Friday 30 July 2010

Nat Wei and NATO

Well that was interesting. The meeting with Nat Wei that is! I admit I had been wary, given some of what I had read and heard, but it turned into an energetic and lively discussion. Clearly someone who likes ideas and wants to drive forward the sector. So we are on the same page there.

However some of the ideas need grounding if they are to work. They need to be developed with the sector and not in isolation. So I see my task in particular to see if I can help do this. And it is clear this is someone who likes ideas and will respond well to them; and if there is something ACEVO excels in its ideas!

We had a great discussion around the need for commercial banks to get lending to the sector and what the barriers that stop this. We both agreed that there is a real potential market for banks and they are currently ignoring it ; so there is a potential alliance between Government and sector in pursuing this (almost a classic Blairite triangulation strategy!)

I expressed my concerns over the community organisers idea and how this could be better grounded in some of the exiting infrastructures that are there. I was so energised by the meeting I already have thoughts on how we might do this. It needs to be moved from the slightly wacky Trot thing it appears at present to a real boost to capacity building in the sector. Not of course that Hurd or Wei are Trots (unless the entryist strategy was really clever!)
So productive; as Mrs Thatcher said of Gorbachev, "this is a man I can do business with".

It was rather an awayday at the Cabinet Office as I also has a meeting with Francis Maude, a politician of the first rank and someone I have got to know well over the last five years. We were there to talk about commissioning and the need for change. I was reporting to him on some of the conclusions arising out of the Admiralty House Group that ACEVO and PWC have been organising; a Group of private, third and public sector commissioning experts. The Cabinet Office are looking for change; to secure greater efficiency and to democratise the process so citizens and communities are more in control.

Again a productive meeting. It's interesting that when I can talk through the ideas and underpinning philosophy it becomes much clearer how this can be a powerful advance for our sector. But the communication of it, and the failure to yet fully engage the sector establishment in delivery, is a problem.

But as I have said before we are Big Society so let's start telling them how to do it better. And ACEVO will take the lead in doing just that.

After a heavy but extremely useful Board then my meetings at Cabinet Office I was fair whacked. So another visit to the Proms was a real treat. Last time it was Beethoven 1st piano concerto. Last night was the 2nd. Beautiful. And then the glorious rolling majesty of Dvorak's" from the New World" symphony. Isn't it time for a third Sector symphony? Ill get my Policy team onto it!

Now I'm off to a meeting with NATO. I have to admit that in my time at ACEVO I have meet with some interesting groups and organisations: but NATO is something else. How ACEVO has grown - can't imagine many third sector organisations doing that can you?

They are interested in the work that Euclid, our dynamic European third sector leaders body, is doing in the Balkans and Eastern Europe. Clearly NATO have a strong interest in a more stable democracy and so see a vibrant civil society as a key component to achieving that. So our work in developing civil society leaders in the Balkans and Eastern Europe is increasingly of great interest. Indeed it has now been written up in articles for the World Bank and for the UN. We are global players these days!! Get that Symphony sorted guys !

Thursday 29 July 2010


Who was that wee fella sitting on the lobster pots at the end of the Pier, Blackberry glued to his ear? Why yes, indeed it was me. Conducting my weekly Directors' Group meeting by Conference call. This had the added advantage of my Directors hearing the glorious sounds of West Cork; the wheeling seagulls, the splash of the children playing in the water and the occasional boat pulling up to disembark fish and yes even a distantly mooing cow!

We had a lot to discuss. A Board meeting today and my upcoming meetings with Francis Maude and then with Lord Wei.

Then it was of to see some more cousins. Three of the newest; and I mean two weeks and eight weeks (that's the twins). We worked out there are some 60 Limrick cousins in and around Union Hall. So if you are ever there say hello to one of my relations; your bound to bump into one.

And now an unlikely photo of Bubb with a baby. Not a sight to be generally seen!

But the sights and sounds of Union Hall are fading fast. Back to my Board. A purposeful meting discussing our budgets and forward strategy and our stance on Big Society. Positive but an assertion of our right to define what it is and to speak up for our CEO members when Government does not get it right. But engaged at all times in working to get it right.

Finally let me leave you with a few lingering memories.

The Pier at Union Hall

Where we dined and drank (Murphys as you ask)

Brade Church

Tuesday 27 July 2010

Volunteering; getting it right!

The European Commission has decided this week to propose that 2011 be designated as the "European Year of Volunteering". The Council and the European Parliament are expected to endorse this proposal by the beginning of next year.

That, on top of the recent publicity around the National Citizen Service further increases interest in volunteering; but we need to get it right.

I was interested in the response of that marvellous charity CSV, led by the indomitable Dame Elizabeth, who I last saw at the NCS launch looking very glamorous (as you would expect at No: 10!).

They point out that instead of the scheme announced (or as well ) Government could have thrown support behind the proposal they have made for young people to make a really meaningful contribution. As they say;

"2010 is a historic turning point and a timely moment to look at nationwide community service in a fresh light. The crisis in care for frail elderly people who would prefer to remain in their own homes; the growing need for support for families under pressure; the alarming drop out rates from higher education and the escalating rate of youth unemployment reinforces the benefits to our young people and to our communities of a year of full-time service for 18 year olds. Finland, France, Germany, Israel and Italy have all taken the plunge. Why not here and now?

CSV has over 47 years experience of enabling young people to volunteer in their communities. As part of a CSV pilot project at Queen Mary's Hospital in Sidcup last summer young people helped feed stroke patients and others on the wards resulting in patients leaving hospital a day earlier and potentially saving the NHS thousands of pounds.
Across the UK young people are volunteering to help frail older people in their homes, children at school and are helping to conserve religious heritage sites while meeting new people and learning new skills. Young volunteers report increased confidence, self esteem and pride in doing something meaningful and purposeful in the community

This is a real positive suggestion. So Lord Wei, why not look at how this might work? And how about looking at the brilliant proposals from the great conservation volunteering charity BTCV for a Big Green Army pulling in young volunteers to contribute to a more sustainable UK.
Time you called in Dame Elizabeth and Tom and talk to them. The sector itself should be deciding what works and what we should do. Listen to the sector Government and you may get it right. Pursue your own schemes and you may not. You may have thought up these great ideas while in Opposition but you are now in Government. You need to test them against the knowledge and wisdom of our great sector. And you need to ensure effective funding. You found money for NCS. Look at how to support this.

Let's get this right.

And finally, my "beautiful nieces" (their words) Miranda and Amy are insistent I mention them on my Blog. So I have. The sun is shining down on us in Union Hall. It's a grand day. Fabulous locally caught plaice for breakfast!
Some more photos. Here they all are round the piano. Accomplished pianist, Miranda, at the ivories!

About to go swimming - not me!

At Bantry House and with my brother Nick

Monday 26 July 2010

The Co-Operative Council and the Limricks.

No. Not an oxymoron! I have been asked to become a Commissioner on Lambeth’s Co-operative Council Citizens Commission. Lambeth Council established this Commission to critically review the proposals set out in its recent Co-operative Council White Paper and to develop a final report for Lambeth Council by the end of 2010. The first meeting was Friday.

To aid the Commission in its work a series of meetings have been scheduled in July, September and October. At these meetings we will meet with representatives from the public sector, private sector, third sector, think tanks, academia and Lambeth citizens to critically review the ideas in the White Paper.

My fellow Commissioners include such fabulous names as Victor Adebowale and Polly Tonybee, my Vice Chair Allison Ogden-Newton and Matthew Taylor as well as one of my Trustees Srabani Sen of the great citizen focused Contact a Family.

This is an interesting proposition! It is clear that Councils need to radically rethink their role and their service delivery. It is depressing how many are making cuts at the expense of the third sector. Today's report in The Guardian by Patrick Wintour indicates the sorry tale of Councils hacking away at support for the vulnerable and the disadvantaged. There has to be a better way and I'm keen Lambeth look at it.

And I'm also keen that this new fashion for mutuals or co-operatives is handled sensibly. Why set up mutuals when there are good third sector bodies already there? And we have to be careful that this is not just a change of letterhead. Same old professionals doing the same old work in a non consumer centred manner. Lambeth Social Work Collective may not be the dawn of the new citizen focused public service we dream of! So I'm there to ensure the talents of the country's and Lambeth's formidable third sector are fully recognised and enhanced.

I'm blogging from Ireland where the Limrick-Bubb clan have been gathering for the 80th birthday celebrations for my mother, Diana.

We are in Union Hall where in 1801 my great grandfather x 5 the Col William Somerville- Limrick built a rather handsome Big House. He had fought in India with the Duke of Wellington in the East India Company (as a descendant of both Robert the Bruse and Edward 111 he had some great fighting genes (clearly not passed onto me I might add!) With his, no doubt handsome salary and bonuses, he endowed The Hall and the village which became Union Hall to celebrate The Act of Union in 1801. His brother was the first Bishop of Calcutta and my Grandmother's cousin on the Somerville side was no less than that magnificent authoress Edith Somerville.

I'm sure it's her considerable writing talent that I have flowing through my veins; though my Blog may not quite equate with the great Somerville and Ross novels.

The small but beautiful Church In the village (Church of Ireland obviously) has the Limrick vault and it's my duty every two years to tidy up, tend to the ancient iron railings etc as the very many Limrick cousins here are now all RC.

West Cork is God's own country. A more restful and pleasant spot it's hard to imagine. Just look at the collection of photos here and be envious. Of course it's just too lovely be to undiscovered as Lord Puttnam, Carol Vordaman, Margaret Jay, Jeremy Irons to name but a few, all have houses here.

Me, my Mother, Father, Brother and two sisters

Limrick Family Vault

Limrick Family Vault

Friday 23 July 2010

The National Citizen Service

Thursday proved a somewhat hectic day; in and out of news channel interviews; Sky, BBC, ITN, Radio 4 ( my favourite ; I am old so I like the wireless ! ). And my Deputy the estimable Dr Kyle filling in for the ones I couldn't do. All as a result of the comments I had made to The Times and which they carried front page.

Sky news

So what are the issues?

I am a fan of the concept of a national citizen service that introduces kids to the world of charity, volunteering and giving back. But the current ideas, based on the idea of the "summer camp" need development. Why?

# First, is a one size fits all approach right? We need a diversity of provision, not just the camp. As it is , correctly, not compulsory, then schemes need to appeal. Not all kids will do all that outward bound stuff. Why should they? So why can't we have schemes that are based inside charities where kids learn about what we do and are able to volunteer? Or support the many brilliant schemes already in existence.

# Second, this is a resource intensive approach. Setting aside the real issue of whether the funding will cover all the work should we look at some less costly schemes or support those already existing!.

# Third , is the top down national approach compatable with big society ideas which are supposed to value a bottom up- community based approach? Should we as big society decide that if there is £13m to support work with kids how it is spent?

# Fourth , if the schemes are to have impact with particularly disadvantaged kids then there has to be support before and after the "summer camp". And the third sector youth service is under particular threat from cuts.

Again we come back to the issue of cuts. It was summed up by one of my members at the No 10 Launch who said to me how ironic it as that as he left for No 10 he got an email from one of his top funders( state) saying they were cutting his grant.

So we have funding found for this new government initiative for young people and many fine schemes for young people in communities are being cut. Youth centres face funding shortfalls. That does not undermine the idea of support for national schemes but it should be part of a more comprehensive approach to youth volunteering. For example ,BTCV have a brilliant scheme for young volunteers working on sustainability projects. They want national funding. A " Big Green Society " as they term it. Surely kids who want to work for a better planet should have support as well as those who want to do outward bound? Or the wonderful residential schemes run by that most fabulous of charities, Youth at Risk?

It was fascinating talking to a range of my members at No 10. It is clear there has not been as fully thought through as we want. The approach appears to be " this is the answer" now let's do it. And again the established third sector, the sector that has run schemes for decades for youth is involved in as far as it supports the approach.

But I am optimistic we can influence and change. It happens with new governments- they are so keen on shiny new initiatives. They bring in people who have no experience or links with the sector and they run off thinking they know it all and don't need support! It will settle down.

And in all of this I managed to do some judging for the Charity Times Awards ( thankyou Andrew Holt for lending me your tie for the TV interviews! ), meet Martha Lane- Fox and chair a board meeting for the Social Investment Business in the Commons, no less!

Thursday 22 July 2010

Big Society Blog and The Proms

This is, of course, The Big Society Blog. I was looking today at the other one. Not overly inspiring. Indeed somewhat content light? But then it would be. It is not for Government to define Big Society. That is for us. Indeed I am picking up a lot of frustration in the sector about being told what Big Society is and what it wants.

So it is time for us to gird our loins. Stop waiting for Government to define the problems and answers and sort it ourselves. I wonder if we have become a little to used to waiting for Government and then responding to it. Do we forget our own strength and our power to resolve problems and define solutions. So it's thinking caps on in ACEVO Towers.

Had two great meetings where we talked through some of these issues. First with my old mate, Dave Clarke, the CEO of our sister organisation the Society of Local Government CEOs. Second with Lord Rennard at the House of Lords. Chris was an ACEVO member when he was the CEO of the Lib-Dems. He told me he had quoted me, from my Big Society speech, in a Lords debate on localism!

But enough of this. The evening was a glory of music. I was at The Proms. An evening of Beethoven. Marvellous. Inspiring. Beautiful. This is the world's greatest music festival laid on by the world's greatest broadcaster. The BBC is a national treasure. The licence fee is astonishing value for money. Jeremy Hunt; are you listening? I will pay more so stop this stuff about the fee being reduced. If you go anywhere in the world people will tell you what a marvel our BBC is. So let's support it. Big Society says; "We love the BBC ".

Now I have to do a range of media interviews on the National Citizen Service. Shall we define this? Or Government? When Councils are cutting grants to local voluntary groups so they are cutting back their services is it ironic the Government are to finance an expensive summer camp idea? We shall see. More on this tomorrow !

Wednesday 21 July 2010

You and Yours, and crime!

Well, I was due to go off to the launch of the Catch 22 Network at The Tate with Princess Anne and then I get a call asking me to do "You and Yours", the Radio 4 programme. I'm a great fan of BBC Radio 4 so the answer was yes of course! So off to Millbank where I get to chat on my way in to Alan Duncan MP (looking very fit and suave and who greats me warmly with "oh, your all over the papers today!") and one of my favourite Ministers, Nick Herbert MP (who I see later in the evening! ) .

A good programme but clearly indicates the problem Government has. They have concentrated on the supply side of volunteering and forgotten the demand. So they are concentrating on calling for more volunteers and more civic action whilst almost ignoring whether the country's charities and voluntary organisations have the funding or support needed to take on more volunteers and do more. There needs to be more discussion with the key established volunteering sector and other parts of the sector on how to make this happen and how it is to be funded .

There is a danger that this looks like just another Government volunteer initiative. We have had many of these. Money put behind them. Yet volunteering remains static. As I said on You and Yours volunteering costs if it is to be effective. It needs organisation and a framework.

Indeed this point was borne out when I spoke on the BBC News Live on Monday; the woman from Crosby who has established a great scheme to support young people's housing needs said they had had much needed support from local well established charities to do what they did .

You need passion and a framework for success, as Muhammad Yunis has argued. We see the passion. The framework is where exactly?

Then off to a well deserved lunch at The Ivy! Rory Sutherland, the UK Managing Director of Ogilvy and Mather is my host. He is doing some pro bono advisory work for our ImpACT Coalition. A fascinating lunch.

And in the evening, off to the RSA for Louise Casey's first major speech as Independent Commissioner for Victims and Witnesses. I have a particular interest - I was an independent advisor on the interviews for this appointment, handled most effectively by that star amongst Headhunters, David Fielding .

Louise gave a brilliant speech - just nine weeks into her job. She will be a great advocate for victims. As she explained the system and the bureaucracy may give you support as the victim of a serious crime, but it may not. Too often the victim is a side show to criminal proceedings. Many victims describe the criminal process as victimising them all over again. She gave an awful example of cases where in a murder trial up to six post mortems may be allowed which means the family cannot bury their loved one for months. The system is not benign to victims and it needs to change. She explained how almost invisible the Victims Code (did you know about that?) is and how unknown the complaints process is.

Of course our sector plays a huge role in victim support; those wonderful third sector bodies and their staff and volunteers. I wish Louise well ; she will need support on reforming this system.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Leadership tips...

Some people still recall those columns I used to write weekly for "Third Sector" with leadership tips. I met a member recently who said it was the main reason they read the mag and it ain't the same since!

I read a recent piece in Third Sector which purported to offer ten top management tips which I have to say was a combination of the banal and pious. Why it even said "show staff you care" (Pleaseeeee ) .

So I thought I'd let you have my eight top best bits of advice for a CEO you probably won't get in the management text books.

# Process is not your job.
The worst sort of CEO is the one absorbed in process. The one who shirks sacking a bad member of staff because they are told you need to go through the process; warnings, meetings and the like. I am not suggesting you act in an arbitrary fashion, merely that you sort a problem and don't hide behind process. Lance a boil before it suppurates is usually good advice! If you meet a CEO who knows their Staff Handbook back to front tell them to get a life!

# Keep it strategic
That is the key to your success. You have the eagle eye for progress and innovation. The helicopter view. Get stuck in the detail and your finished. Of course detail is important. No good being all strategic when the money is running out (but then that's why you get a super FD!) i.e. find someone who loves it. But keep your focus on moving your organisation forward.

# Trust your instinct
It is often the best guide. Don't let your Directors talk you out of action when they advance logical reasons for not doing something (and they will have them). I have often found when I've acted on instinct it has been a good decision. When I've suppressed it, I've regretted it.

# Value loyalty above all else in your Directors
I demand loyalty from my Directors. It's the core competence I look for in appointments. You have to trust them to always give you good advice. And because they are loyal you will listen to them when they have to tell you bad news. But loyalty is not the same as sycophancy!

# Seek out, promote, and love talent.
One of the problems with public sector recruitment I'd that it is often talent blind. In the desire to be so equal, achievement, intellect and sheer bravado get down marked. No one would ever suggest I haven't some of the brightest and most dynamic sector staff. And when you have them cherish and value them. Give them opportunities to shine, get quoted in the press, praised publicly for what they do. Don't take credit for their brilliance, but glory in the fact you recruited these stars. If you spot a talent go get them! Don't get told you must not show favours. Of course you must. Be ruthless in getting your teams stuffed full of the brightest and best.

# Communicate
Perhaps competence number two in a CEO. You are the message giver par excellence. Often the focus and fount of the organisation 's wisdom and external voice. Use it wisely (see above - you can communicate messages through others). Write well, blog, make speeches, articles. And remember humour is a great gift. Who wants to listen to a bore.

# Get out of the office
If you spend the majority of your time in the office I suspect you are neglecting the core part of your job which is to build networks and alliances, partnerships. Get out and about to garner intelligence. Get ideas. Do you think all your best ideas will emerge in the office? Yes, sometimes, but I've often found the idea that makes the difference happened at a conference or a meeting or lunch.
# Network
Goes without saying doesn't it. Or does it ? A CEO who does not network is heading for a short career. So get out there. It's fun too!

So there you go. These tips have worked well for me, though I'm not saying all organisations or people are the same. And for some CEOs in smaller organisations when you are the FD, the HR Director etc all in one then a little more difficult to be quite so cavalier about detail and process! So take it or leave it.....

Oh, and finally, perhaps a Tip No: nine; remember your health and happiness. All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl. And stress makes her ill too.

Big Society Day

Yesterday certainly put "Big Society" centre stage! A good speech from David Cameron; there is no doubting his passion for this agenda. But as often happens with Governments there can be a gap between rhetoric and reality. Whilst I am clear that DC does not see this agenda as a cover for cuts, nor as a withdrawal of the State, this big idea is to be implemented against a background of the biggest cut back of public spending since the war. That means inevitably third sector organisations will find cuts in grants and support. Indeed they already are, as NCVO showed over the weekend, and as short-sighted Councils like Croydon make savage cuts to the sector.

So how will it work?

There are a number of conditions for success of this agenda.

# it requires a strong, well organised, properly capitalised and professional third sector. The Government has to ensure our sector's capacity and infrastructure is strengthened. They must accept that more volunteering will cost charities more to do it professionally.

This will not happen because they have recruited a band of community organisers. It is a sad fact that all Governments like new initiatives when often they would be better served by using existing infrastructure and mobilising the Sector's Leaders. This has yet to happen. This agenda will only be achieved using the well established and successful charities and social enterprises, not just by a band of social activists and unpaid community organisers.

# capitalisation.
The sector has weak, poor and ineffective access to capital. The private sector will grow as new opportunities for service delivery emerge. They do that through capital acquisition. The innovative work of the Social Investment Business shows the potential. So the announcement of the Big Society Bank is hugely welcome. Congratulations to Nick Hurd MP and Francis Maude MP for getting the commitment to all the dormant assets being used for the Bank (in contrast the the pathetic old Labour cop out of sharing it around and only giving £75m to a Bank).

But some of the media coverage seemed to imply all the Big Society ideas were to be funded by the Bank. They are not. Let's be clear on scale. The FT reported yesterday that initially only between £60-100m will be available. The banks have signally failed to co-operate. The British Bankers Association has been obstructive of progress. They say only £400m is available overall (they are probably covering up the true amount of course).

Contrast this amount with the evidence on demand. When Futurebuilders was closed applications for loans were running at £90m a month. That's a cool £1.8 billion a year! So £400m is not going to meet existing demand, let alone new growth. And on top of that the Government took the decision to cut funding to SIB by siphoning off our loan interest repayments (which we could have used for new loans) to support a new grant scheme.

So more will be needed; in particular from commercial sources ; the new Bank and organisations like the SIB will need to persuade the banks to promote social investment. Top marks to Lord Freud for his initiative in going to the City to make the case for more loans to the third sector. This needs a big push.

And of course there are fantastic new ideas like social impact bonds and a Social Stock Exchange. This is an exciting area for growth an expansion.

# major public service reform: handing power to our sector

I have no doubt of the commitment of the new Government to using our sector to deliver more services. DC is quite clear he wants this to happen and ACEVO are in detailed discussions across Departments on the specifics of reform and how we expand.

We have argued strongly that often sector service delivery is more cost effective and closer to citizens and communities. What we need to see is that in all the cuts decisions being made in Councils, Quangos and Government Departments they look to better ways to deliver, not top slicing or protecting the bureaucracy at the expense of what they see as "easy" cuts, i.e. the third sector.

This is perhaps the best thought through part of the BS agenda. We support this strongly. We will work hard to implement it. But clearly it must be about better services and not cuts, or service on the cheap. But then it is part of our task in the sector to see that does not happen and so we ACEVO's role is to work with Government Departments on a good programme of roll out.
All in all a hectic day. Started off with a call from a national paper at 8.40 and ending with an interview on BBC Live News at 7.30. And in between times, meetings, lunch with the great new Chair of the British Council, Vernon Ellis, and supervision with my own Chair. And in all this I had to pen an analysis article for The Times. It was good (he says modestly). Read it here.

And finally , in a great piece of timing we had our joint launch with the CBI of a new report "Win- Win" on third sector-private sector partnerships. It's a good report which highlights a range of Case studies of organisations that have commercial partnerships and draws conclusions from them. It is well worth reading. Click here.

As more opportunities for public service delivery open up the scope for partnerships with private contractors also opens up. Turning Point and Catch 22 's alliance with SERCO to run prisons is a brilliant example. But there are many more. We will need to develop more partnership working. It is just one of the ways we can , as a sector, take advantage of the new opportunities that Big Society opens up.

Monday 19 July 2010

CEO in Crisis Support

I blogged recently about our important role in supporting Chief Executives facing difficult times; whether that is a funding crisis or a difficulty with trustees or members of staff that are getting out of hand. All familiar challenges for a sector Leader!

We monitor all of the work we do here so we can keep a finger on the pulse of the sector and draw out any general lessons where we need to take broader action.

It's one of the reasons we know that governance in our sector is not all that it should be. CEOs experience of Trustees varies tremendously from the nightmare to the dream and every conceivable stop between. It's no wonder that CEOs need the support of ACEVO! Importantly though it enables us to take more general action to promote good governance.

It is obvious recently from the CEO in Crisis calls that there are some clear HR issues that need action and my head of Professional Development, (Julia Richards) based at our ACEVO North office in Leeds is working on how we do that.

Three main points here:

* CEO's seem to be reluctant to raise issues re their contract, terms, performance etc with their Chair, they ( probably correctly) feel that this is too inward looking and perhaps sensitive. However, that has left some in a vulnerable position once 'issues' arise, and it is then too late to deal with their contract/terms/performance. And in bad cases it can lead to a crisis in the chair- CEO relationship.

As ACEVO we need to stress that it is important to get the detail of such matters dealt with early on, when it can be a simpler, easier process - for their security and for the good of the organisation .
* Secondly, we also have some troubling evidence of CEO's not dealing with management issues in their Directors team when problems first arise, which has led to some very difficult and stressful situations.

It is sometimes tempting to ignore the early signs of problems ahead, or to hope they will go away. Usually they do not.

* And thirdly we are seeing a small, but significant increase in calls about mergers. If organisations are to merge then one or both of the CEOs may be redundant. And yet they have to carry though the process. That is a particular stressful time when our help and advice can be invaluable. Indeed essential.

Leadership involves difficult and stressful decisions so it's not surprising we put it off and, fingers crossed, it disappears. Sometimes that might be right. Often it is not. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got as a CEO was to "trust my instinct". It's advice I always give to others. If your gut instinct tells you it's a problem, then sort it!

So we are reviewing how best to hone some general advice to CEOs in these areas of stress and potential difficulty.

Whilst each individual circumstance will differ there are general lessons to be drawn which then feed into the advice we give generally to the sector's CEOs. It is one of the very big advantages of what ACEVO does as a membership body for the sector's Leaders.

Good to be back in the office - regenerated and new ideas! A great holiday but I love work too, especially at ACEVO which I think is a most incredible and wonderful organisation! A delight, as well as an honour to lead. That was very apparent at our summer cocktail party on Thursday at the Gulbenkein Foundation in Hoxton Square. A chance to say thank you to friends and supporters and to our media contacts. As one of the journos said, "No-one else in the sector lets their hair down like ACEVO and lets their staff be seen having fun".

I have boxes of the inevitable Turkish Delight for staff, oh and of course my special present for Filippo of a rock from the site of St Philip's Martyrdom to act as an incentive to good performance!
The team back in ACEVO Towers are still on a high after our incredibly successful Health Conference on Wednesday. Lansley was highly complimentary about us and a number of delegates were falling over themselves to congratulate my Deputy on a superb event which showcased the power, dynamism and strength of our sector. One delegate said they modelled their own events on ACEVO. So a broad round of blog applause to my great staff and my events team led by the super efficient Yemi Adeshiyan. Available for hire I might add!! Though not for stealing! ACEVO Event Management

And finally, it’s great news that the DCLG Communitybuilders Fund is continuing to make investments. The fund, which is managed by ACF and The Social Investment Business, supports local and community organisations, helping them realise their ideas to strengthen and support their neighbourhoods – an idea at the heart of the Big Society agenda. The Fund has already invested in some innovative and effective organisations across the country and is ready to help many more.

Friday 16 July 2010

VAT; good news and ACEVO's solution.

Well the Byrne amendment may well have been lost but the VAT issue is far from dead. And you can rest assured ACEVO will be banging on about this till change is achieved. And perhaps we are on the way to reform?

I was delighted to see an exchange in the Commons on Wednesday at PMQs. Bob Russell MP is a good friend of the sector and one of the MPs ACEVO had been in touch with on the whole VAT scandal.

Let me reproduce the whole beautiful exchange so we can luxuriate in the potential for change.

"Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): Voluntary organisations and charities were not responsible for the banking crisis, nor for the financial crisis left by the last Labour Government. As we both value voluntary organisations and charities, will the Prime Minister discuss with his Treasury colleagues how the increase in VAT that those organisations have to pay can be refunded to them?

The Prime Minister: I will certainly have those conversations with the Treasury, and we will want to do everything we can to help what used to be called, rather condescendingly, the third sector but I believe is the first sector: the excellent charities, voluntary organisations and social enterprises that do so much for our country. One thing we should do is look at funding them on the same basis as the Government fund themselves. The Government are always very generous with their own bureaucracy, and they need to recognise that so often these first sector organisations have the right answers to the social problems in our country. "

Apart from the dig at "third sector" (though I can do "first sector" frankly!! ) David Cameron's answer goes right to the heart of the issue of the unfair playing field between us and the state in tendering .

We are following up with the PM and the Chancellor. One solution we will be suggesting is what the HMRC do for academies. They refund the academies' VAT bills in full through a grant so that academies are not at a disadvantage with local authority schools. Clearly the Government will have to consider this in respect of free schools if they are not to suffer a huge disadvantage with a whacking great 20% VAT bill. So a refund grant scheme maybe the answer. We are proposing this to Government.

But it is both heartening that David Cameron MP has picked this up in such a positive way, as well as his generous tribute to the sector and his comment that so often we have "the right answers to the social problems in our country".

Thursday 15 July 2010


Home in time to hear the Newsnight debate on Big Society last night. It was great to hear Tim Page, the Director of the Emmaus UK (and an ACEVO member obviously!), making a cool and effective presentation of the issues we face. He argued the case for our sector as a mix of the professionals and volunteers - and the need for continuing state support. For the idea of Big Society to work we need the active involvement of the professional third sector. And it needs the active engagement of the state.

But I thought overall the programme hardly got under the skin of the issues and was a little too much a procession of stage armies. Francis Maude was good though. A good account of what he wants to achieve and a refutal of the idea that he wants this simply as a cover for cuts.

We shall see where this all goes!

Big Society and Cuts

One of the problems with the whole "Big Society " notion is that it can encompass all sorts of ideas, from great and radical to zany and bonkers. So I read one of the latest offerings on the theme with some surprise.

Residents of high-crime housing estates, youth workers, teachers and housing managers should be trained to tackle anti-social behaviour as part of a "Big Society" drive, according to a report from the RSA published Tuesday. The report says the approach, which echoes David Cameron's general election rhetoric, could be adopted in the face of spending cuts in police officer numbers. It even suggests teaching self defence skills.

So that's great then. Perhaps we should all be given police batons as well? And perhaps a return to street justice to save on court time? Vigilante gangs to find a criminal and beat him up perhaps - save time in prison? There's no end to great wheezes to save money if we really think hard.

And why stop at anti- social behaviour?

When I hear this sort of approach I remember the sad case of the mother and son who committed suicide because of years of harassment and abuse from her local community as her son had learning difficulties.

It is a sad truth that communities are not always progressive, or a source of strength and support, as many marginalised communities know only too well. It is why many national charities exist: to provide the support, help and advice that people with autism, for example, or mental health problems do not always get locally. Anyone in mental health or learning difficulties knows only too well the problems that they face in trying to open a Day Centre or supporting housing in a locality.

Of course we need more community action and the work that The Adventure Capital Fund has done to invest in community enterprise has shown the power that neighbourhoods, supported through effective third sector organisations, can bring to regenerating a community.

But the recent report is the sort that will ultimately undermine the whole Big Soc concept unless it gets a proper grounding. This ought to be about empowering third sector organisations and spreading a greater sense of social cohesion, more volunteering and more civic action. It is not about substituting voluntary effort to make up for cuts.

As I warned in my speech on Big Soc, if the concept is used as an excuse to make cuts it will not only not work, but undermine the power and strength of our sector.

We want a smart strategic state, not one that says do it yourself!

Wednesday 14 July 2010

More Skills!

Skills Third Sector, Chaired by the truly marvellous, Jane Slowey, ACEVO member and CEO of the Foyer Federation, together with the equally talented James McHugh who works from ACEVO Towers have just published their sector skills consultation.
The third sector, like any other sector, needs a skilled workforce in order to thrive and provide quality services, particularly in the face of rising expectations about what it can deliver. To ensure that this is the case, Skills Third Sector have launched this national consultation to produce a Skills Strategy.

The aim is to ensure that funding spent on skills development and training creates the greatest possible impact on the sector’s capacity to provide services and build strong communities. How important this is in an era of public spending cuts and threats to training budgets.

The consultation will draw together the knowledge of training providers and sector leaders on learning and skills, as well as the steps needed to ensure that the sector has access to cost-effective and user-led learning.

I think it is key that CEOs look at this. Don't leave it to your training person (if you have one of course!). Skills can seem so second order when you have t balance a budget. But we have to develop staff. Its a core CEO responsibility. Too often we leave these things to the training geeks who then produce all sorts of techy train- speak stuff. The CEO can make it grounded.
To get involved please see the online consultation. Click here.

Or even attend one of the regional roundtables .
The more CEOs who contribute, the more useful it will be as a tool for supporting the further growth and improvement of our sector! Do it!

And finally, a concluding thought on skills from Turkey as I leave for dear old Blighty!

It's a Roman stele from the 1st century AD in the impressive Istanbul Archaeological Museum. I like the rather grumpy old man (an early CEO perhaps?) and the inscription says;

"You know that death is right beside all mortals."


Tuesday 13 July 2010

More Health, less holiday.

So the White Paper is out. I read the details flying from Izmir to Istanbul. Strict instructions from ACEVO Towers not to Blog till Tuesday! As if!!

Good to see "preferred provider" well and truly nailed to the ground! I'm proud of the role ACEVO played in first highlighting then dishing this monstrosity!
The major themes of empowering providers, incentivising preventative health interventions, and ambitious plans for social enterprise also give us a real sense of how the Government will drive NHS reform forward.

But the Department of Health and our sector must work closely together to ensure that proposals to extend personal budgets, GP commissioning, and ever more personalised services are introduced in a way that harness the strengths and innovation of the third sector. They cannot be a cover for cuts.

Of course everyone welcomes "cutting bureaucracy" but often that turns to to be essential administrative functions that underpin the whole working of the system. For example; how will GP commissioning mean less paperwork? It may well increase the bureaucracy!

Andrew Lansley’s explicit reference to the Government’s vision of creating the largest social enterprise sector in the world is precisely the kind of commitment ACEVO has been calling for.
Today’s announcements are clearly positive for the sector but we need further information on how GPs are going to be brought up to speed on the added value of commissioning services from the third sector.

One good thing is that Hilary De Lyon, the CEO of the Royal College of General Practitioners, is an ACEVO member and we are in discussion with her about how we can work together to ensure GPs will commission from effective third sector providers.

But for the sector this is not just about delivery. For all our beneficiaries we want to see better access. Marginalised communities in particular often lose out when they cannot access information on what is available. We all want to have more control on our own health and how it is tackled.

I really like the fact that they want those of us with long term conditions to be more active in deciding on treatments. So third sector bodies like Diabetes UK have a role in delivering more and also in a much better information and advice service. Support for more healthy lifestyles, exercise, diet etc is as crucial as a trip to the Doctor for an annual test. Indeed more so.

But this is a big agenda and it a Cross-government one. No good the DH extending preventive services if local Councils are cutting back on organisations that provide the support and advice, as well as delivery that people need. So the news from my ACEVO North Director that there are various cuts in services like Age UK being implemented. Or that on the day the White Paper appears NHS Leeds disgracefully cuts £500,000 from Leeds MIND. As often happens it's vital services for the most disadvantaged that are first in line for the axe. Shame on you Leeds NHS. And this is a warning to Councils and Health Authorities. If you cut back on support for this sector you will undermine all the good intentions of this White Paper.

My last day away. I'm blogging from the roof terrace of my hotel. (See photo). To my right is the glorious majesty of Haghia Sophia. To my left the beauty of the Blue Mosque. And behind the majestic Bosphorous sweeps its way to the sea. All good Leaders need rest and relaxation. They need good health to be fit for the leadership challenges ahead. ACEVO holidays now in planning.

And finally some photos from yesterday down in Ephesus as they seem to be a popular feature, judging by the various comments on Blog!!

The Library, Ephesus

The house of Mary the Virgin, Ephesus

The Blue Mosque


Tomoro England!

Monday 12 July 2010

Health; and health of sector!

Whilst I'm having a great time on holiday it's a bore I'm missing two important events back home.

First, we have the launch of the Health White Paper today; a key document setting a road map for health reforms and marks out a strong , expanded role for the sector. My Deputy, the estimable Dr Kyle, has been in confidential discussion yesterday with Ministers and will be given a preview of the contents before launch tomorrow at what they charmingly call a "lock down"! Its a good sign of how they want the sector's Leaders involved and how important they think our role must be.

And how good to see the back of "preferred provider"; a grave error of judgment by Andy Burnham. I'm not sure that Labour has yet fully understood the enormity of their failure to get to grips with public service reform since Blair left. The current. Leadership contenders seem to be tied into the failures of the past. So no good knocking "Big Society" if you don't have a reasonable alternative. Time for Ed to spell this out properly....

It is interesting that the Secretary of State will demonstrate a commitment to a bigger role for the third sector by making his first public speech on it at our ACEVO Health and Social Care Conference on Wednesday. This event, which ACEVO has been holding for its substantial health CEO membership, has become a firm "must attend" conference for all in the health industry. And we are looking forward to hearing Lansley. He was particularly good when he came to our ACEVO Tory summit earlier in the year. He clearly "gets" the role of the sector and our policy team have been working closely with the Department on how to expand the role we can play; in personalisation and in health promotion and prevention of ill health.

Too much of our health budget goes into acute care, when money spent now on prevention pays dividends down the line.

And what of the health of our sector? As I have been warning in this Blog , the rise in VAT is a serious blow, coming at a time of cuts, pressure on giving and rising demand for what we do.

There will be a vote in the Commons on Tuesday on a clause exempting charities from the 20% rise. We are working hard, with colleagues, to get MPs from all Parties to vote for the amendment. Our policy team are flat out on the health White Paper and on the VAT campaign. How brilliant it is for our sector that ACEVO has such a talented and resourceful staff.

The Charity Tax Group estimate the cost at £143m. It further widens the gap we face in competing with the public sector in tenders ( they are exempt) so fair is fair. If you want a big society then vote for it.

Smaller charities will be hit hardest.

Those charities with an income of less than £30m will be disproportionately affected as VAT currently accounts for 3.6% of their income, compared with 2.3% for larger organisations with an income of more than £30m.

Now to our very own Charity Commission? I am flattered they read my Blog , but they clearly don't get the new media, as they seem to think that Bubb's Blog is like Holy Writ (um , come to think of it... ). I get the press report of comments from them on a particular Blog penned whilst I'm on holiday. Clearly they can't be bothered with the niceties of actually alerting ACEVO before they issue a press release. But I must not complain. Why, it just shows how important it is to keep up with the Blog. What horrors yet to be revealed? But all this draws traffic to what I'm told is the most widely read Blog of the sector, so I look forward to many more Charity Commission investigations. Whether that is a great use of their scarce resources is another matter.

The tour of Anatolia continues. Saturday I was at the site of the Martyrdom of St Philip the Apostle. An ancient, now ruined Basilica marks the spot, just outside the old Roman City of Heiropolis. I walked the ancient Byzantine stone paths up the hillside in the blazing noonday sun, but was rewarded by having the entire site to myself (and the odd lizard) ! I retrieved a small stone from the ground to bring back for our very own ACEVO Philip, the mighty Filippo Addarii, Director of the fast growing European leaders network, Euclid. This is not to suggest that Martyrdom awaits failure in work at ACEVO obviously!

But every good third sector leader needs rest and yesterday was one of pure indulgence and laziness. On the beech with Orhan Pamuk (the book that is). Have finished his masterful memoir of Istanbul and onto the thriller set in the glories of the 15th century Ottoman Empire and the Sultan's merry band of miniaturists. A must read, "My name is Red".

And some more holiday snaps. I realise you are all having your very own heatwave! I'm worried about the survival of my vegetables! It's a matter of public benefit you know!

Site of the Martyrdom of St Philip the Apostle.

Roman harbour- Antalya.

Ottoman houses- Old Town- Antalya

Friday 9 July 2010

Our Innovative sector...and hamams...

There has been much debate about whether the current financial crisis offers a chance for more radical approaches to delivery. ACEVO has encouraged this. Clegg has talked about "progressive cuts" .

As yet little evidence of the ideas moving from soundbite to reality. Indeed there appear to be some Ministers who seem to want to demonstrate their machismo by glorying in the blood and gore of deep cuts. So, people will suffer! Yes - all necessary to show how we are tackling the deficit. But it is always someone else who suffers the pain. And there is no evidence that the cuts announced are anything other than mainly regressive.

The sector's CEOs have offered to help shape a more progressive approach. Time this offer was taken up.

And this particularly applies to local Councils. There are disturbing signs that Councils are rejecting the chance to look radically at how they deliver and instead taking the axe to what they see as the easier options. Appalling news from Croydon Council illustrates this. Hammersmith too. And others that have yet to hit the headlines.

A recent story in Third Sector;

"Croydon Council is set to cut £1.2m a year of funding from the voluntary sector. The south London local authority is proposing to cut grants to local voluntary organisations from £1.8m a year to £625,000 a year over the next four years, a drop of almost 66 per cent."
But never fear, ACEVO will carry on making the case for alternative approaches. This is no time for a return to the massacres of the 80s. So the challenge for our sector's leaders is not to wait to be asked but to hammer on the Ministerial doors with examples of what we can do. Relentless banging of the drum that there is a different way.

For example the potential for greater social enterprise by the third sector is never more needed. More charities are looking to expand their role; like the great Catch 22 and Turning Point who have just won the contract to run Belmarsh Prison. Let's see more of this.

Many ACEVO members are already showing their leadership by exploring innovative ways to deliver. I will highlight one of my members and his example, though there are 2000 others!
Rodney Hill is an active ACEVO member in the North West. He runs Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust - turnover of over £37 million and 900 staff. The Charity also has a trading arm so very much a "social enterprise".

They have also developed their own umbrella org called SPORTA - the representative body for social enterprises within sports and leisure.

WLCT was formed in 2003 as a charitable trust working on behalf of Wigan Council to manage and support Leisure and Cultural facilities, initiatives and events for over 300,000 residents across Wigan.

It is sustained by a combination of external funding and income generation, including an annual grant from Wigan Council. The Trust is a registered charity and a social enterprise, which means that any surplus income generated must be invested in improving facilities and services for the people of the Borough.

A trading arm exists for services that are deemed not to be charitable. These are largely the catering services and grounds maintenance.

It is exactly this sort of approach that more local Councils should be adopting. Instead of looking to just cut regardless, new approaches like this offer a better approach. Croydon burghers take note. There is a different way of doing things!!

Already Lambeth Council are looking at developing more cooperative approaches and have established a wide ranging Commission to explore a radical approach. More should follow, instead of disgusting attempts to offload the pain onto the very organisations at the front line of supporting and protecting the most vulnerable and marginalised. Do I recall someone saying "We will protect the front line"?
And I have a suggestion! I have been luxuriating in the glories of the Turkish Hamam. There is a 700 year old one here in Alyana. I relaxed there yesterday; the deep peeling and massage... there are few remedies better for dissolving the stress and worry of a CEO 's life. I think all ACEVO CEO's should be taking this cure. Perhaps I will offer it as an ACEVO membership benefit! It beats asprin! Or a shrink. And clearly has great public benefit (he adds in case those avid readers of my Blog at The Charity Commission have the vapours again, "CC to investigate ACEVO hamam offer", shock horror !)

And here's an idea. With the coming of personalisation we will all be able (us oldies that is) to use our care budgets for such treatments. After all a visit to a hamam would often beat an hour of a home help any day!

I think the personalisation agenda is just one of those approaches that could offer a way to be both cost effective and provide a better service.

That is why ACEVO's Commission under the three brain Matthew Pike is to report on this issue in November. So Rodney. There is an opening for you. Will hamams catch on in Wigan?

Planning the ACEVO hamam!

Thursday 8 July 2010

My Last Song!

No, I'm not about to enter a cave monastery never to be seen again.... "My Last Song" is a new and rather interesting website.

It's been developed by an old friend, Paul Hensby, who I worked with at the late lamented National Lottery Charities Board. The idea is based on the fact that many people do not bother to leave instructions about their funerals; songs, what they want left to friends etc. An appalling thought. I have certainly left my own.

You will like some of the content I suspect, articles that encourage people to leave money to charities, to set up in memoriam giving and for older people to work for charities as volunteer helpers.

There is a charity of the month, and many contributions from charities funding research into illness and support for sufferers. Anyway, log on here, and register to look around the useful and original Vault!!

Oh, and I found some tonic. Schweppes indeed (though the organic Fever-Tree I get from that great mutual Waitrose is better). So a proper G+T, ice, lemon and all that makes for a glorious evening watching the sunset over the Aegean.

Do you enjoy a couple more holiday snaps!!

Wednesday 7 July 2010

Big Society and Europe; Tonic still wanted

Is Big Society bigger than just the UK? The EU offers significant potential for the growth of civil society within the UK as well as across Europe. That potential is not realised.

It is one of the reasons we established Euclid, our European third sector leaders network. There is much to learn as leaders from our colleague Chief Executives in Europe. But we can be very insular us English! Not, of course, that this would mean me giving up wearing my Panama hat as I wander Anatolia!! Or my continuing search for Tonic water!

There is also an interesting angle for the new Government. It could champion The Big Society idea across an overly bureaucratic, statist EU and enable European civil society organisations to flourish.

This also offers the UK Government a chance to propose a significant alternative to the process - based nature of the EU - an alternative that builds on a key Coalition theme. Europe is one of the fault lines between the Tories and the Liberals so the notion of putting civil society more close to the role of the EU has much to commend it.
The EU spends £42 billion per year (roughly a third of its budget) on civil society organisations across the world. £1.1 billion is spent yearly on the UK in structural funding alone (not including other funding streams managed directly in Brussels or regional funds). The scale of these figures demonstrates significant opportunities in Europe for civil society organisations operating within the UK or globally. The problem is access.
Compared to the UK Government, the EU has little significant policy towards civil society. As a result much funding that could go to civil society organisations does not. Funding regulations prevent many civil society organisations from accessing finance, growth strategies do not include social enterprise and EU procurement rules create barriers (in many cases unrecognised by commissioners) to service delivery by civil society. Furthermore, UK civil society organisations are weaker than their continental counterparts at accessing EU funds.

Strategically, the UK Government has an opportunity to put civil society at the heart of the EU’s strategy for the future.

OCS also has an opportunity to support UK civil society organisations in accessing EU funding at a time of domestic spending restraint.

Its an interesting notion. It would certainly enable the Government to position itself better; away from the silly anti-Europeanism of some of the Tory backbenches and towards a more positive and forward looking stance.

So expect the Big Hague speech on Euro Big Soc. You read it here first!

And the journey continues. Now on the southern coast of Turkey, the ancient coastal city of Alanya; an important city of the Roman Empire. Hadrian was here and left a triumphal arch. As he did. And good old St Nick is just up the road. That is St Nicholas of Myra, the patron of Christmas giving. His reliquary is in the museum, though the Italians nicked the bones. Apart from that, little culture this time. Just three days on the beach. Yes, surprisingly I intend to relax. Finding Tonic would be good. But I intend to bend my ingenuity to the task today. The USS Eisenhower is in town and somehow this must mean supplies somewhere... Ill let you know - I realise you are worrying!

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Tonic Wanted: postcard from Anatolia!

Have been paying respects to the Early Church! The cave dwelling of the hermit, St Simon, and the cave monastery of St Basil, one of the Fathers of the Church and much revered by the Orthodox.

Have been travelling in Cappadocia, Central Anatolia. It's a weird and wonderful landscape, most unlike any I have visited. It's the result of millennia of erosion after a massive volcanic eruption and the subsequent larva flows. It has left the countryside littered with what they delightfully describe as "fairy chimneys". These turned out to be great places for caves and were thus homes from the most early civilisations.

It became a major centre of the Church from about 300 AD to the Ottomans. St Basil, Bishop of Caesarea, built a great cave monastery, though I rather liked the remote cave dwelling of St Simon the Hermit. In the absence of air conditioning St Simon would have found this a cool place to contemplate. And no doubt he occasionally found solace from wine they produced from an early age; though I'm afraid the Cappadocian whites will not take on. And there is a perilous lack of tonic water (though lemons in plentiful supply ) so my two bottles of gin are dismally under abused.
Observe the shapely Third Sector leader's legs, and hat, which denotes an Englishman abroad (white legs do that too...)
Pigeon valley, note caves.

Turkey has an interesting charitable sector. In many ways it comes from the same routes as our own - in religion.

For example, my favourite Mosque in Istanbul, the magnificent Sulmanye, built by one of the world's greatest architects, Sinan, has substantial surrounding buildings which once housed schools, a hospital and soup kitchens to support the poor. Not unlike the foundation of many of our own great schools and hospitals as endowed and run by the Church. Islamic Big Society I guess !
Both Christianity and Islam are clear on the duty of charitable giving. Indeed there are two interesting parallel injunctions in the Koran and the Bible which tell you to give alms to the poor. As the Bible puts it, you may be "entertaining angels unawares".

So many of the mosques are, among others, responsible for supporting substantial foundations. And some have developed in interesting ways. For example, the large Sabanci Foundation, which is an interesting case of a 'traditional' Turkish Foundation evolving into new spheres of social justice.

But back to our own charity sector. Andrew Hind has been talking of the need for a more strategic approach from The Charity Commission. It's high time frankly. Our recent Report (under the brilliant Chairmanship of Rupert Evenett) makes an unanswerable case for a Commission that is enabling, not one that is there to say no.

One example; the issue of 'Serious Incident Reporting' to the Charity Commission has been high on the agenda of many ACEVO members.

CEOs feel they have not been properly consulted and that the requirement and accompanying guidance to trustees is clumsy, and causes duplication with their reporting requirements to other statutory agencies.

ACEVO has raised a number of issues around this with The Charity Commission, and we were pleased to see some of these tackled in the updated guidance. However there is still work to be done in this area, please send any feedback you might have, as well as experiences, to

We need to keep Andrew, and Sam , on their toes...

Monday 5 July 2010

Leadership Lessons?

I was reading our great new publication on How to Become a Third Sector Chief Executive. It has a wonderful set of tips on how to get to the top and stay there. See it here.

It made me reflect on how politicians do leadership, and particularly how we handle a change of Government in this country.

Is there a comparison with any new third sector CEO taking over at the head of a new organisation? What do you do as a new CEO ?

#. Motivate your staff
When you arrive in your new post you need those working for you to be inspired to deliver. You may think change is needed but telling them they are useless or paid too much is not perhaps the best way to inspire greater effort. This appears to be the opposite of what the Coalition has done.

# Blame it all on Past Boss?
It is sometimes tempting for a new CEO to castigate the previous boss. Blame them for financial woes, incompetence and general malaise. This is usually a bad move. You never know whether it is incompetence, or actually rather deep seated problems and intractable difficulties that have so far evaded solutions. Hubris awaits!
# Overpromise?
In starting the job you should never underestimate the task ahead and make overblown statements that will come to haunt you when you do not deliver.

# communicate, and communicate again.
In any new regime communication is vital. Telling your staff what you are planning and what lies ahead, and selling your vision. At least in this area you can give credit to the new Government.

But overall - in taking over the management of the country politicians seem to ignore the basic lessons of any new CEO, whether in the third or private sectors.

Friday 2 July 2010

Good for Ken!

Great to see Ken Clarke MP with the courage of his convictions saying prison does not work. It doesn't. The shame of Labour's failure to tackle both crime and the causes of crime has led us to the biggest numbers in prison for decades. And those on short sentences back in prison like a revolving door (80% rate of re-offending with a 6 month sentence). Nearly 70% overall. It's madness.

As Ken rightly said, "short-term sentences are ineffectual warehousing at best and often turn petty crooks into serious offenders."

Amusing to hear a Backbench Tory MP (in the "disgusted of Tunbridge-Wells" sort) fulminating about how we need to lock people up and punish them. Stopped short of bring back the stone breaking and noose though ...

It's time for real investment in third sector bodies who can break the mould. Break the patterns of re-offending. Innovative schemes like Bradford Dance Academy, St Giles Trust, Blue Skies. Time to empower them to deliver more.

Stop building more prisons and use that money as a capital pot to ensure third sector bodies take on more delivery.

I spent 20 years as a Youth court Magistrate in South London. I saw first hand the damage that prison can do to young people. It was never a sensible sentence. Nearly always a guarantee that the youngster was set to a career of crime. And the cost to the system? Incalculable. If only a proportion of the money we spent on youth offender institutions went to our third sector to work with and befriend these young people we could transform our system. So good to see a politician take on the Daily Mail and all that noisy wicked lobby who crave to lock 'em up!

But there is a serious flaw with the plans. As with DWP, and other Departments, moving to payment by results means up front capital investment. Where are the plans this please?

Even one of the biggest rehabilitation charities has reserves of less than two months and practically no asset base. Will the banks lend? Will they hell! They wouldn't lend in the good times so cat in hells chance now its bad. The Big Society Bank is at least 18 months off. So where is the capital investment to come from ?

Oh, I have an idea; Futurebuilders! Reopen the Fund with a major capital investment from the Treasury of £1 billion. Stop the interest payments robbery. If you are serious about cutting public spending this is a wise investment. If you are serious about Big Society it is an essential one.
So enough on prisons. I'm packing my suitcase and off to Istanbul. No, not another conference. Not a seminar or case study visit. A holiday! A glorious break. Every good leader deserves a treat.

But never fear. The Blog must go on. And it will. Shan't send you to many photos though. Just my thoughts from afar on the challenges we face.