Wednesday 30 June 2010

The CEO's trade union

One of the core functions of ACEVO is to provide a trade union for Chief Executives. We have a range of support and advice services; importantly for the times of crisis and potential loss of job.

We have an incredible good one-to-one CEO in Crisis Service and then legal cover for the discussions that go on if resolutions to difficulties cannot be found.

I have found over the years that this can be vital. When you are a CEO the lonely bit is when you are in difficulty you cannot turn to staff or trustees. You need a valued friend. That is what ACEVO provides.

One example of how bad things can be occurred recently with one member who discovered very late in the day some of her Trustees were in detailed discussions on a merger. No one had bothered to tell the CEO. Not a great way to deliver success. And a poor example of Trustee governance. I had another one last year where Trustees were meeting without the CEO and discussing which Trustee should handle bits of work. One CEO who was told it was unprofessional to conduct one-to-one meetings with her staff.

Is it any wonder that ACEVO makes such a deal about the need for better governance. At long last it seems The Charity Commission may be moving from their "one size fits all" approach.

As the CEO's convenor I shall continue to push the case for the Chief Executive. And I will ensure that ACEVO is there to support the CEO at times of trouble. We are the only body in the sector that does this. We take the task deadly seriously. Whilst that may not get all the publicity our other work does, it does not mean it isn't a core part of what we do for our members.

Speaking at Reform

I was speaking at a conference on Reforming Welfare and work for that excellent think-tank "Reform" today. I was making a speech on Big Society, and how the new Work Programme will test Government commitment.

Nick Seddon is the charming , beautifully presented and erudite deputy Director of Reform. He chaired the session and tinkled his glass to try and keep me to time. A bold ambition. I made the point that the new Work Programme will fail if it is simply an efficient sausage machine and or it fails to dramatically increase the role of the third sector in delivery. It needs to involve not just the current third sector providers but more. It should be incentivising small charities, community groups and specialist bodies like RNIB, The National Autistic Society and MIND. The Future Jobs Fund showed how we can involve very small charities who just want to provide one job. If the new scheme does not deliver this, it will fail.

So what is needed?

# capacity building; support for our organisations to grow and access support, to form partnerships and alliances and build infrastructure,

# capital, the new scheme involves payment by results. There is no third sector body, not one, who has the current capital to take part in the Work Programme. The Big Society Bank is two years off. The Futurebuilders Loan Scheme has been closed. There is no evidence (indeed lots of pointers against) that the banks will make commercial loans. What will the DWP do to provide a new capital pot to support bids?

# and for us; we need to develop partnerships to deliver. This might even be a partnership with a private sector provider. Joint ventures. And sector leaders who have a business like, professional approach

Iain Duncan Smith made the opening keynote speech. It was both rational and logical but also underpinned by his strong passion to tackle social justice.
He said the new Programme is not just about top slicing budgets. The Work Programme needs to address long term incapacity.

And in the Work Programme there will be payment by results but not just based on getting people into a job, but keeping them there. He said that the voluntary sector must be involved for success. He was very clear of the need to tackle the shame of the many thousands on incapacity benefit but who want to work and our crucial work in helping this happen.

It was good to get a name check from IDS in his speech. He made a reference to how "this is a message that Stephen Bubb from ACEVO has been giving us". It is. And it will be!

ACEVO is meeting with Chris Grayling and David Freud on Monday and we will underline these messages then.

Work and leadership!

So DWP have announced their framework contract details. Entire region contracts for between £10- 50m. This will drive thoughts on how sector organisations should work in partnership or alliance. Larger charities working with smaller community groups, partnerships with the private sector, mergers even.

This will really test our leadership skills. A third sector CEO needs to drive an entrepreneurial approach. We always have to be looking for new opportunities. I suspect that ACEVO's support and professional development services are going to be in increasing demand over the next few years!

And on the subject of cuts - not much chance of avoiding that at the moment! The excellent and much admired Innovation Unit, which ACEVO supports, has produced a great report which demonstrates that third sector organisations can secure innovative ways of delivering service that are more cost effective. Their "Radical Efficiencies Report" is worth reading.

A meeting of the Social Investment Business Board last night. Scenario planning! Aways a subject to get the juices flowing. Or not. An interesting discussion on the minutiae of the accounts (if you like that sort of thing) but more importantly we had some good news on future prospects. If we are to expand service delivery then the role of SIB becomes much more crucial. Our role in consortia building. In impact bonds. In capacity building in the sector. The discussion reminded me a bit of ACEVO's Directors' scenario planning on Monday. The key to all this is to hope for the best but plan for the worst. To be innovate and be adventurous; and my Directors Group certainly are! And provide gutsy leadership in the meantime.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Democratise Commissioning

The day started appallingly. Going to clean my shoes I manage to empty the contents of one of those nasty little liquid shoe clean bottles over my suit trousers. Then a hellish trip on the tube.

Arrive for our PWC-ACEVO "Democratising Commissioning" conference in grumpy mode. Soon lifted by some brilliant contributions on how we use the current public spending crisis to radically reform commissioning around what citizens and Communities need from state funded services.

PWC and ACEVO have set up a small group of Commissioners, from the public and private sectors with third sector organisations, to discuss how we change commissioning policies and practices. We call it "The Admiralty House Group" after our first meeting which took place in said esteemed building.

The conference today is aimed at drawing up ideas to present to Government on reform. The goal is better. More effective delivery of services that are personal and practical. There is a real danger at present that Government is being too macho about cuts now without thinking how cuts should lead to Departments thinking more radically about how to provide services.

There is a superb article on this in Sunday's Guardian by Madeleine Bunting. Read it.

She says, "a week after a grim budget, with the prospect of more savage cuts to come, the cost cutting is obvious. But how exactly services in many areas are to be improved remains opaque".

So the challenge to Government is use the cuts agenda to get a better public service, not to damage it through mindless butchery. Time they talked to the third sector on how we can help deliver this.

Monday 28 June 2010

Co-ops and Brighton

Good to see that my local Co-op in Charlbury is advertising " Co-operative Fortnight" of which they are a founding member!!
Ed Mayo had also just emailed to tell me about this new venture, now underway, which is the UK's first ever Co-operatives Fortnight. It is the first time that the co-operative sector has ever come together to run a national campaign to promote co-operation as a contribution to business, society and the environment. There are one hundred events up and down the country over the coming fortnight.

Ed joined Co-operatives UK, six months ago. They are launching a series of reports on co-operation itself. The first, is on neighbourliness,and also reports on food and football to come, a major document on the UK’s co-operative economy, research on perceptions of fairness in the UK .

Given all the political interest from both Labour and the Tories (shades of my friend Mr Blond here!). These may be worth a look !
Info here

And should you wish to attend a Co-operatives Fortnight event , the list’s here:

We are having our annual Director's Group Away Day in Brighton. A lot to talk through; our strategy for the coming two years, how we grow our newly established social enterprise, protecting members in times of trouble and promoting the CEO voice.

And a pleasant Sunday evening on the beach enjoying the glorious sun ...... and then dinner at the superb Hotel du Vin where a trip to their wine cellars completed the evening.

Photos courtesy of Dr Peter Kyle. James Bond it is not!!!

Friday 25 June 2010

"Tesco-isation" is nonsense: Official!

New research from the Third Sector Research Centre and Centre for Charitable Giving and Philanthropy challenges the belief that the biggest charities are becoming increasingly dominant.

Over the past decade, the charity sector has grown substantially in terms of income and number of charities. Yet there is a perception amongst some that the largest charities are capturing an ever-increasing share of the pie. And there has been a lot of silly and divisive nonsense about "Tesco-isation" from people who should know better. And now they will!

Whilst the very smallest charities may not have grown as much as the rest of the sector, evidence suggests that the income gap between medium and large charities has fallen.

In 1995 the largest 1% of charities captured 62.1% of sector income. This share was essentially identical in 2007. When the increasing number of charities is accounted for, many of which are very small, evidence suggests that charitable income has actually become less concentrated. Furthermore, following the growth of specific organisations across the period shows that the very largest have not necessarily grown at the highest rate.

For the social service sector, which has often been the prime focus of 'Tesco-isation' claims, research shows that the largest organisations have not grown faster than medium sized ones.

John Mohan, Deputy Director of TSRC, is quoted in Third Sector as saying, "this research challenges misconceptions about the charity sector, which can often lead to negative assumptions about a loss of diversity or dislocation from local communities. Importantly, it also gives policy makers, and others involved in the sector, a more informed idea about the environment they are operating in".

Here. Here. Let's cut the small is beautiful stuff and recognise the fantastic and important work that our great national charities do for millions of our citizens.

Ok. That's enough of that. Now for the roses. Jimmy Griffths, an early Labour MP and Minister under Attlee wrote that we need "bread, but we need roses too!". June is the month for roses as my Vice Chair blogged recently.

Here are some photos of glorious Charlbury. The Alfred Carriere and the Albertine climbing roses on my cottage are a serious delight to the senses!

Enjoy. Have a good weekend!

Thursday 24 June 2010

Local Government

I emerged from the hell hole of what was once known as the London tube to a meeting of the Department of Communities and Local Government's Third Sector Advisory Board today. The joy of an air conditioned building! Or, I should say as it is now known, "The Voluntary and Community Sector Board". The first under the new regime and we had three Ministers attending; Andrew Stunnell, Nick Hurd and Greg Clark.

It went well. I made three points.

#. In working to locality you must still retain a framework where DCLG sets out expectations from what they expect from Councils and their relationships with the sector. Power cannot just be given to Councils and hope they will then empower the third sector.

# do not forget the crucial work of national charities who are often working locally and who provide crucial support for communites of interest; the profoundly deaf or people with autism for example. Localities are not always progressive!

# we need a big drive to ensure more service delivery through the sector. I spoke about cost effective, citizen focused services that we provide.

An interesting discussion on this. Greg took up my "framework" theme. He also spoke about the idea that there may be "rights" for people, or for the sector, we can enforce.

He suggested we work on the concept of the framework. This might include, for example, reforms on commissioning.

Nick Hurd was refreshingly honest about the problems we will face working with local Councils in the face of major spending cuts. He said they were not into direction but were into persuasion. He wants us to provide them with examples of Councils who are working well with the sector or have interesting schemes. Comments to the Blog please on this.

We also raised the value of Total Place and how this needed to be expanded into a total Communities approach. We also stressed the value of investment and how this had to be driven from the centre.

Back into the heat and off to the Office (not air conditioned!).

Although the majority of British employers were refusing to allow workers time off to watch the England match ACEVO knows better. We had the match on in the office and even supplied refreshments! Though the cans of Fosters Lager were certainly not my idea! See them here...

I'm afraid I was not watching as I had an interesting meeting with Dr Carlo Rossi Chauvenet from Banca Prossima. This is a new Italian Bank set up by Banca Intesa, which is Italy's biggest bank. It works entirely with the third sector in making loans. It is capitalised at 100m eu. Interestingly this puts the work of Charity Bank here in the shade (with only £30m). It will not distribute profits for 10 years and after that they will be split 50-50 between the sector and the main Bank. They are interested in the work of SIB and of impact bonds. I said it would be fascinating if one day we did work together across Europe. Social Finance is a new but exciting opportunity for the European third sector. It is fascinating that there is a growing sense that the commercial sector can make bankable loans to our sector. Pity there is no major English Bank making a decision to fund the sector in the way Banca Intessa have!

Highlight today? Meeting Eric Pickles MP. A fantastic discussion about the role of the third sector with Local Government in delivering better services and in democratising the commissioning process. He wants DCLG to be looking at how they can reform processes and work more effectively across Government. He was passionate about how commissioners fail to consult with the very people who will be affected by the services delivered. He was very supportive of the need for, as I described it, "democratising commissioning".

We talked about the power of social finance and the work of the Social Investment Business, especially in delivering the community builders programme. I gave him some great examples of how loan finance has transformed community enterprise.

He is keen to see a real emphasis on neighbourhoods in their reform programme. He wants to see a revitalised Local Government that works with and for citizens. It was a hugely positive and optimistic meeting. I have been a great Eric fan since I first met him in the 80s. I hope this will survive the next five years!! I know that many many Councils will be making cuts that deeply affect communities and our brave and bold sector. Hard times ahead. And it is ACEVO's job to defend, as well as promote, our members interests.

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Influencing on St Alban's Day

Appropriate that the feast day of St Alban, our first British Martyr, was used for the cuts budget!

Amusing to be in a meeting in DWP with Phillipa Stroud and then to be rung by David Freud to talk through the welfare cuts announced by Osborne! A hot and uncomfortable day for many!

Philippa was the founding Director of The Centre for Social Justice and is now a special advisor to Iain Duncan Smith. We were discussing how best to make the new Work Programme deliver, especially through the role of great third sector organisations.

David Freud is leading on this and it was good to catch up. Then on to speak to a key official....

On the way to my next engagement I even managed to pop into Westminster Abbey for Choral Evensong. How very special that was!

It was the evening of ACEVO's official reception for new MPs with Nick Hurd MP and me acting as "hosts". Nick gave a good reprise of the Government's general policy to the sector. In many ways, as he said, there is cross party consensus on the sector. Consensus on the role we play and how that should expand and how our campaigning and advocacy role is crucial to a healthy civil society. Clare Tickell, CEO of Action For Children, gave a brilliant response. The news on VAT she said was "not exactly fab", (My Chair tells me the VAT rise will cost RNIB 0.5!) but her main point was that over the lifetime of the coalition some 100,000 children will be born in multiple deprivation and how we, as a society tackle this will be defining of "Big Society" idea.

But the highlight of the day was a dinner for Greg Clark MP at the Carlton Club, laid on by ResPublica and the ubiquitous Phillip Blond. See them here under the steely gaze of one Margaret Thatcher!

A great discussion. Very flattering to have Greg quoting from my Big Society speech. We agreed that we need a "smart strategic state" at both national and local level. And perhaps because it was St Alban's Day I quoted the famous Papal Encyclical on subsidiarity. The key point of that is that power should reside at the most appropriate level; national, regional or local. Greg had indeed read the Encyclical and agreed with it. A great chat afterwards. Home somewhat late!

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Budget challenges!

Sitting in the ACEVO office listening to the Budget. An average 25% cut to Department Budgets. This will hit hard - and cannot avoid harming frontline services. And this is an average. You can expect DCLG to take a bigger hit. This ,coupled with the announcement of a council tax freeze, will hit many third sector organisations in particular.

The increase in VAT is a hard blow. The increase to 20% will cost us an estimated £150m per year. But worst, it makes the competitive disadvantage we face against councils worse. Councils and other state organisations pay no VAT but when we deliver services we do. So if a school opts out of Local Authority control it will start paying VAT - now at 20%.

And it is estimated that already charities pay some £1.3bn in irrecoverable VAT. That bill will now increase.

Today’s emergency budget demonstrates the enormous scale of the challenge facing third sector organisations. The spending cuts announced will hit frontline services, and our sector will be asked to do more at a time when parts of our cost base are rising. Above all, today makes it all the more important that we continue to engage with the Government on the form that cuts take and on the Spending Review currently underway and to be announced on October 20th

We have known for a while that we have even tougher times ahead as a sector. So in ACEVO our focus in coming months will be on supporting members through cuts. Today we launch Cuts Watch, our new microsite dedicated to providing the latest news, resources and directions to support the third sector in the months ahead.

We also want this to be a space in which members can share their stories of cuts and their solutions, and a resource to support members to defend their services from Local Authority cuts in particular. A number of members have also been in touch with stories of 'back office cuts' translating into cuts to third sector organisations' front-line delivery, or of payment for agreed contracts or grants being delayed without explanation. I am meeting with Eric Pickles MP tomorrow and I will raise this.

ACEVO has started to engage with Ministers on influencing the Spending Review. As a starting point, Ministers are interested in what is currently delivered by quangos that ACEVO members could deliver at lower cost. Many of you have been in touch with suggestions (e.g. on what is currently done by Natural England, the National Treatment Agency, the National Police Improvement Agency as examples), which I will be feeding in to Ministers. I see this as a process of freeing up quangos to work better as third sector bodies. Interestingly British Waterways are in the process of changing from a national agency to a third sector body. An excellent thing!!

Now its off to DWP to see key people like Philippa Stroud and a top official who will remain nameless! Then dinner at the Carlton club with Greg Clark MP!!

Sugar and spice and all things....

Monday morning: a great meeting with Sir Peter Gershon at Tate and Lyle. He is advising the Government on efficiency savings. In 2004 he was the author of what became known as the Gershon Report, looking at Government commissioning and efficiency. I saw him then and he was convinced that the third sector should play a bigger role in service delivery and wrote that into the Report.

We talked about the ideas behind our "big offer" of cost effective service delivery and how patchy progress has been made on this agenda since his '04 report. Here is a man who certainly gets the point behind the third sector's power to deliver, even if HMT does not. So far to date we have been fobbed off by the Treasury, but I am hoping with the influence of people like Gershon we can make an impact on the three year comprehensive spending review. There is little point in talking about "progressive cuts" if you are not engaging fully with the sector in how services can be delivered better.

London is such a superb City! As I had a few hours to kill before an eye appointment at St Thomas' I decided to walk along the South Bank of the Thames. That meant walking up Clink Street; the site of Britain's earliest prison; built 1127 (I have named my London house "Clinks" as I am behind the Brixton Prison. And as a point of history (I pass this on for Kevin Curley's edification) is that this prison was run by the third sector. It was in the Bishop's Palace and run by the Church. And I even popped into Southwark Cathedral and had 15 minutes of the Organ Recital. An unexpected delight.

But it was soon back to work. A reception at The House of Lords to mark the 50th birthday of the Advisory Centre for Education, run by that most wonderful of CEOs, Simon Hepburn (and an ACEVO Trustee). Set up by Michael Young, its been providing professional and expert advice to parents and carers on a wide range of educational issues since 1960. In this new era of "free schools" its work will be greatly needed.

Then on to a reception to mark the move of the Public Chairs Forum to the Institute of Government in Carlton Gardens. Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Cabinet Secretary was speaking. He began in cheery mode by warning us, apropos the Budget that "if you think its been tough to now, you ain't seen anything yet"!

It was useful to have a word afterwards on "Big Society" and the need to get it grounded.

Then it was hot foot across St James' Park to The Atrium for a dinner with some of the MPs who are interested in the work of the Social Investment Business. A good end to the summer solstice! Whether a good start to the day of the cuts budget is another matter.

Monday 21 June 2010

An international sector - cuts ahead?

The third sector is growing around the world. My good friend and colleague Professor Lester Salamon of Johns Hopkins University in the States has been on a mission for years to get a proper statistical account of third sector activity.

A recent article by Lester, published in the Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, "Putting the Civil Society Sector on the Economic Map of the World", is worth a look.

He argues that the past twenty-five years have witnessed a spectacular expansion of philanthropy, volunteering, and civil society organisations throughout the world.

Despite the promise that this development holds, however, the civil society sector is poorly understood by policymakers and the public at large, often encumbered by legal limitations, and inadequately utilized as a mechanism for addressing public problems. One reason for this is the lack of basic information on its scope, structure, financing, and contributions in most parts of the world. This lack of information is due in part to the fact that significant components of the nonprofit sector fall within the non-observed, or informal, economy, and in part to the way even the observed parts of this sector have historically been treated in the prevailing System of National Accounts (SNA).

The paper provides an overview of a series of steps that have been taken over the past 20 years by researchers at Johns Hopkins and, more recently, with officials in the United Nations Statistics Division and the International Labour Organization to remedy this situation, culminating in the issuance and initial implementation of a new United Nations Handbook on Nonprofit Institutions in the System of National Accounts and the forthcoming publication of a new International Labour Organization Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work.

Taken together, these efforts point the way toward putting the civil society sector on the economic map of the world for the first time in a systematically comparative way.

This article can be found here:

There are two points to be made about this. First, we can learn a lot ourselves as Leaders if we examine the growth of the sector in other countries. That is the base of the work that Euclid is doing in Europe.

The second point I often make to politicians here is that they often regard our sector only in the context of our work in volunteering or society more generally, and forget our economic power and strength. There is a danger that the "Big Society" idea is being reduced to a debate about citizen and community involvement and volunteering and forgetting the major role we should be playing in economic recovery and in providing more cost effective public service. We shall see whether Tuesday's budget takes up the challenge of progressive cuts or does the usual salami slicing. There is an unpleasant macho like approach to cuts at present which appears to glory in the process even though we can already see that front line services will be affected.

They have yet to engage effectively with the sector in discussion about how we could contribute to the process of reform by what Richard Reeves on Thursday called "progressive cuts". They need to begin discussions with the sector quickly.

Friday 18 June 2010

Future Leaders!

Yesterday was our annual CEO Summit. Today it's The future Leaders Summit.

I'm not involved today; apart from an appearance to glad hand. I asked at the beginning of the week if I was needed and was told: "No, no. This is future leaders; Seb and Peter are in charge!"

But it also marked the launch of a new ACEVO publication "How to become a Third Sector CEO". A superb piece of work carried out by the Cass business school. Get it! Order here

A great turn out - which included two of ACEVO's previous Deputy CEOs. Here they are with the current DCEO.

Nick Aldridge (now CEO, Mission Fish), Gail Scott-Spicer (Scouts) and Peter Kyle.

In the morning I was at Lambeth Town Hall to talk about the work they are doing on The Co-operative Council. They are looking at ways to forge a new relationship between the Council and the citizen. ACEVO will be working with Lambeth on this. We need more Councils to take a radical approach to service delivery. Many are simply salami slicing. This is not the way you will protect front line services. And it will not deliver Big Society.

Perhaps Lambeth would be a great case-study for 'This is European Social Innovation' - a new initiative launched today by Euclid Network and Social Innovation Exchange. Ten projects will be used by the European Commission as case studies in future communication about social innovation in the EU. The projects will also be featured in an official European Commission publication which will be distributed across Europe. I know ACEVO members have some great case-studies, it would be great to see them championed across Europe!

Emails from Bishops, Regulation and Prisons.

Nice to get an email from the Bishop of London about my Big Society speech;

"Congratulations on such a timely and influential speech which was used by a number of speakers in the Lords yesterday on the Big Society."

What could be more agreeable; being quoted in the Upper House! My thoughts approved by the Established Church! I'm deeply chuffed, especially as Richard Charteris is my favourite Bishop!

Yesterday we published a big report on charity sector regulation.

The report is based on the work of a taskforce of ACEVO members and other experts, chaired by Rupert Evenett, the Chair of BTCV. It comes at a crucial time - the new Government is keen on reducing the burden of regulation, and the Office for Civil Society and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills have just announced that they will conduct a joint review of charity regulation. Our report will feed into that.

The report essentially calls for an overhaul of charity regulation to bring it from the Victorian age into the 21st century, e.g. by making more information available to the public, making more use of professional standards, greater flexibility in regulation, less duplication between different regulators, and promoting a culture shift so that regulation doesn't encourage charities to be so risk averse.

It argues we must be able to have more diverse forms of governance, so Trustees should be paid if the charity has decided there is a good case for it. It will be essential we see a radical new approach in the Charity Commission if people are to set up Free Schools and new social enterprises to deliver services in communities. I was delighted to hear Andrew Hind, the Charity Commission CEO, saying they do need to change and to become more "enabling" at our recent sector summit.

Click here to read it.

As part of ACEVO’s Welfare to Work and Employment Skills Special Interest Group, we are running a joint workshop with CDG at the forthcoming CESI Welfare to Work Convention in early July. This is the major annual welfare to work conference – anyone who is anyone in welfare to work will be there; an excellent chance to network with cross sector peers and policy makers alike! Our workshop is titled “Welfare to Work and the Big Society” and will explore the role the sector can play and the support needed to contribute meaningfully to the Work Programme – the SIG will be taking the key points from this workshop forwards over the coming year. Click here for more details and to book onto the conference, or email Nick Carey ( if you are interested in finding out more about the group.

An interesting reception last night, given by The Lord Chancellor at the Ministry of Justice. It was good to see Nick Herbert MP, one of the new Ministers and on Bubb's List of "My Top 10 Favourite Tories". He really gets the importance of expanding the role of the sector in fighting crime by reducing re-offending. He knows the effectiveness of the work of many charities and social enterprises in ensuring offenders are supported and developed away from a life of crime. He was keen to assure me they will develop our role.

He also asked me whether I was still doing my Blog!! I assured him I was, and that he would appear in it (again!).

I had a long chat with Ken Clarke MP on the role of the sector. He wanted to know my views on Payment by Results, and subsequently I continued this discussion with various officials and Ken's spad. There is a real opportunity in PBR for our sector. The problem, and it is a very real one, is how to capitalise third sector bodies to run services until the time they get paid for their outcomes. No third sector body working in re-offending has the cash flow or reserves to manage PBR. Even the biggest charity working here has reserves of under two months. How can they be expected to run services for one or two years without any payments? It is not going to happen unless the Government think how to provide loans or social impact bonds at a level and quantity that ensure cash flow.

Already many of our members have difficulty in coping when Councils or state bodies don't pay their invoices on time. Cash flow in charities is a real issue. That became clear to us in the Social Investment Business and why we set up a cash flow loan scheme. It was much used.

The Futurebuilders scheme could have been a source of support for this but it is now fully committed and, indeed the Government have decided to take away the loan interest repayments from Futurebuilders and put into grants to support community organisers. A real shame that a source of loans that could have supported organisations to expand their role in re offending has been hobbled.

But overall I expect us to be playing a vastly expanded role in both running prisons and tackling our appalling re offending rates. Good luck to Ken and Nick in pushing this agenda forward.

And finally, let's note that tomorrow marks the birthday of Aung San Suu Kyi, the remarkable and heroic Leader of Burma. Still in prison. Held captive by one of the world's most repressive regimes. Best wishes to her and to the people of Burma.

Thursday 17 June 2010

Annual CEO Summit

Today we had our annual Summit; the great and the good of the Big Society, gathered together in the warm embrace of the ACEVO network.

In opening up the Summit I asked my colleagues whether they felt optimistic, apprehensive or pessimistic about the future. An interesting result:

Optimistic. 55%
Apprehensive. 42%
Pessimistic. 3%

Given the gloom on cuts, how brilliant that the majority of our members are optimistic. Optimism will be needed! But in some ways it is a defining characteristic of sector Leaders.

I used the following quote;

"The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

Arthur William Ward, American scholar and author

It is the CEO who needs to do the sails, and this formed the backdrop of our Summit.

We had a brilliant presentation by Richard Reeves, who was making his last public presentation as Director of DEMOS before heading for Downing Street as the Principal Special Advisor to Nick Clegg MP. He agreed with my thesis that much of the "Big Society" thesis is not fully worked out but that it is a defining characteristic of the Coalition. It is an intuition about the way forward that is encapsulated by a title. And it is our job to help shape it. This must be right.

He argued strongly that it is our role in the sector to shape the weather; we don't have to wait for the wind to change!

Spot on Richard!

Some thoughts from the day.

The CEO of Witney CAB who said she would be meeting with her District Council (David Cameron's!) and telling them of the services they provide and which she could do better!

"Curiosity is the key to learning", Simon Fanshawe.

Gillian Norton, CEO of Richmond Council, who said they had done a survey of residents and discovered that there are more people who want to volunteer than there are opportunities! Well now, I wonder why that is; could that be because managing volunteers costs money? So how about you actually funding your third sector to expand opportunities, instead of looking at them to make cuts! She was talking of cuts of between 20-30%!

CEO, "we need value at the right price not cheap at the lowest price"!

There was a general feeling that there is opportunity in change. If we are smart we seize advantages. You either grab change by the hand or its seizes you by the throat!

The three Peters!

Peter Kyle and Peter Wanless listen to Peter Mitchell CEO of CAF Bank.


A day full of incidence. Or rather meetings. Starting off in the Social Investment Business , then onto my Director's Group but , due to a grave oversight by my PA, I found myself lunchless. I actually went out and purchased one. But it was very agreeable. A table in the sun, outside Valerie Patisserie in the Sicilian Arcade at Southampton Row. A quiet moment of reflection; perhaps I should do it more?

Then a board meeting and off to see officials in DCLG. Indiscreet of me to say more about that obviously! Rushed from that to a major speech by the Leader of the house of Commons, Sir George Young on parliamentary reform.

From there to Local Government house in Smith Square. In the 70s I used to work here, in Transport House as it was then known! I was going to a shin dig to celebrate Sir Jeremy Beecham's elevation to the House of Lords. A great local Government figure, former Leader of Newcastle and Chair of the AMA and then the LGA. He was my chair when I was at the AMA so it was a real joy to wish him well. And what a collection of former Cabinet ministers there ! 3 former third sector Ministers; Angela ( to be Baroness Smith ) Phil Hope and the very first and greatest Ed Miliband MP . Cool to chat to Ed. A star! As I predicted in this Blog , the guy is going far ...indeed Ed himself commented I was one of his "early adopters"!

Strange to leave and see a gaggle of former ministers standing around with their blackberries fixing their own diaries! And no row of black cars outside.

As they say, sic transit gloria mundi

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Lottery, Summits and cuts

A rather good meeting with the Lottery Minister, John Penrose MP, on Monday. Stuart, Kevin and I presented a good, effective united front. Despite all the jibes about how we don't work together, when the chips are down we certainly do.

It was one of those meetings where I became increasingly alarmed that we were all on the same page. I began to wonder if we were asking for enough! James was clear that in changing the share allocation amongst the lottery bodies he did not want to see less going to the third sector. There was agreement we had to have transparency from all the lottery distributors on how much they put into our sector; so heritage, arts and sports need to ensure funding streams put a priority on the sector. In particular we don't see all the money going into "grands projets".

Stuart, in his newly benighted self, was on particularly good form! Stuart had treated us to lunch at The Liberal Club. On the way out he pointed out a statue of Gladstone on which were inscribed words about the difference between high minded Liberals and wicked grasping Tories. I'm surprised they haven't had the stone masons in to remove this subversive stuff!

Dinner with my last Chair, John Low, was a real delight. Good to swap tales of sector intrigue and gossip, as well, of course, high minded discussion of Big Society, as you do these days!

An early start on Tuesday (how I hate breakfast meetings!). Off to the Canal for our Sector Summit. I was hoping for a glass of Bucks Fizz to start off in celebrating the Knighthood? But no. Not very good coffee.

A good purposeful discussion. A clear agreement that we need to be united around the essentials as we move forward. I used my analogy about the piece of string and balloons and Stuart talked about his two horses (not necessarily of the apocalypse!). One horse we ride is supporting the principle of Big Society and our sector role in delivering that and, the other, is protecting our members as they face cuts.

I made a particular plea to some colleagues to avoid senseless and divisive arguments on small versus large and how small is always better (and so how those large charities are really not to be used). Such behaviour at a time we all face difficulty would be a disgrace, and ultimately self defeating.

And there was a depressing story on "Today" this morning. Apparently the BBC survey of Councils has discovered that most Councils are planning huge cuts; and a particular area for cuts will be in social care; elderly, disability and mental health will suffer.

This is appalling news. It is our sector increasingly that delivers those vital services. And, of course, that is the key. Councils seem to be acting true to form. Rather than taking the chance to have a fundamental review of how they deliver services and see how restructuring and using our sector to deliver cost effective services can help, they are pulling their wagons around the laager. Protecting their own staff and services and sacrificing others. A selfish and stupid response to cuts.


Still, I am at The Local Government Association tonight - to a congratulatory reception marking my old Chair Jeremy Beecham's elevation to the Peerage. Certain Local Government leaders will be getting the benefit of my views on this matter.

Monday 14 June 2010

Health and Podcasts

We have heard that the new Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, who is speaking at out annual Health and Social Care Conference on July 14th will be making an important announcement. I can say no more. But it will be worth going.

For details and to book, click here.

And this week we have our Chief Executive's Summit (Thursday 17 June in central London). I'm delighted that the marvellous Richard Reeves, who has been CEO of DEMOS, an ACEVO member and a very good friend for many years, has been appointed as special advisor to Nick Clegg MP. He has agreed to give the keynote speech at the Summit. He has starred at a number of ACEVO conferences and is a brilliant performer. Be there!

For details and to book click on this link.

Friday was amusing. I did a Podcast for The Guardian with the charming and erudite Nick Temple of the School for Social Entrepreneurs. We began well when I called him Nick Wilkie! And then David Brindle caps it by asking me a question when he refers to me as "Stuart" (not Sir Stuart at that stage!). "Services to the Third Sector" (no civil society stuff for HM).

Worth listening to as I expound the theory that "Big Society" is like a long piece of string on which the Tories hang lots of balloons!

The Podcast is released on Wednesday and can be picked up from SocietyGuardian.

A pleasant day ahead; lunch with Stuart and Kevin, then off to see the Lottery Minister to defend our good cause money!

Friday 11 June 2010

"Grow your own" and Glad Rags

I enjoyed the Gift Aid meeting. Met Justine Greening MP, The Treasury Minister, for the first time (as Lindsay said to me aren't Ministers looking younger these days). She was good. Clearly knows the importance of Gift Aid to charities from her own constituency. A rising talent; name to watch I predict!

Nick Hurd MP was joshing me, correctly, about wasn't I boycotting these meetings! Correct. But I came along in expectation of delivery this time. Yes, we want simplification. But transitional relief ends in April 2011 - just at a time when cuts bite hard on many, particularly smaller charities. Giving will be even more important as a source of funding for our sector. So let's keep it and look at higher rate reform too.

To be clear: transitional relief going will potentially lose us £300m and a rise in VAT cost us £150m. We cannot afford to lose these sums at a time when our charity work is ever more needed. Tough times.

Me, Justine and Nick with Lindsay Boswell of the Institute of Fundraising

Eco Warrior, Tom Flood, CEO of BTCV and one of my Trustees and ever inventive, has come up with a "Grow your own food" recipe book which he proudly presented to me on Tuesday. Produced by BTCV it aims to cut the carbon cost of the food we eat. And its free. So get a copy. (Click here )

I'm an enthusiast for growing my own fruit and veg. My early potatoes are coming on fine and the strawberries are under net and doing well alongside the pak Choi and the artichokes. They are all mixed in with shrubs and flowers; none of those anally retentive separate beds. And on Monday I planted a peach tree, alongside the apple. I also have plum, gage, pear,blueberry, grape vine (naturally) and olive. Is it a sign of becoming old when you start raving about your vegetables? At least I'm in good company; my Vice Chair is a great veggie grower too. But I shall try to avoid bragging about the size of my aubergines! In vegetables, as in life, small is not always beautiful.

And then it was off to change into my glad rags (well, not exactly rags; my gorgeous white silk DJ which often excites comment and sometimes gets me mistaken for a waiter!) for the Charity Finance Awards dinner. In a hotel this year, rather than a tent. One of the sector's more glittering events; a chance for the sector glitterati to parade and gossip....

I was on a table with stars like Dame Tickell, Chris Kelly, and the doyenne of volunteering, Dame Elizabeth Hoodless (CSV won the overall best charity award; good for her).

And the celebs were out in force to present awards.

Jo Brand, the world's most fab comedian introduced the Awards. Jo once worked as a mental health nurse in Brixton with my partner so I'm very fond of Jo. And she sparkled. But also made the point, we must never develop giving fatigue.

Nick Hurd MP gave the final award: an excellent winding up speech that shows if he bombs as a politician, a career in show biz awaits. As David Carrington on my table said, "Better than most of the presenters".

Julia Unwin won the leadership award. Julia is a great sector figure of charm and intellect, and who has made an indelible mark on the sector.

And she reminded us that we must never, ever lose our ability to "speak truth to power". It was a salutary end to a starry evening!

Thursday 10 June 2010

Gift Aid; time for change.

The Annual Report of the Fundraising Standards Board has been published. An interesting document! We read that direct mail generates the highest number of complaints on charities, but this only represented 0.003% of the reported volume.

Just shows how complaints about fundraising charities are blown completely out of proportion. But also illustrates how crucial fundraising is for our sector.

And this afternoon we have a meeting with Nick Hurd MP and Treasury Minister, Justine Greening MP, at HMT to discuss Gift Aid. After the lethargy on this shown by Labour I'm hoping for better from the Coalition.

ACEVO and its members have become deeply frustrated by the previous Government's evident lethargy on Gift Aid reform. We have been in "talks" for two years!

As cuts gather apace Gift Aid becomes ever more important in supporting the crucial work of charities. It's a key plank for us to help build a bigger society.

I had become so frustrated by inaction and bluster from the Treasury I had withdrawn from the so called "Gift Aid Forum". Forum had just become a posh word for merry-go-round. And life is too short to spend in listening to Treasury officials explaining for the 20th time why what we are saying it is all so so difficult and problematic.

I welcome the fact that the Coalition Government has called us together so quickly. An omen of change perhaps.

But I didn't jump off a red merry-go-round round to jump on a blue+yellow one. We need action. Not more chat.

I'm waiting for this afternoon's meeting in hope and expectation. Don't let me down Nick and Justine!

Wednesday 9 June 2010

Hurd and Members

A good positive first meeting with Nick Hurd, our Third Sector Minister, yesterday. Of course we have got to know him well since he took the brief in Opposition. I think the sector is lucky to have him there! But also to have a Cabinet Office team in Oliver Letwin and Francis Maude that have a proactive but sensible approach to our sector. Importantly they are all realists, so some of the current flights of fancy will quickly get grounded. And it's our job to make that happen. As Nick and I both agreed its the "How" question we need to address.

We concentrated on the transformation of public services through a massive expansion of third sector delivery and the barriers that lie in commissioning processes.

It was flattering to know that Nick had been reading the speech - and as he quoted from it I knew it was no mere politeness. We agreed that rocky times are ahead and cuts will be difficult; the message of the Cameron speech. We will have to be forthright in defending members. I certainly will be. A quiet Bubb is a concept unbeknown to the sector. But I am also clear that leading a third sector CEO body we work with Government to deliver better outcomes for our beneficiaries.

It was a shame that Nick though rather blotted his copy book in The Commons earlier today by suggesting Futurebuilders had "distorted the market". The independent evaluation of the programme by Sheffield Hallam showed there is no evidence for this claim. It's a shame this happened because The Social Investment business is crucial to growing sector capacity through capital acquisition. It makes "unbankable" loans so it does not displace commercial loans. It adds capacity. It is also about empowerment and helping the sector stand on its own two feet; moving from purely grant dependence.

So I see the SIB as a strong component of and supporter of Big Society. We empower community enterprise. 40% of our loans go to small charities and voluntary groups with a turnover of less than £500k. We work with parent led schools and have a huge track record in supporting welfare to work organisations to up scale. David Cameron spoke about the need for a better mix of loans and grants and sustainable funding. That's what we provide. So let's work together on this agenda!

Good today to have two great meetings with members. Lunch with Chris Manze of The Stone Soup Project. A real go-getting social entrepreneur. He knows scale is important and intends to grow. A name to watch. And then Sally Burton, CEO of The Shaw Trust. The Shaw Trust is the biggest provider in the sector of welfare to work services. They will be a key player in ideas and plans by David Freud in DWP to reform delivery. Good to have The Shaw Trust back in the ACEVO fold after previous upsets! Sally is a real pro. On top of her brief, passionate and determined to lead her organisation to deliver better results for clients and customers.

Then off to see Sue Slipman, an old friend and now CEO of the Foundation Trust Network. We are to have a "Big Society Tea" with leading CEOs from the two sectors to see how we're to develop a joint agenda on health. It will be fascinating!

Dumping Assets, Opera singers and Gold!

A fascinating discussion on "Today" about a new report from KPMG on new ways of delivering public services in a more diverse way with different forms of ownership and a much bigger role for the third sector. Spot on. What ACEVO has been arguing for years.

But the interview highlighted a major problem. In a time of austerity and big cutbacks by Local Government will Councils be tempted to dump assets on us. The KPMG guy talked about libraries. He was quite unable to explain how, just by handing over a library in a deprived area to a voluntary or community organisation, that was suddenly going to revitalise the service if the building needs lots of money spent on upkeep and a whole army of volunteers to keep it running. His comparison with the charity shop was facile. And later that evening a reactionary philistine on Newsnight suggested that we should drop the idea that Local Authorities provide libraries at all. So universal provision of libraries throughout the land, one of the great glories of England, is to be ditched. The philistines and accountants are to take over the realm. Sell off all those public art galleries; close down our great public orchestras. A feeling of disgust and revulsion at such madness overwhelms me.

There is a warning here for the third sector. Watch out for unscrupulous Councils who face cuts just offloading all their expensive assets, like library buildings; cutting their capital bills and passing off the need for funding the service onto charity. Surely our future must be greater than continual fund raising to mend the leaking roofs?

This was very much at the forefront of the ACEVO dinner last night with the marvellous Rob Whiteman who is three weeks into his new job as CEO of the Local Government Improvement and Development Agency. Hosted by the ever generous CCLA, who manage the vast majority of charity assets and have a huge record of wise investments; it brought together a fine range of sector leaders who indulged in fine debate and conversation with the Great Whiteman. Rob has the girth of an opera singer; indeed he tells us he wanted to be one. He sang us an impromptu ditty in the lift going home!

The morning was with another financial institution; Hoare's Bank. It is Britain's oldest bank and the only one still in family hands. It has the wise policy of only ever investing half of its deposits so safely riding the credit crunch when all about them were losing their heads. Bob Loft showed me around their amazing bank on Fleet Street. Their archive (ledgers of Samuel Pepys, a fine gold coin collection etc) was amazing. I'm glad to say they intend to join ACEVO as corporate members. They will be very welcome.

Tuesday 8 June 2010

Parent led schools

One of the Government's flagship policies is to let parents create thousands of “free schools” outside direct Local Authority control.

The Rainbow and TreeHouse schools in London, both set up by parents of autistic children, are thriving and a good example of parent schools established as charities. But both took many years to bring to fruition and required support from the Government loan scheme administered by The Social Investment Business.

The Rainbow School, in South London, began as the dream of four parents with 18 children and is set to take in around 60.

Headmistress, Karen Sorab, was told by education experts in 2000 that her daughter would never be able to communicate and she should forget about trying to teach her. She was determined not to accept this and so set up a school that is now a major success and takes kids across London.

More parents of children with autism set up the TreeHouse School in North London in 1997. It began in a rented room in a hospital. From there we ended up with a state- of-the-art centre which helps hundreds of youngsters every year.

The schools are now paid by Local Authorities for the children they teach, but were set up with loans. In the case of Rainbow, the SIB gave a grant of £230,000 and a loan of £2million, thus providing the working capital.

For TreeHouse, we gave the first £5million and then commercial funding kicked in.”

The Adventure Capital Fund, part of SIB, has also funded a parent led pre-school set up in Liverpool.

In the case of TreeHouse it took nearly 19 years from start to finish. And it required a Futurebuilders loan to make it happen. The lesson here is that parent or volunteer commitment is crucial but not sufficient; it also has to have the capital support that only the Government was able to provide. They were both "unbankable" projects.

And this should be a salutary lesson to Government who are saying they will remove the loan interest repayments due to Futurebuilders and put into a grant scheme, thus depriving The Social Investment Business of the opportunity to support further such parent schools.

Friday 4 June 2010

Radical cuts, Eric and 21 again

Eric Pickles was having an "At Home". All very jolly. All his Ministers with him. Execrable wine; clearly cuts kicking in already. So bad I ditched it for orange juice. But a good chance to earbash on behalf of the third sector. Had an amusing interlude with Phillip Blond of Respublica on the term "civil society" and the superiority of "third sector" as name of choice - that was before we got onto intermediaries as Fascist entities (or not).

Good chat with Greg Clark. He is clearly delighted that he has the "Big Society" brief as part of his Mr Localism agenda. I gave him a copy of The Speech. Indeed I gave one to Eric who pulled out his pen and said "autograph it"! I'm seeing them both shortly to talk on how we can ensure localism is as much about devolution to the third sector as to local councils who keep the power to themselves.

Greg in particular wants to have a word on commissioning and how we can get local government more on the page with good practise vis a vis the sector. Some of the worst practice on FCR and short term contracts happens in local government.

In the morning I was chairing the Admiralty House Group of commissioners government, private and third sectors )which ACEVO and PWC have pulled together. We are having a high level consultative conference on June 29 with top commissioners to talk through potential changes to systems and how we can capitalise the sector to compete at scale. I'm particularly interested in how we can ensure community groups and specialist or niche players do not miss out in any prime contracting models.

David Tyler of Community Matters made a striking and positive contribution to our debate. We are working with the Community Alliance on how we can ensure positive contributions from small and large TSOs. I hate those in our sector who think it's clever to parrot the old 60s refrain of "small is beautiful" to which the only sensible response is "SIZE is better". But that is a juvenile debate.

Lunch at the Commonwealth Club. ACEVO members get discounted membership. Click here.

With Gordon D'Silva that great inventive and witty social entrepreneur - founder of Training for Life and The Hoxton Apprentice. We are cooking up plans for a new network, but I must not be indiscreet. It's funny how many people say to me these days "this is not for the Blog": I guess just one of the penalties of writing the sector's most widely read Blog (that's mine by the way, not Robin Bogg's).

And talking Blogs so good to see that the wonderful new website of the Social Enterprise London; run by one of the sector's greatest Leaders, Allison Ogden Newton, that has a link through to my Blog. Click here.

I think more sector websites should do this. I'll mention to Stuart Etherington next time I see him.

Back in the office I have a meeting with that most brainy guy, John Craig, who runs The Innovation Unit. We talk about radical cuts: or how we persuade Government to use the austerity budget to push different approaches to delivery that save money AND produce better results for clients. There are so many examples of this; innovative third sector leaders are so good at making more out of less. We have been doing it for decades.

There must be spring in the air; he tells me he got engaged on Saturday. And Seb tells him he got engaged on Friday. Seb did it atop the Rockefeller in New York. John did it in The Forum in Rome!

And as Seb said, someone had emailed him to comment on my reference to his engagement in my blog, "I guess it's the third sector equivalent of an announcement in The Times". So true.

And to cap off the day I rushed from Eric Pickles to my nephew Julian's 21st birthday party. That's the rowing one, not the poet! See him here.

Julian with his brother and sister, Oliver and Miranda

More Bubbs, Mother looking elegant

And finally, an amusing Blog from Emma-Jane Cross on my recent Speech. Read it here. So erudite. She runs that great organisation BeatBullying.

Wednesday 2 June 2010


Blogging from Church House. No, not praying (well not yet) but to hear from the new Ministerial team at DWP. After any reshuffle there is a process of meeting new Ministers. With a new Government it is in overdrive! I'm at DCLG tomorrow to meet the new Ministers there. Be good to see old friends Pickles and Clark and at DCLG it is all change at the top. The Permanent Secretary, Peter Housden, who I had got to know well and respect greatly, has moved to be the new Cabinet Secretary for the Scottish Government. The highly able Irene Lucas takes over on an interim basis. A highly adept former local government CEO from the NE.

Much bonhomie and goodwill being exuded by all concerned. But how long will that last? After the Budget it may be very different. It will be third sector organisations who will be at the sharp end of the changes in welfare payments. Experiencing the difficulties and hassles faced by many of those claimants on disability benefit who will find it most hard to handle change. We know already the real challenges faced by those with mental health problems or with learning difficulties in tackling a sometimes inflexible bureaucracy.

Though I suspect that in a decade's time we will see the third sector as the dominant force in the delivery of employment and training services. ACEVO members are meeting IDS soon to discuss these challenges!

The return to work started in a most agreeable way. Coffee with James Purnell. How good to see him looking so relaxed, full of energy and enthusiasm as he debates what course his career should now take. Of course I'm biased; I think he would be a stunning third sector CEO! What a loss to Labour he is not now in the fray of the post election debates and leadership contest. The dreary, dull and policy lite manifestos of the Labour leadership candidates in yesterday's Guardian were depressing. Not one thought about how to respond to "Big Society". Not one thought on a reassessment of the role of the state in delivering services.

What a glorious Bank Holiday weekend. What in my youth we called Whitsun (why does no one use that term anymore?).

And none more so than for my marvellous Director of Strategy. He has taken a long weekend break in New York with his girlfriend (and my Deputy was there too so as to make it a great ACEVO jaunt).

Whilst there, and with great sense of occasion, he proposed to Lucy atop the Rockefeller Centre. Complete with Grandmother's engagement ring. I guess if you are a Director of Strategy you want to do this sort of thing high up a building. Something about vision I guess? Fortunately she said yes, rather than throwing him off.

And finally, let me leave you with a selection of photos from that glorious weekend here in the UK.

I was in Oxford for the annual "Eights Week" when the Colleges row against each other. A great gathering of civil society on the banks of the Isis make this a grand occasion. But it was also an occasion for a massing of the Bubbs. We were all there to cheer on my dear nephew Julian, who was rowing in the first Keble VIII.

And on Friday night my brother Nick and nephew Alexander (the poet not the rower) and I dined at High Table in our old College. Reliving old memories. In my case some 35 year old memories!! I also took my old boss, Sir Rodney Brooke, who now Chairs the QAA (previous Chair one Sam Younger soon to be Charity Commission Chief).

Bubbs en masse

Julian, Keble First VIII

Julian, Nick, Alex and...

Tom Quad, Christ Church