. Or was I?

It looked as though the "Big Society" terminology had been dropped. But it was back Big time yesterday! Of course one explanation may be that my MP had been looking at my Blog and rose to the challenge!

Anyway it is extremely reassuring to have such strong and firm affirmation of the role of the third sector in delivering social change. The reality is that to build stronger communities we need a vibrant and growing sector. So the announcement on The Big Society Bank is greeted with a thousand cheers. The clear statement on the sector running more public services gets more.

Of course we will have issues to sort and we will have to work in partnership to deliver this agenda. And that means we do not allow Government to define what they think is "Big Society". Nor decide themselves what steps are needed. You cannot proclaim your belief in bottom up solutions and the need for local solutions and then decide from the centre what is to happen. We also need big solutions and big third sector organisations to deliver this ambitious agenda. This is not the time to start on the "small is beautiful" approach. What is needed is partnership and alliances between the larger more financially well resourced TSOs and the smaller or community based bodies. That is why ACEVO is working with our partners in the Community Alliance (The DTA, Bassac and Community Matters) on ways to democratise commissioning.

The Government must also recognise that the sector has to be fully involved in the discussions on the cuts to the public deficit. Already I have had reports of a number of organisations having their contracts and grants cut. There is a real danger that in the need to make £6bl cuts now some of our work will be seen as an easy target.

Great to see Nat Wei, who helped set up that great organisation Teach First, is now to act as an advisor on "Big Society" themes. I went down to Canterbury once to talk to the "Teach First" teachers and observed the programme. Highly successful and a practical demonstration of the power of third sector bodies to achieve change.

We need to work with HMT on ways in which we can contribute to more cost effective delivery. So we cannot be seen in a silo where the sector is only relevant as part of discussions on "Big Society".

As I said in my speech to the Tory Summit, our sector is now an economic force - able to play a bigger role nationally. One of our biggest challenges is how we ensure a bigger delivery role. How will the Government ensure more outsourcing; but outsourcing that does not favour the private sector. It would be a disaster if we see major outsourcing and all the plum contracts landing with the big commercial outfits and third sector organisations, whether national charities or local community organisations losing out.

I have to say I was impressed by the breadth and vision of Nick Clegg's speech on a radical approach to political reform. My Chair was there listening. It is a sad fact that the Labour Party had become strangely in love with a more authoritarian state. I always thought the ID card was an abomination and the growth in the powers of surveillance left many of my members working with excluded communities and the vulnerable deeply uneasy. It is high time there was a stop: indeed a reversal in this creeping authoritarianism.

So big ideas and vision. But the hard slog of practical change is under way. The sector's CEOs are up for the challenge.

Tuesday 18 May 2010

What's in a name?

Or as Shakespeare put it, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet".

So despite Maud telling the ACEVO Conference in November thay had decided not to indulge in pointless name changing, new stationery, logos and all that, the first action taken by our new Third Sector Minister is to change the name and order new stationery!

"Civil society"; what is that exactly? An organisation dedicated to promoting better manners? It doesn't exactly have instant name recognition, does it? And because of that Nick Hurd is reduced to issuing a press release which has to refer several times to "charities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations". And the problem with that formulation is that it misses our community organisations! It doesn't exactly trip off the tongue or make for pithy speeches or press releases.

But never fear, it's a fad and ACEVO remains will remain "third sector" and as we uphold our national traditions we will continue to use OTS and the Third Sector Minister as our nome de plume for these institutions.

I would have thought there were somewhat more important things to do than spending money on rebranding?

Will "civil society" go the way of "Big Society" I wonder - a term no longer to be heard in Tory High Command. There is a lesson here for politicians who waste time on names and other such ephemera.

So, whatever. As I travel I'm used to Non-Profits in America, social economy in France and in the UK we move from the voluntary sector to the voluntary and community sector to third sector and now a choice of civil society or charities, social enterprises and voluntary organisations.

Good job Chief Executives getting on with the day job have better things to do than worry what we are called!

Friday 14 May 2010

A Thousand years

Our oldest charity is probably King's School, Canterbury. I recently discovered that Italy's oldest Charity was one established in Florence to build the Cathedral of Santa Maria Novella. Similar charities were being formed in other major European countries. And people sometimes forget our role has always been in the provision of services to citizens and communities as well as in speaking up for the dispossessed, the marginalised and the voiceless.

So our sector has a long and honourable history. Our fortunes have ebbed and flowed. From a time when we were responsible for the provision of all public services to the decades after the Second World War when our role was stripped and we fell to the margins. But the next decade will see us regain our important role at the heart of society and national services.

Interesting to see that the public thinks the importance of charities will increase.

Sixty-two per cent of respondents to YouGov poll foresee a greater role for sector published today.

More than three people in five think the role of charities will become more important over the next few years, according to this new survey. In March, the polling organisation surveyed 2,133 people who did not work in the voluntary sector. Sixty-two per cent of respondents said they believed charities would play a more important role in the UK in the next few years.

So this sets the background for our sector discussions with the new Third Sector Minister, Nick Hurd MP. Nick is a class act. I have got to know him well, particularly over organising the recent Tory Summit. He is both very bright and articulate. He has flair, but I suspect he will not be in this role long as he progresses up the slippery pole! I look forward to seeing him with his new hat. We need to work in partnership to deliver on our "Big Offer". He will find ACEVO a practical support and candid friend. Of course there will be rocky times as we face the need to cut the national debt. But I am not an oppositionalist or placard waver. But feet will be held to the fire when it is necessary.

And Rt Hon Francis Maude MP is the Cabinet Office Minister. He also has a clear view on how the sector can help deliver more cost effective and citizen focused services.

A good time for us working in the sector. Onwards to the next glorious thousand years.

Thursday 13 May 2010

Back to the day to day.....

Hard not to get mesmerised by the unfolding events of our new Governmental arrangements, but the work of ACEVO goes on apace.

A new ACEVO task force is drawing up proposals for a less stringent regulatory framework for the sector. The Conservatives in particular said in their manifesto they want to cut regulation. And many sector CEOs heartily agree. I met Lord Young (who Cameron asked to review the problem) before the election to discuss how we can be of use.

Our task force, which is chaired by BTCV chair Rupert Evenett, wants to cut red tape and create a more permissive culture within the sector, one that facilitates openness and transparency and where demands of compliance are more proportionate to the associated risks.

It will review best practice from other regulators and present its initial high-level review with recommendations for improving the sector’s regulation at the CEO Summit on 17 June. We're planning a meeting with Dame Suzi for before then.

Let me quote the Chair:

“At the moment there is an awful lot of regulation about the things we can’t do, and if someone wants to become a trustee they are always getting warned about the downsides, the risks of getting it wrong. The current system seems to be focused on risk aversions rather than on openness to opportunities.”

The taskforce also includes, among others, ACEVO’s former deputy CEO Nick Aldridge, now chief executive of Mission Fish; Sayer Vincent’s Kate Sayer; Richard Johnson, managing director of Serco Welfare to Work; John Stewart, company secretary at the Wellcome Trust, and RNIB chair Kevin Carey .

The work done last year by Carey’s progressive governance group has been merged into the task force’s agenda.

Let me quote Evenett again,

“There are a lot of people out there working hard and doing good work around the detail of regulation – CFDG and the Charity Law Association, for example - but they are all coming at it as a legalistic concept rather than a positive vision of what it should be like to allow us to do our job better.

At the moment we have to leap through 17 hoops to prove why we should be allowed to do things.”

On the specifics of what is being examined:

#Re-examine public benefit test:
The public benefit test needs revision so that it helps charities provide more benefit instead of spending their limited resources proving that they do good work.
The Charity Commission is likely to face budget cuts so we will argue that we want to help them do regulation in a different way, one that is more transparent and proportionate and helps the sector generate the maximum public benefit.

This is not charity Commission bashing as we will save them time, money and effort.

# Removing duplication
There are some quick wins available, such as removing the duplication of regulation required by different regulators. Care charities, for instance, are subject to charity regulation and social care regulation, and too often have to supply the same information in different ways to each regulator. There should be agreement between regulators that it only needs to be provided once. We want regulation in a “proportionate, high-impact” way.

The task force is inviting people from the sector to share any experiences that may be pertinent.

If you have a view email Nick Carey at ACEVO ;

And I can reveal here, exclusively,that Geraldine Peacock is to give evidence too. I had a phone call form Geraldine Peacock on Friday. She has seen the publicity on our taskforce and is keen to contribute. You will recall that Geraldine was a distinguished former Chair of the Charity Commission as well as having been CEO of Guide Dogs.

I see that David Fielding of Tribal is recruiting 2 really interesting jobs, the first is the Chief Executive for the Novas Scarman Group which is now Chaired by the brilliant and dynamic Andrew Barnett who is the Director of the Gulbenkian Foundation (and an ACEVO member, naturally)

If you want the job here is the link!

David is also recruiting the Head of Client Relationships for CAF, which is a key and indeed crucial organisation and run by my previous Chair John Low. The link ,

Given the changes and upheavals ahead and the desire of so many to get into the sector (and all those displaced public servants!) I suspect David and his team are going to be much in demand.

Wednesday 12 May 2010

Into action

All go at ACEVO towers. Letter off to Chancellor this morning. He spoke at our summit and accepted the " Big Offer" I made to him about how to cut the national debt through cost effective service delivery by the third sector. So I have made a further offer; to pull together a taskforce of senior officials in the Treasury and sector leaders.

Some interesting appointments; various people I know well like Eric Pickles from his days when we were both in Metropolitan local Government circles, and Chris Huhne who was a member of the Labour club at Oxford when I was Chair!Not to mention my constituency MP , the new PM ( Nick Hurd is the constituency MP of my Chair)!

Amusing stories floating around about what we should call the Government. Cleggon? Or as my friend the headhunter David Fielding suggested Camegg or Condem?

So the deal is for a full 5 year term. I don't see that myself, but given the problem of the ntional debt it is our job to get on and see how we can support the Government in tackling it.

This result offers a great opportunity to work with the coalition Government to deliver stronger communities and a bigger role for the sector in delivering citizen focused services.

We made the Tories a " big offer" at our sector Tory Summit. Let's capitalise on that.

And we want to talk to the new PM about how we can work in partnership to deliver stronger communities. There has been some talk about the " Big Society " agenda but have you noticed , ever since the Tories did focus groups ahead of the 2nd Leader debate and found the idea bombed they don't use the term again. So we need to stop using it too. DC talked of "stronger communities " and that is what we should talk about and not give credence to the " Broken Britain " idea which my members really hated.

But our partnership offer must be realistic. If cuts are made that damage our capacity to deliver , or weaken third sector bodies then we will oppose them and work hard to reverse them. We must continue to speak without fear or favour for citizens and for the excluded and marginalised. The sector's lead bodies will need to be ever vigilant in defending our members as well as promoting partnership.

That's why I was keen to agree the idea of a Sector Summit when Stuart raised it with me. I shall be going , backed by my Board.

A stronger parliament and a Coalition strengthens our hand. But in the difficult times that face our country the sector must play its part in finding solutions.

Interesting times. I'm now waiting to see who gets the junior appointments!

Tuesday 11 May 2010

"Stronger Communities"

So, we now have a Coalition. Interesting to see that David Cameron made such a stron reference to building stronger communities in his speech outside No 10 . It is our job in the sector to noe work with the new Coalition government to deliver stronger communities and citizen focused public servcies. A " Big Society " cannot be achieved without the active participation of the third sector. Public service reform required a bigger role for sector delivery. And empowered communitiers need the strong voice that the third sector provides.

There will have to be cuts to the public deficit. Our " Big Offer" to the Conservatives , made at our Tory Summit and accepted by George Osborne , was for cost effective and citizen centred srevices delivered by third sector organisations. That will be a key focus for acevo, working with colleagues in the sector.

But in working with the new Governent we will have battles ahead. Cuts may not always be beneficial to our work and our beneficaries . Francis Naude said he would expect us to hold their feet to the fire. And we shall.

The candles are burning away at ACEVO Towers as we prepare our letters to the new Ministers. But also as we develop our strategy for coalition. Our work will be cut out. No longer just focused on government but also on the Lib Dem Party , the Labour Party in opposition and Parliament itself.

And a persoanl prioirty for me: to see the Social Investment Bank , or Big Society Bank set up immediatly, with all the dormant assets ( and we will need to ensure the silly plan to steal Futurebuilders loan funds is scuppered.

I suspect next week will be rather busy!

Rainbow or Uncle Tom Cobley?

A rainbow coalition? I rather preferred Dianne Abbott's description on Sky News of an "Uncle Tom Cobley and all coalition"!

I would be worried for the sector at a coalition that includes Parties that have dinosaur views on public service reform. We cannot afford to row back from the outsourcing of services to the third sector. I think such a coalition would be prey for unions and other regressive elements to stop further reform to allow more delivery by the third sector. The drive to a more personal provision of services could be threatened. We would be prey to Departments adopting nonsense like Burnham's preferred provider policy.

We will have to be vigilant to stop any statist elements chancing their arm. And if this is the outcome of the talks with the Lib Dems then ACEVO will want assurances that the drive for public service reform and more third sector delivery will continue unabated!

Monday 10 May 2010

A Social Silicon Valley; A European Social Innovation competition!

Euclid is running a conference on "Leading Innovatively" in Madrid at the prestigious Garrigues Foundation. A range of speakers, but perhaps one of the most interesting was Carlos Fernadez, CEO of Denokinn in the Basque country. He is establishing a Social Innovation Park, which he describes as a Social Silicon Valley. An exciting project - I think at the forefront of third sector activity in Europe!

This will be a space for think tanks, NGOs, commercial bodies, institutions and others to have space for development, but also through their proximity to work together and bounce ideas and tackle problems through partnership and cooperation. Organisations with innovative ideas and projects will be able to approach Carlos and get him to support through potential links, partnerships and investment. The Basque Government have put 6m euros into this and Carlos is busy maximising this through commercial support.

With the Basque Government

They will develop global links too so as to utilise learning elsewhere. They have linked up with the White House Centre for Social Innovation, for example, and Euclid is one of their active partners.

It is clearly absurd in the 21st century to think we can only derive our ideas from within our own national borders. Increasingly innovative ideas will come from TSOs working in other countries. We need to develop the international networks that will enable us to exchange those ideas and develop networks. As one delegate put it, "Leaders need to be curious about the world. There is no place for isolationism".

Nick Aldridge talks to BMW Foundation

That is why Euclid is so important. Its based on the "leader to leader" concept, i.e. individual Chief Executives getting together to provide support and advice to each other.

I was speaking as the Euclid Secretary General about developments in the UK! There was much interest in out current election situation. As I said, "the people have spoken, but what the hell did they say?".

There was a lot of debate on the failures of the European Commission grant funding system. Euclid has been working with the EU on ideas for reform. In particular there was a lot of support for a growing European social investment market and even a European Social Investment Bank.

It was interesting to hear about the third sector in Spain. Growing. Thriving. But with financial problems. For example the mutual savings banks play a major role in funding the sector from their profits- has been historically between 10-20%. With the crisis this funding has dropped dramatically. And Spain has a poor record of individual giving- at 11% whist the UK is nearly 60% and the States at a staggering 90%. One reason why I really like Tory ideas about encouraging giving and establishing a cultural norm that we all give at least 1% of our income to charity.

But there is a lot of agreement on the need for our sector to move to a loan culture as well as grants.

But best of all we were able to launch the Social Innovation Competition. This is an initiative between Euclid, the EU Commission and the social innovator exchange (developed by the great Geoff Mulgan). The competition will pick ten great innovations and support their development.

It will be European wide. I will blog more details on how to apply...

A decade on!

I took up my post in ACEVO in September 2000. What a glorious day that was. With our staff strong team of ten in our office in Harrow! Well how we have grown! Now the leading voice of the sector's leaders, making an impact both nationally and internationally. Our growth very much mirroring how the third sector has grown in power and influence over that last decade.

So, make a note of the date: September 23rd 2010. ACEVO will be celebrating a decade of Bubb. But more importantly, looking forward to a next decade which promises to be so important for the sector and our role in national life. I'm using the next few months to prepare a lecture on that fast changing decade and what we might see in 2020. After all, this last decade has seen a massive growth in the sector's workforce and turnover, our growing role in delivery of services and our advocacy and campaigning. How will we be in 2020?

And to be clear, the fact that ACEVO is now at the level of influence and power it has is down to the superb team I've been able to build up, and a strong Trustee Board led by some fantastic Chairs.

Leadership is not about one person. It can never be. This will not be just about Bubb. The mark of a good leader will always be the strength of the team they have assembled. Leadership must always involve the ability to delegate and to develop others. ACEVO is now seen as much more than just its CEO!

Now both in London and in Leeds, with a strongly committed membership. But the growth of ACEVO has been a tough journey. Some pretty awful days. Challenging finances. A rocky road to a good staff team. All the usual challenges any CEO faces in running a third sector body. But how rewarding as well. It's been satisfying to see how the sector has grown and to know that ACEVO has been part of how that has happened.

Our achievements have been strong and tangible; OTS, fairer funding (FCR and longer term contracts) commissioning reforms, public service reform and a stronger delivery role. And internationally helping develop third sector influence, as well as the establishment of others and, of course, Euclid.

But no leader can rest on their laurels. The current political dimension will mean the sector has to step up to the challenge of working with a coalition and coping with cuts. So my task, and the task of the team and ACEVO Board will be intensified over the next decade. So my journey with ACEVO continues.

So ACEVO is going to be doing some "envisioning" work (ugly term I know) about what the sector might look like in 2020. And therefore what ACEVO and its Chief Executive members should be doing to make a better society. If we have doubled in size in the last 15 years what will we look like in 2020. Will the trend to a more professional sector continue? Will our communities be revitalised by an empowered civil society? Will our voice in demanding environmental change,social justice and giving a voice to the voiceless be enhanced or lost?

AND as you would expect, a Party!

So if you have ideas or thoughts to contribute let me know.

Friday 7 May 2010


So where does that leave us? One thing is for certain; we will have a new Third Sector Minister! I was sad to see Angela Smith, my parents' MP, lost her seat. At least my parents voted for her. She was a good Minister, but will we now have Nick Hurd or Person unknown?

A strange but exciting evening. I had a leisurely lunch with an old friend Robin Hutchinson, who used to work for Guide Dogs and now runs several brand consultancy and arts companies. Then it was off to dinner at the House of Lords! A dinner for the influential Committee for Corporate Philanthropy. I had a number of rather interesting discussions with members about why Philanthropists don't think of loans rather than grants all the time? Is it not odd that business people who are so used to the capital markets and the power of loans to grow, fail to use this model for the third sector. And what was strange to me was that this idea clearly seemed rather novel to them.

In a sense its an indictment of corporate philanthropy as a form of patronage. Doing good by spreading largesse, rather than thinking strategically about who to build the capacity of the sector. Of course there are great business figures who do see this; Ronnie Cohen is a shining example.

I am keen that the Social Investment Business makes links with corporate philanthropists and Foundations to explore the social investment model. We could offer them the chance to use our staff to assess and make the loans if they provide the capital finance.

Then onto the Institute of Government Election night Party in Carlton Gardens. A magnificent mix of bright young things, policy wonks and media and a whole cluster of Permanent Secretaries. I made it till about 2am when I decided my age required sleep!

Good to see my colleague Stuart Etherington at the Lords dinner. We talked about how we respond to the potential results as a sector. We agree there is an opportunity for us, but we need to be canny on how we approach a new Government.

Our Big Offer to a Lib-Dem-Labour Government, or a Lib-Dem-Tory Government, or a minority Tory Government, is that our sector can help build recovery and social cohesion and deliver public service reform. The debate on how to cut the Government debt has been unspecific and marked by an element of dishonesty. A major reform of services by placing many of them in the hands of the third sector is essential. Who will deliver that? Unfortunately I don't see that happening with a coalition Government who will fudge it.

But the election has marked a real renaissance for our sector. We have featured strongly in a way that has not happened in my lifetime. The debate on "Big Society" or big state has got politicians focusing both on our abilities to deliver cohesive communities as well as better citizen focused services. So whichever the outcome for the Parties, the sector has won.

Thursday 6 May 2010


Up early; I love voting! There was a large queue at the Atkins Primary school in Brixton; just opposite the Hand in Hand pub made famous by Polly Toynbee in her Guardian article this week when she wrote about the Clapham Park Estate and why people should vote Labour.

This is the first election I have not been out actively campaigning but if you lead a charity its better not to upset the dear old Charity Commission; they probably have their spies out checking if I'm running around with placards saying "Vote for Big Society" !

Last election night I was at the victory party in the National Portrait Gallery and was one of the first people to congratulate my old friend Tony Blair (how we miss him) on his incredible and historic 3rd election victory. Why, I was even spotted there by one of my members watching Sky TV in his hotel in Nairobi! But not tonight. I'll be at an election night Party at the Institute of Government. Less glamorous but the networking will be cool.

It's always a thrill when you pick up that pencil to mark the ballot. This election every vote is important. And tomorrow we will need to get cracking to support whoever wins No: 10 to ensure the third sector thrives and prospers.

It's been a busy few days. Tuesday I was "lunched" out: lunch with Chris Banks, formerly of Coca-Cola and recently Chair of the UK's largest quango, the LSC. He has been on the Board of the Social Investment Business and Jonathan and I were taking him out to pick his brains on the future. A superb restaurant, The Hibiscus, just behind St George's Hanover Square. A fabulous chef and the smoked fudge was to die for. Then dinner at that great Indian restaurant Benares, in Berkeley Square, with a Permanent Secretary. Discretion gets the better of me as I agree not to blog who it is! But an agreeable meal which will result in another fantastic ACEVO taskforce ... watch this space!

Coffee yesterday with Philip Blond, that famous "Red Tory" and head of ResPublica was fun. We are talking about what work we might do together; he has been hugely influential in the Tory "Big Society" idea and has been an advocate of mutuals and co-operatives, though as I said to him, simply changing the name over the door of a public service may not make them less bureaucratic or producer dominated. Do we really want a Haringey Social Work Collective? I think not!

Lunch with my Chair was slightly less glamorous yesterday. Salmon salad in her office. Not that I'm complaining! We were meeting with Volunteering England. Sukhvinder Stubbs is their glamorous and dynamic Chair. I've known her for centuries and always liked her considerable style. Justin Davis Smith is their able CEO and obviously an ACEVO member. Both political parties have great plans for more volunteering but seem oblivious to the need for a professional approach which ensures charities and other third sector bodies can actually run good volunteer programmes. We are going to work together on a number of initiatives; ACEVO's members know the importance of a professional approach to volunteer management.

So today a quiet day in the office. Many staff are out there doing their bit to support the cause (whatever that might be!). Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday 4 May 2010

Dodging the KGB in Transnistria!

Well, while I was spending a windy Bank Holiday touring Nurseries in South London for bedding plants my colleagues, Filippo Addari and Ben Rattenbury were in Transnistria. Where that, I hear you say!

It's a breakaway republic in Moldova (where that?), once part of the USSR! Euclid, our European Third Sector Leaders Network has been running a Civil Society Leadership Development Programme funded by the United Nations.

The aim is to strengthen the relationship between Government and Civil Society in parts of Eastern Europe. The Ukrainian session will take place in three weeks.

The event gathered 50 participants, almost half of whom were from one of Europe's most challenging areas, Moldova's breakaway Republic of Transnistria. For the first time they spoke openly about their relationship with their 'Government'('illegal administration' if speaking to a Moldovan).

The event was broadcast live online, in its entirety. The stream had 50 hits, doubling the number of participants.

Filippo and Ben spent the weekend dodging the KGB in Transnistria, where they now have lots of influential friends who are keen to work with Euclid. It seems very few (domestic or international) organisations have managed to run successful projects there but local experts think there is much potential. What a tribute to the energy and commitment of my team that they give up their Bank Holiday for such work!

Meanwhile back in the dear old UK it was good to hear David Cameron giving such a strong endorsement to the third sector in running public services at the London Citizens Forum in Central Hall. The other parties seem equivocal about this but the logic of the deficit will mean more outsourcing of services whatever happens.

And I must say Gordon Brown seemed on top barnstorming form! He really is passionate about social justice and it's a shame when he gets caught up in all those lists he does when he speaks. If he kept to the broader picture he would do so much better!

And sticking to the international theme I'm spending the morning talking to the leaders of The Yemen's civil society organisations who are in the UK and making a beeline to ACEVO Towers! Such a shame the weather is so bad all those bedding plants are sitting in the living room...