Thursday 30 September 2010

Happy International Day of Older People!

Bet you missed the fact that today we celebrate Older People!

So I bring you a message from the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon;

“This day marks the twentieth anniversary of the International Day of Older Persons. Older persons play an invaluable role in all societies — as leaders, caregivers and volunteers — yet are also vulnerable to discrimination, abuse, neglect and violence."

So there! All that " new generation " stuff in Ed's speech indeed. And my answer to my Deputy who was joking he might be unveiling a banner in the ACEVO office " New Generation- Time for Change". Humph.

But I really dislike the message from the UN. It stereotypes older people. Notice the emphasise on carers and vulnerability . Actually , older people also continue to work. They play an important part in communities and third sector organistions and the economy generally ,not as carers or recipeints of services, but as wise and experienced decision makers.

The West has an appaling attitude to older people. They are generally regarded as a burden. A problem. Not as a source of huge skill and experience. China and Japan have a much cleverer attitude to " elders". We could learn from them.

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Home at last via Radio 4!

How good to be back home. My very own bed. A good cup of tea ( tea should be made properly,and that means tea leaves in a pot;something sadly lacking in Manchester ). And in time for the Archers. Bliss.

But I enjoyed doing a slot on the PM Programme about NPC's " moral index". (Read Martin Brookes' speech on this here. I don't think it is the job of anyone in the sector to determine what is moral giving , or what is not. And my dear Great Aunt Marjorie, just turned 98 , has now become famous as I suggested if I told her she should not give to animal charities because children are a more worthy cause or more moral I would get a clip round the ear for being impertinent. Rightly so. Martin Brookes emails me after to suggest a " draw" and I readily agree. Martin is trying to argue that people should think more about their givinig. And of course NPC are doing incredible work in encouraging more transparency in charities and more attention to demonstrating outcomes.

And I owe him a favourite as he very kindly references my Blog! Thankyou Martin. But I'm still not signing up to a moral index. Giving is a personal choice and it is not for us to say it is not moral to give to animals. Or to a catholic charity that has a view on abortion or adoption by same sex couples. Or that giving to a human rights organization in Burma is less worthy than charities working with child abuse in the UK. We each have our moral compass. Let's us not loose that vital link between the donor and the cause.

And on practical level who would construct the moral index or suggest which causes are more worthy than others? One of our greatest attributes in our charity sector is that people might join together to challenge the established morality of the times. Challenge predujice. We don't want a committee of the Great and Good grading us all,or adopting an " approved for giving" label surely?

But the debate is a good one if it reminds us of the need to be up front with our donors. To be transparent. To demonstrate outcomes. Just let's not suggest donkey sanctuary giving is not worthy.

And now the Hound needs feeding. How pleased she was to see me. Don't knock animal charities Martin. She will not approve.

Leaving Manchester

Well , I need to get back to the office! Although by way of Radio 4 where I'm due to do PM on a rather interesting report from NPC which is suggesting a moral index of giving. Don't like the sound of this at all. Who is to be given the impertinent task of determining what is moral or good. And so what is not. Giving is an individual act. If my Great Aunt wishes to give to animal charities(as she does) who am I to tell her not to. See the Guardian report on this here.

But my final act in Manchester was to give my lecture on, " Rediscovering charity; Defining our role with the State" to ACEVO north members. A good session, reflecting on the worries of members about the axe to fall. But also good natured and dynamic, as you expect from sector CEOs.

Yesterday's highlight was, of course , the debut of the former Third Sector Minister as potential PM. A great speech which demonstrated Ed's real qualities as a thoughtful and genuine guy. He could have improved it no end by reflecting on the role of our sector though. A strange omission I thought. He does need to develop a better narrative on the Big Society, so I am suggesting he does this soon.

I spoke about " Big Society or Big State ?" at one of the fringes we jointly organised with the Policy Exchange. The answer to this is obviously neither. Both are essential. The theme of my lecture is all about the historic role of charity working in partnership with the State. If the State withdraws society and the sector do not fill in the gap.

I was at a fringe with AgeUK where they were explaining that probably the hardest to be hit by upcomiing cuts will be the over 75s. A particularly vulnerable group. Social care will be hammered by council and heath cuts. The vital fabric of the sector bodies that try and provide support to this group will be damaged, perhaps some will go to the wall .

I do not see how the Coalition will meet its fairness criteria if this happens. I know members are increasingly fed up with the macho " cuts are essential " talk from Ministers, when no indication of how they will protect the most vulnerable from harm is given . We still have no response from the Chancellor , or Danny Alexander to the letter signed by 370 charity CEOs calling for the fairness test to be applied to cuts.

The basic point is that our sector organisations, small and large, natioanl and local provide essentail support, advice and succour to millions of our most vulnerable or excluded citizens. And Councils are actually targeting our sector. At a dinner for council CEOs I'm told almost to a person they said they are cutting support to the third sector. Sickening and hypocritical.

An example of potential damage comes to me from one of my members, David Fitzpatrick who runs the Hertfordshire Community Foundation who has pointed out the good work of the Grassroots Small Grants Programme. He says " It has been a major success in England. A mere £80m all told, over three years that is!.It has reached the parts other grant programmes have not touched and built capacity right across the board, deep down in what we are all calling Big Society... ahem."

The word is that this programme will not be repeated, post 1 April 2011, but will become a programme focussed solely on the 50 top tier authorities with the worst average Indices of Multiple Deprivation. Fine in theory but wholly missing the fact that places like Hertfordshire (indeed most of the shire counties) have huge major areas of need and deprivation, picked up at so called Super Output Area level but hidden by the county wide averaging. These areas WERE tackled by the Grassroots programme but now will become the ghetto areas they were.

And , as I am reminding colleagues, we face two more " cuts". A rise in VAT and transitional relief going in April. At the very least we need to argue for relief to continue.

But before I become a doom and gloom merchant there are still opportunities for delivery through third sector bodies. Cuts may lead to more service redesign. More use of our citizen focused services. So our case must be, do not damage the fabric of our sector or hit the most vulnerable. Use us to deliver better.

I have a sad confession. I took team ACEVO uut to dinner and then went back to my hotel ; despite invitations to all sorts of events and more opportunities for networking! They, I am glad to say, went onto them instead. Indeed Mr Elsworth did not return to hotel till 3.30 ! That's the spirit!

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Doing the rounds

It's been so hectic I even missed a blog yesterday! But an action packed one today as we wait to hear Ed's debut as Leader. And talking of Ed ( well most people are ) I have bumped into him a few times, including at Church!

I went to Mass on Sunday at Manchester Cathedral- beautiful singing- and Ed pitched up at end and said a few words.

A leisurely Sunday lunch with the Third sector's top headhunter , the ever dynamic David fielding to celebrate my glorious decade, and then back into the maelstrom of receptions and meetings. First up was the EU reception, a dull but worthy event, and then onto the more exciting Care reception which was brimming with ACEVO members. I left when Any Burnham arrived ! Then onto Save the Children to show support for their campaign and to meet the new CEO.

And then the fun really began with the New Statesman party in the gothic majesty of Manchester town hall. And Geoffrey Robinson was serving champagne. Nothing too good for the workers eh! Packed out with media , politicos, ex cabinet ministers etc. I even got introduced to a member of my own staff by a former Minister!

It was great fun to bump into " Red tory" Philip Blond who was not quaffing champagne but a beer ( surely some mistake?) And we had a good giggle about Big Society and the State- he suggesting I'm a " statist". Me!! As if. And there's me being roundly condemned by the trade unions for the opposite!

So from there to the Sky reception. The mere lack of an invite ( lost in post obviously) was not a problem in getting in. More champagne but by now it was past bedtime so I left.

Monday was meetings with members- good to see the new CEOs of the New Local Government network and of Guide Dogs and I went for a policy discussion lunch with Victor Adebowale of Turning Point.

The evening was a Demos fringe on public sector reform where I was speaking with an old mate Gordon Marsden , the MP for Blackpool and Tessa Jowell ( well I would have done but Tessa turned up at the end when we had broken up for refreshments.) A good fringe though , with an interesting debate on what stance labour should take on Big Society. I said it was simply not good enough to denounce as a front for cuts. And I said Labour had to decide whether they are on the side of the State delivering services or the side of beneficaries.

But the highlight of Monday night was the joint reception for third sector delegates that ACEVO and the union Community laid on. Community is a progressive union and their General secretary is an ACEVO member. I think we may be the only umbrella body that has a TU General Secretary! It was packed out. And a brilliant speech by Hazel Blears, who was spot on in saying Labour has to reclaim the Big Society agenda- not denounce it as a cover for cuts. She was followed by another former minister whe denounced Big Society as a cover for cuts. Doh!

Joe Mann , the union DGS said that talking of strikes was not a good approach for the unions. If only the bigger unions understood this. It is a huge regret that the unions have such a regressive stance to the charity sector. So it is good to show that ACEVO can work with a progressive union and that we understand the need for professionalism - which means good pay and conditions and opportunities for staff to progress. I get sick of attacks on us for suggesitng we treat staff badly. It is untrue and a slur on the third sector. So our joint reception was a bold demonstration that the attacks are wrong.

This was the very first third sector reception held at Labour as the General Secretary pointed out. We shall make sure it becomes a tradition.

My deputy Dr Kyle made an impressive speech. Looking very dapper, and every inch ( there are lots of them! ) a third sector Leader. Even when the lights went off and he spoke to a darkened room. I think delegates might have thought he was about to break into a raunchy routine. But no, the lights returned and much fun was had by all, including again the omnipresent Philip Blond. He and I then headed off for the Hot Ticket of the night; the Guardian Party. There was no champagne.

Late to bed. And a late start to Tuesday.....

Sunday 26 September 2010

Third sector greets Ed!

It was good to be able to congratulate Ed last night on behalf of the sector. Many ACEVO members have very good and fond memories of Ed's time as the first Third Sector Minister, appointed by Tony Blair. He thanked me for my earlier text message! And said we must meet soon.

I am keen that we ensure labour has the right policy on our sector. And also understands that there is a very poisitive message about Big Society. We need a consensus approach ; it is no good labour just denouncing Big Societyas a front for cuts. This is not only not true but a silly approach. There are strong aspects of Big Society that appeal across the political divide; empowering communites and citizens, a bigger role for the third sector in delivering services and devolving power from Whitehall. I am confident we can get Ed to see this.

The damage caused by the " preferred provider" stance of Burnham has to be repudiated. And Ed in particular will need to ensure that he is not seen to pander to the trade unions anti sector politics. He could do this by publicly stating his opposition to any preferred provider nonsense, even though the unions want this. I want to see Ed making an early statement on how he supports third sector service delivery and is with the government on Big Society , whilst making a determined opposition to cuts that damage the very fabric of civil society.

Saturday 25 September 2010

The New Leader


So now we are seeing a promotional video. Lots of clapping. Like they hadn't lost (or is that cruel?)

Ray Collins started it all off. Ray is the General Secretary of the Labour Party,but many moons ago I worked with Ray. How he has progressed! He introduces Gordon Brown.


Gordon is greeted like a conquering hero. Surely some mistake? Though I have to give it to him;a good speech. A real passion And even jokes! I liked his comment that he was " old in memory, but still young in hope ".

4. 30

Harriet Harman speaks. Begins with a joke.but everyone is waiting for the result.


Ann Black on stage with the result. We go through all the preferences. It's killing.

It is Ed.

Ed is a star. And ever since I predicted in a Blog some 2 years back that he was a potential future
leader I have been looking at his career. He was the very first Third Sector Minister and brought a real pizaz to the post. So we shall see how he does as the new Labour leader. I wish him well.

In the Hall


So the build up has begun. I have just bumped into Gordon Brown,who is due to make a speech. Saw Sue Nye, who is now in the Lords,and we chatted about the new landscape and her upcoming maiden speech. Chatted to Hilary Benn, an old friend from long back. Now I'm in the Hall waiting. But at least I've had great lunch. Champagne to celebrate a decade. As a charity visitor I'm up the front; shows support for the sector ( I'm sure DC will do the same next week ).

Blogging from Manchester

Now it's the Labour Conference! And the main event is today, the
leadership election.


I've already sent a text message to the person I think has won.but it will have to wait to 5 pm to see if I'm right. In the meantime I'm on the train with Dr Kyle,David Fielding and Simon Fanshawe ;how sad is it to spend your weekend in Manchester , in a Party Conference !

It's a decade!

10 years ago today I got on the metropolitan line out to Harrow ( what a trek from Stockwell! )to start the new job. CEO of ACEVO. I'd had a sheltered life as the founding Director of the National Lottery Charities Board. Now it was into the bold new world of the third sector, where money does not grow on trees or lottery tickets.

I was excited; what a challenge- leading the then 900 charity Chiefs! But, as with the way of the third sector I soon discovered the cupboard was bare! A financial crisis.

So I quickly learnt my first important lesson in managing resources.

There were 2 things I leant; one is that you do not moan publicly about not having any dosh if you want to raise more. No one gives to a failing organisation. Second, you don't sit in the office pouring over the accounts. You get out and network like hell. My Board had said to me you better stop all that and concentrate on managing the place. They were wrong. In fact my relentless networking saved the day as I got more support.

Then there were the inevitable staffing challenges ( as we CEOs call them! ).

And finally, as I wearily trekked in and out of Harrow on the dear old metropolitan line I realised we would have to move!

I quickly found that there is great comradeship amongst the sector's CEOs. I had great support. Lots of advice ( not all helpful! ). But warmth and fun. Lots of people egging me on to grow and develop a voice for sector leaders.

Signing up our 2000th member

That was why the trustees had appointed me. To bang the drum for sector leaders. To make Government listen to us. To force government to make changes in the way they finance us. To argue for sector service delivery. And to protect and enhance our voice and ability to speak truth to power.

And I think I may have delivered on the trustees original brief. In spades.
Certainly ACEVO is on the national map. And the third sector CEO is a voice in the land. We have promoted a professional sector and raised the profile of the Chief exec job ( propelry paid! ).

There have been some great highlights. Our 20th anniversary reception in No 10 was marvellous and the warm tribute that Tony Blair gave me was memorable and moving for me .

Getting FCR and long term contracts was a real advance. Persuading Blair to set up the Office of the Third Sector a real advance that last today, though renamed.

I have made some great friends over this last decade. ACEVO members are a great lot. Beat CEOs in other sectors frankly.

Any tips on success ( even if you only measure that by actually surviving )?


# get a talented team. I am incredibly lucky to have some of the brightest and most dynamic staff around.

# get a great Deputy!

# ensure you have a good Chair and Board. I am really blessed in that I have had 4 chairs and they have all been supportive and helpful. Always observing the non exec - exec balance but also offering advice in troubled times.

# having money- which means a diverse income stream and innovative ways to get more

# networking till you drop ( this can be fun but don't drink cheap wine )

# having a hinterland. There can be life outside the job it helps you keep sane.

And finally

# keep a sense of humour!

Has it been too long? I leave you to judge. I know that at least the knowledge and experience of these last 10 years will help strengthen my Leadership task in the troubled times ahead. And I'm looking forward to ACEVO's silver jubilee in 2012 !

So let me end with a quote from the blessed. John Henry Newman.

" Fear not that thy life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning".

So perhaps my last decade has been a journey preparing for one of our sector's greatest challenges

Friday 24 September 2010

2010 Guardian Christmas charity Appeal

That great journalist Patrick Butler emails me about the Guardian's Charity Appeal.

They want to choose 10 charity projects working with disadvantaged teenagers and young adults to be the beneficiaries of the appeal. But they don't know yet which projects to support, and so are encouraging readers to come up with nominations, and charities to tell us about their work.

The idea is they sift through these (with the help of NPC) and back the ten considered to be best, most innovative and effective... and hopefully raise lots of money for them and give them loads of publicity!

Patrick comments on the sector's they have chosen

" Personally I'm pleased we've chosen this group: they are mostly ignored by the media (except to be demonised), aren't high on the political agenda, and - I can't help feeling - are going to be hammered in the spending cuts"

All the details can be found here:

So ACEVO members! Get cracking and send in your thoughts......

Gift Aid and Norway

With all the attention on cuts let's not forget 2 further hammer blows about to be delivered to our country's charities.

In january we suffer from a rise in VAT to 20%. This will add to our costs. It will further exacerbate thr problem we face in competition with the public sector. And at a time of continued inflation and rising demand.

Then in April we may loose the transitional relief on Gift Aid. A further hammer blow. It will rob us of £100m. On top of the £700m we already loose in unclaimed gift aid.

We have to campaign on both these issues. And loudly.

Following my letter to the Prime Minister on the VAT issue and on Gift Aid I will be meeting the treasury minister responsible Justine Greening MP on October 18.

It's time the sector as a whole campaigned on these issues. The cuts will be bloody. But here is an opportunity for Government to show they understand our sector needs support if it is to step up to the challenges of the Big Society agenda.

We must demand that transitional relief is continued. We must demand relief from the VAT increase. Its the duty of all the sector umbrella bodies to come together and campagin for this.

I'm worried that so far the sector appears to be supine in the face of dangers ahead. Of course there are real opportunities. We will grab them. But we must stand up to threats to our well being.

And what of Europe!

Tax relief for donations to charities was introduced in Norway only 10 years ago and there has been a steady increase in the use of it since. Their gifts added up to a total of 1,8 billion Norwegian kroner .

In May this year the Association of NGOs in Norway were notified that the Norwegian government were considering ending the tax-relief due to a demand from EU to open it for cross-border giving to charities in EU/EEA-area.

The Association of NGOs in Norway asked for help from euclid in their campaign to save tax relief. They wrote

" We are most grateful for all the very useful information many of the EUCLID-members provided us with ,relating to different EU-countries` national legislation on tax-relief and how different EU-countries have dealt with EU`s demand to open up for tax-relief on cross-border giving. It has been vital for our success on lobbying this issue to have so many examples from other European countries and also to be able to show that EU-countries that have already opened their tax-relief for cross-border giving are not experiencing that a large number of tax-payers claim tax-relief for donations to foreign organizations.

In late June we had a major break-through . The government will continue to give tax-relief for donations to charities and open up for cross-border giving. The Association of NGOs in Norway celebrates this as an important victory for the third sector. "

This demonstrates the value of how euclid leadership can support the sector across Europe. So well done to Filippo and the team!

Amusing- we have been able to help a succesful camapaign in Norway but we seem strangely quiet in the UK. So colleagues, how about it?

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Rediscovering charity: defining our role with the State.

It has always struck me that many people working in the sector have bugger all knowledge of our history. It leads people to make all sorts of assertions about what charity is or isn't and it is often inaccurate. "We shouldn't run prisons", er yes we have, or "we are independent" of the State, er no we are not.

So I wanted to use today's Lecture to draw a broad sweep of our historical great British tradition in charity and to look at the entwined and essentially dual role of charity and the state.

For around 10 centuries charity, Church and the State were the same thing. Charity provided all public services. The break with Rome in 1536 led to an increasing secularisation of charity, and the great reforms of Elizabeth I, in the poor law and the magnificent statute of Elizabeth both in 1601, set the framework for social welfare for centuries, with charity making most of the provision but closely allied to the State.

The 18th and, particularly the 19th centuries saw change.

There was the growth of the campaigning and advocacy charity. And the industrial revolution placed strain on the dominant delivery model of charity services.

Then the creation of the welfare state made service provision universal and gave us the concept of a right to health provision and support in adversity.

My Lecture demonstrates that, contrary to assertions by people like Phillip Blond this did not mean a decline in civil participation; though it changed and developed. And voluntary action has remained strong. As has the essential partnership with the State.

So I conclude on the essential nature of that dual role for charity. Working with the State but retaining our ability to speak truth to power.

I also have three messages.

The attention on Big Society and what it means is good for our sector and helps us look afresh at our role and what we can do. It is challenging. It contains one danger.

1. My first message is to the Government: not to fall into the trap of forgetting how crucial partnership between the State and the third sector is; not to attack State provision and imagine they can leave charity and philanthropy to pick up the pieces. The concept of Big Society needs to breathe new life into the State-charity partnership.

2. To the next Labour leader: not to fall into the trap of forgetting that same partnership by defending the State and attacking voluntary and charity action. The role of an expanded charity sector and devolving power to citizens and communities is worthy of support.

3. And finally, for the sector: we must stand our ground in refusing to be politicised and demanding an active partnership between us and the State. One that is effectively funded and promoted. One that builds on big and small charity, national and local. And crucially never to forget as times become more difficult that it is our duty to speak “truth to power”.

To see the full lecture go here. I'm sure you will find it interesting!

Monday 20 September 2010

Blogging from Liverpool

At the Lib Dem conference!

This was the conference one used to get other members of one's team to do as a development opportunity. Now CEOs have to go. And it has all become so much more professional. They even have airport style security, which irritates the hell out of older liberal delegates! And police and men with wires coming out of their ears!

I arrived to Chair a fringe event organised by DEMOS on public service reform; where next after cuts?

A good Panel. Norman Lamb MP who I described as Nick Clegg's guru! Sally Hamwee, Baroness (every panel should have one) and well known Lib Dem Londoner, Nick Seddon for Reform, one of my favourite think tankers and Roy O'Shaunessy who runs a particularly brilliant charity, Careers Development Group, who are big in welfare to work.

A very full room - sitting on the floor even. And a good selection of refreshments and even wine. A lively debate which ended with one fervent Lib Dem Councillor roundly condemning Nick Seddon as an evil bien-pensant from the Metropolis who has never seen a broken pavement!

I rather enjoy chairing. It beats having to prepare a speech, and one can interject, correct and comment at will.

I'm afraid the Lib Dems are rather short on the jolly receptions and certainly no champagne around here, so it was off to my charming hotel bed early! Good for me I'm sure, and a few finishing touches to the lecture for Wednesday's Big Event!

The charity Commission lunch fringe event today was excellent.

Suzi Leather, Chair, with Jon Snow of Channel 4

Jon Snow said no one is quite sure what this thing "Big Society" means but this gives us a great opportunity to define it!

Tom Flood made an impassioned plea to stop the silly bashing of big charities when organisations like BTCV who may be national and big but have a superb local infrastructure.

Andrew Phillips, that incredible charity lawyer and member of the Lords was amusing as he often is. He reminded us of the glorious tradition of charity law and had a strong message to charities; you don't often need to go to lawyers worrying about memorandum. What you need to do is get good trustees. He recounted how he has sometimes told clients who have come to him for advice to "bugger off" and sort it themselves. Hear hear.

Suzi Leather, Chair of the Commission, spoke about the need for charities to be looking to commercial sources for income as grants and contract income declines. But she also warned that we cannot take trust for granted. The public do trust us but are becoming more savvy and demanding. This is an important message for us and one the impact coalition is working on.

Some of the most useful things about flogging around these conferences is how many ACEVO members I meet, not to mention Ministers and hacks.

So far Stephen Burke, Clare Tickell, Tom Flood, Fiona Black, Paul Farmer, Jackie Ballard, Tony Hawkhead, Alex Fox, Richard Hawkes and Victor Adebowale (of those I can remember!). You will all know their charities!

Photo of me and Stephen Burke - CEO Counsel and care

Jackie Ballard, CEO of RNID, in front of the stand of RNIB!

The Papal Visit

I thought you might like a selection of the pictures from the Vigil and Benediction in Hyde Park (and also one from the dinner!).

Saturday 18 September 2010

In Hyde Park

Blogging from Hyde Park,waiting for The Pope to arrive to conduct a Vigil and Benediction .Though as I am sitting in front of a large crowd of enthusiastic teenagers it feels more like Pop Concert than Vigil! At least the autumn sun is shining on my 4hour long wait!

The Dinner last night was particularly entertaining ,and very fruitful as over half the Cabinet were there. I was able to have word with IDS and encourage him to push for the investment we need to secure a major role for third sector organizations in delivering welfare to work reform. A long discussion with Eric Pickles on localism. I was making the point that we need to safeguard minorities who "neighbourhoods" may not approve of.Eric did say that this was an issue that worried him and suggested we talk further.

I had a very engaging chat with Nat Wei about our recent Blog exchange. And to be fair to him he said that the point he had made about the dangers of bureaucracy in charities he had applied to big and small charities. I said that the professional and organized sector wanted to work with him on what could be achieved through the ideas behind Big Society.

But now from the politicians to the Church. My favourite 2 C of E bishops there ; the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London. but the highlight was being introduced to the Vatican's Secretary of State ,Cardinal Bertone by William Hague. I explained about the work of Euclid in drawing together civil society leaders across Europe. I said we were in discussion with the Vatican Cor Unum on the potential for a meeting of Leaders with the Pope. I was being translated into Italian but He seemed interested. And I was sat at dinner between Eric and HM Ambassador to the Holy See. He had a fascinating take on differences between leadership styles across multi national bodies. And it was interesting to see who crossed themselves at the Grace, particularly the Latin retiring Grace given by Cardinal Bertone.

It was good to see 3 Acevo members at the dinner, led by that great example of a strong third sector Leader ,Chris Bains of CAFOD.

But now I return to Hyde Park, listening to the stories of a range of speakers from an asylum seeker,a young person who is working with refugges from Burma. And now the hymns....
The visit has been interesting

Friday 17 September 2010

Cameron on cuts

A great exchange in the Commons.

(Source- Third Sector )

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, urged local authorities not to do the "easy thing" by cutting money from voluntary organisations.

Cameron’s comments came in a reply to a question in the Commons from Julie Hilling, Labour MP for Bolton West, on Wednesday.

She asked what the Prime Minister would do to save groups such as Bolton Community and Voluntary Services, which has lost £89,000 of grants this year.

He replied: "We should say to every single council in the country: ‘When it comes to looking at and trimming your budgets, don't do the easy thing, which is to cut money to the voluntary bodies and organisations working in our communities. Look at your core costs. Look at how you can do more for less. Look at the value for money you get from working with the voluntary sector.'

"That is the message that I would take to her local authority, and everyone should try to work in that direction."

Let's hope every Local council chief exec and every council leader were listening!! Good to have such a strong statement from the PM.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Nick and Rory, Work and Health

Up early to speak at a report launch at Ippr, that excellent think tank now headed again by the brilliant Nick Pierce; returning from his spell in No 10 have produced a fascinating report "Now it's personal" edited by Clare McNeil ( see Ippr website for details ).

The timing is superb as the battle rages between IDS ( on the side of the Angels) and George Osborne ( representing the forces of darkness) in getting sensible reform of welfare to work. IDS completely understands the need for investment up front to secure the change needed for the future. He has a strong understanding of the role that the third sector can play, whether at local or National level.

The report argues the case for a more localised approach to delivery of welfare to work. It argues for a number of interesting ideas like the Australian Innovation Fund to encourage new approaches or the transitional work schemes of Finland and Denmark where unemployed people take up a job while the postholder is on leave or taking a break etc.

As part of the panel I argued for an approach that blended national and local initiatives. I referenced the Papal Encylical on subsidiarity as it seemed somewhat topical ! This suggests that power should reside at the most appropriate level in society- whether national , regional or local and not to be dogmatic about all local or all national.

I also argued for taking Job Centre Plus out of central State control and making job centres into trusts.

I made a generous offer to ippr to support a research project on that ( Nick thought that excellent if we paid! ).

Then it was off to see an exciting new Tory MP , Rory Stewart. A fascinating character-you just have to see his remarkable cv. He is hugely interested in the Big Society concept and is closely involved in one of the pilots in Eden in his Cumbrian constituency.

We had a good discussion around stereotypes of the sector and what role we can play as a sector. He talked about the work and challenges of NGOs in Afghanistan which he knows well.

Then off to the DH for a key meeting with the CEO of the NHS Sir David Nicholson and key members of his staff who are working on the reform programme.

ACEVO has a strong partnership with DH and have been working closeley on reform ideas- particularly since the non lamented demise of the Burnham preferred provider nonsense.

David Nicholson said he thought the NHS was embarking on one of the biggest challenges they have faced for many years. He made the point that the NHS are moving from a period of strong growth in resources each year; running at around 4% to 5% per annum to no growth each year. And with continuing rising demand. And a complete change in commissioning arrangements.

He argued managers will have to learn to live with more risk and to work in partnership. And he warned that we know that a significant amount of change fails- so the transition process is a crucial one.

The focus on commissioning will stress the divide between provider and purchaser. It will be crucial to ensure we look at outcomes from both. He believes the provider changes will be more dramatic- this is core to the role of our sector and how we deliver health outcomes.

So back to the Pope.There has been some fascinating coverage of the Pope's visit. A particularly good piece from Philip Blond of ResPublica on Today , which illuminated some of the progressive side of the current Pope's teachings.

There is quite a paradox between the Pope and his highly reactionary , dangerous and divisive teaching on sex and his championing of the need for sustainability ( his 10 commandments on the environment for example) and the most recent Encylical Caritas in Veritate which advocates a strong role for the third sector.

I was amused by my official invite to the state banquet. It says " lounge suits-national dress-cassocks. I think I would look rather good in a cassock. A Cardinal Ref obviously! Not inappropriate for a chief of chiefs eh!

Wednesday 15 September 2010

In Praise of Big charities at the heart of Big Society

Not content with simply blogging prolifically myself I do of course read those of others. The other day I came across the following passage on Nat(Lord)Wei’s blog and read with a drooping jaw:

"As for cuts, about which I intend to blog more soon, all I can say is how angry I am that so many community projects and social enterprises were led up a garden path even though the recession started two years ago and that many became so reliant on government funding and are now at risk because their funding base became so concentrated. I’m going to do everything I can with colleagues in Government to help cushion the blow, and rouse philanthropy to help transition the VCS to develop more balanced streams of income and business plans to match with skills and support from the many concerned onlookers who can help with this transition, and over time make funding from government more locally owned and commissioned – but we are where we are because of what the last Government did, not because my colleagues do not care about the VCS.

The final point to say is that the VCS is not necessarily synonymous with Big Society. Many charities and social enterprises both actually big and small can be just as bureaucratic and unempowering of citizens as Big Government, and often this is because most of the funding they have has come from the state with all the strings that can be associated with that. They have ended up becoming Big Charity, not Big Society."

Reality check time. It is a shame that Nat feels it appropriate to make a rather cheap party political point out of the cuts which the sector is facing. ACEVO members are worried about how the needs of their beneficiaries will be met as resources get more tight, not whose fault it is.

Let’s have a look at this argument in more detail:

Firstly the sector was not “led up the garden path” on funding. The growth in our sector over the last 20 years or so has been brought about through major reforms in our public services. The then Government, and indeed the Conservative one before, realised that increasing contestability was the best way to drive up standards and mainstream innovation. It wasn’t about Government randomly choosing to throw money at our sector. Or indeed forcing us to take it!

The attraction for third sector leaders in seeking to bid for this kind of work was that it allowed them to better meet the needs of their beneficiaries. Decisions to bid or not were taken in a serious way by senior staff and boards of trustees with the best interests of the organisation’s beneficiaries in mind. It would have been irresponsible for leaders in the sector to not take advantage of the opportunities to grow their operations in those circumstances.

Secondly, the idea that an increase in Government funding for the sector has made funding bases more concentrated is wrong. Many third sector organisations have seen greater stability in their funding as a result of a diverse range of contracts covering different timescales with different statutory agencies, as well as grants streams from councils and other agencies. (Incidentally there is an important debate here between the relative stability of using grants and contracts as a mechanism for funding the sector – as outlined by my Director of Strategy in the Guardian.)

To argue that Philanthropy would constitute a more stable funding base is probably more a case of leading the sector up the garden path. Philanthropy is good. And we seek it. However philanthropists only rarely have the kind of long term relationship with an organization which a contract holder would have, volumes of giving are much more likely to vary and prone to change, and we all know that some causes are just not popular enough to be supported in this way.

ACEVO has long been working on the need for organisations to have as diverse a base of income as possible – hence our work on full cost recovery and better commissioning.

Thirdly, in spite of Nat’s best efforts to ameliorate the effects of the cuts by stimulating philanthropy I don’t think that it will be enough. The UK’s givers would have to pretty much double their current giving to the sector to make up for the money invested in the sector by statutory bodies. At the same time major philanthropists have been making it clear over recent months that they are not prepared to simply make up for a withdrawing state. The vision of new business models explained above seems to conflate two separate issues. More locally driven commissioning is indeed a reform of the way in which public money is spent, but it does not in itself mean that the sector can do its job of serving beneficiaries with less money. Just because funding may be local does not mean it is not State funding!
Indeed, although mostly positive, local commissioning will in some cases remove economies of scale and create inefficiencies.

That is not to say we do not welcome the work of Nat and his colleagues to drive up giving. Here he can play an important role in backing our sector calls for Gift Aid reform and supporting our call for the continuation of gift aid transitional relief (due to end April'11). We will work with Nat and with Nick Hurd in trying to open up new capital investment opportunities and in driving up giving. We will support work to drive up volunteering, done in a professional way.

Fourthly, the claim that big charities can be as bureaucratic as the state, or that their funding model is what drives their culture need to be evidenced.

Large national charities are amongst the most trusted of institutions in the country and have grown in size because big problems often require big solutions. Other parts of the Government are pulling in quite the opposite direction, with contracts in areas such as DWP, rehabilitation and prisons, and health, depending increasingly on scale.

Let’s make no mistake, the Government needs the sector if it is going to achieve its Big Society vision. We’re not an optional extra. To suggest that we are some sort of bit player to Big Society, as opposed top being at its heart, is not simply wrong but divisive and unhelpful. And the strength of our sector comes from its diversity, big charities and small, community organisations and national social enterprises. Attempts to pit big v small is to strike at the heart of what makes us strong.

Organisations like Tomorrow’s People, St Giles Trust, the Scouts and WRVS, the RNIB and Barnados, Cancer UK and Save the Children and thousands of others deliver outstanding outcomes for their service users, and with relatively modest investment. They are working day in day out to save lives and build better communities. They save Government significant money downstream. They make a better society. They have been doing so for longer than governments have been delivering services. And will continue to do so as their size enables strength on behalf of their members and beneficiaries. I support a strong, increasingly professional and growing sector.

Organisations in the sector have not seen some kind of mystical transformation take place because they have been in receipt of public money that makes them vulnerable. They are supreme in both using state money and ensuring that the voice of the user is heard; loudly where needed. They have been building relationships with people who value the work they do, individuals, Government agencies and businesses. Their challenge in the future is to make sure there is enough money to meet the needs of their vulnerable service users.

Decisions on cuts will be made by the Coalition Government and it will be their decision to protect the sector from meat cleaver cuts or not. It will be the decision of government to protect the most vulnerable. Or not. I would hope that Nat and his colleagues used their influence to protect our work and to meet the Coalition agreement to ensure fairness in the cuts process.

The challenge for the future is not well met by blaming historical investment in that cause or criticism of the work of "Big charities".

May I suggest that rather than criticising our work Nat might think how best to use the skill and experience of the thousands of professional staff and volunteers in "Big Charities" to help build a Bigger Society? He will find a strong friend. But also a stern critic when wrong decisions are made. That is the strength of our country's magnificent third sector.

Local Enterprise partnerships, a voice for the disabled and Europe.

The replacements for the work of regional development agencies are to be local strategic partnerships. In theory a good this, but it is clear that as local authorities develop these they are forgetting or excluding the third sector. This is despite the growing economic power of the sector and the fact that a thriving third sector is crucial to a healthy and sustainable local community and economy.

As often, we are seen as the marginal; do-gooders or volunteers. Local Chambers of Commerce are particularly bad at this. They seem to think the third sector is where they buy their raffle tickets or organic jam. So our message has been to get a grip and involve us.

Yesterday in Leeds, we held a very useful and interesting roundtable discussion on the emerging policy, with ACEVO members, Local Authority and RDA leaders. The group was chaired by Tony Hawkhead from Groundwork UK, and joined by CLG’s LEP lead, who attempted to shed some light on the latest answer from a central Government to sub national governance.

Bids from over 60 Local Authority partnerships have now been submitted to CLG, (well above what they were expecting I understand) and will soon be scrutinized by the critical eye of my friend the formidable Eric Pickles. Worryingly, only a handful of these bids included a commitment to involving our sector, weighted in favour of the theory that economic development can only be achieved through private sector growth.

We are working with ippr north to look at how our sector can play it’s full role in LEPs, how we can win the argument by effectively demonstrating our economic impact, not simply demanding a place at the table because it is somehow our birth right.

ACEVO has already written to Mark Prisk at BIS and Greg Clark at CLG, to outline our concerns that the Government failed to include the third sector in it’s discussions with Local Authorities and business on the future of LEPs.

After an initially ambivalent response, we have since received assurances from Prisk that this will be further considered in the White Paper on sub-national growth. You might also be interested in reading our response to the consultation on the paradoxically named Regional Growth Fund, which was submitted to CLG at the beginning of this month.

Had a peaceful trip back on Eurostar (that meant I slept!) from our Brussels Euclid annual meeting. Pretty impressive to have secured Cathy Aston as the speaker! And she was very interested in Euclid's Erasmus Programme for Social Entrepreneurs across Europe. This is funded by the EU and uses peer learning networks to promote innovative leadership. See the Euclid network site for further details of this impressive and intriguing programme.

Click here

And a good meeting with one of my members who typifies a strong social entrepreneur, Jonathan Senker, who leads "Speaking Up". This is an organisation that supports disabled people to secure their rights and to promote their independence. They work one to one, but also promote collective voices.

They are one of those classic sector bodies that both gets funding from State bodies but acts on behalf of users to hassle the State to get a fair deal for the disabled. They are just one of the many bodies that face the effects of the forthcoming cuts. You could argue it is not a front line service. Yet it makes all the difference to a disabled person leading a better life.

And to those who say that philanthropy can fill the gap in funding when the State makes cuts, Jonathan Senker said they get 15% of their funding from giving and corporate support but there was no way they could realistically get a bigger share, let alone all of their funding. There should be great opportunities for Speaking Up to expand their crucial role. Let's hope further reforms to public services and commissioning will give them that chance to expand and grow. Good luck to them.

Well, all my invitations and protracted security details have arrived for the forthcoming Papal visit. I'm at two of the events: the official State Banquet in Lancaster house on Friday and then the Vigil in Hyde Park. These will be fascinating though the security instructions for Hyde Park are thoroughly off-putting. I don't remember any of this when John Paul II was here in '82. I have been issued with strict instructions from Filippo to talk to various of the Cardinals in the Seguito at the dinner to discuss plans for the audience of Euclid with the Pope which is currently under discussion. That would be a remarkable event, though it apparently takes many moons to plan!

Tuesday 14 September 2010

Civil Society and Europe

Our Euclid Board meeting went swimmingly well. Always good to do these over dinner; though it did somewhat prolong the meeting! Didn't get to "AOB" till after 11pm! Then back to our agreeable guest house - full of the third sector!

Les Ecrins guest house and gorgeous church of the Beguines

Euclid has been thriving, due mostly to the indefatigable work of that amazing duo, Filippo Addarii and Ben Rattenbury. They make a good pair. Filippo is the ever energetic, Italian but not quite stopped being student activist and Ben provides some stable Anglo-Saxon method and order. In running organisations you always need the enthusiastic ideas people and the operational detail ones. The best organisations combine both. So Euclid flourishes as Filippo jets the Continent milking his contacts and making new ones, while Ben makes sure they are ordered and results delivered! Chaos is therefore avoided.

Cathy Ashton, the Vice President of the EU and "High Representative" on Foreign Affairs spoke at our AGM in the morning. It was quite a coup getting Cathy. She was making her first speech on civil society.

She told us it was "a real treat" to speak to us as she sees herself as partly from civil society. She explained that in all her visits she tries to ensure she meets civil society organisations.

She said there are three clear priorities for her role:

1. To create a European Foreign Affairs service. Promoting the EU as a whole.

2. To work on better "neighbourhood" relations in Europe, such as between Kosovo and Serbia.

3. To develop relations with "strategic partners". How to collaborate with countries like Russia or Brazil, China and the States. In this to develop issues like human rights and to promote European values here.

In all this she wants to ensure a better role for civil society - not through bureaucracy. We need to find more effective ways to develop relations.

My key point to Cathy was not to think of civil society as marginal - only relating to volunteers, as opposed to a key economic player. The EU still has to understand the bigger role we can play in developing a people's Europe, rather than a bureaucrat's one.

She took the point; indeed agreed on how important the role of social enterprise is in economic development. Afterwards we had a word about how to promote this within the EU. Good that we have someone at such senior level with a feel and understanding for our sector.

As well as Cathy, we had the Vice President of the Parliament and President of one of the EU Directorates, who will be chairing the Economic and Social Affairs Committee of the EU.

Cathy Ashton (on left) at Euclid AGM

A fascinating event, drawing together third sector leaders from across Europe; not just the strong sectors like France, Italy, Germany and Sweden but also people from Macedonia, Albania and Egypt as well!

The core to Euclid's work is in developing the leadership potential of EU civil society leaders. On this basis we can also lobby the EU on funding and resource development.

But there is a message here for the UK Government. How do they promote the role of our sector in the way they want to promote it at home?

Monday 13 September 2010

David Cameron, Barbara Windsor and Brussels.

A good article by Cameron in The Observer arguing the case for reforms in the system. Whatever the views on cuts there are two underlying drivers for change where I believe he is right. First, localism and decentralising power from the centre, and second handing over service delivery to the bodies best placed to deliver them.

The case for more decentralisation of power is strong the last two decades have seen too much power taken from local authorities. Thatcher and Blair both distrusted local councils. You can sometimes see why, but the answer is not to take power centrally.

However the proponents of localism sometimes over state their case. The Papal Encyclical on subsidiarity had it right when it argues that power should rest at the most appropriate level. Sometimes this will be national, sometimes European and sometimes regionally. There are many national charities, representing communities of interest who know that sometimes a national response is the right approach.

It is a fundamental mistake to assume "community" only means a neighbourhood. In Charlbury, in Cameron's constituency, there is certainly a very vibrant local community. In Brixton there are many diverse communities whose connection with place is transient and limited. Then there are the communities of people with disabilities, for example like autism, who may have a difficult relationship with their neighbourhood.

So the agenda is complex, even though I am sure the direction of travel is the right one.

On his second argument on public services again he is right. It is what ACEVO has advocated for a decade. When Cameron argues, as he does in The Observer article, that we will be able "to run local parks and post offices and generate their own energy" that is an exciting prospect. This is a major opportunity for the third sector. Even though we are rightly concerned about cuts we also know that the Government are unashamedly committed to expanding the sector's role in delivery. Our task is top-work with Government to achieve that expansion and to tackle the barriers that stand in the way. But we also know that the cuts in public spending will make that so much more difficult.

A major dilemma at the weekend. Friday night offered two competing attractions. Monteverdi's magnificent Vespers at The Proms and Barbara Windsor's final performance on EastEnders! But you can have your cake and eat it. I watched EastEnders with Monteverdi playing in background. Surreal. Amusingly I met Babara Windsor at the Last night of the Proms three years ago! A feisty lady. Great fun to chat to her.

And the rest of the weekend I spent on preparing my lecture; fast drawing close. September 22nd. Have you booked yet?

If not Click here.

On the theme "Rediscovering charity: Defining our role with the State".

And I see the lecture theme must be catching as I get a note from Stuart Etherington to say he too is giving a Lecture in November. He will be exploring "the relationship between the Big society and the Good Society".

One of the issues that this pinpoints is that Big Society is devoid of any concept of social justice. Big for what exactly? Is it about building a better more just society? What is the role of civil society in protest and advocacy; speaking truth to power as it is elegantly described?

But the problem of slogans; whether Big Society or Good Society is that they tell us little beyond the soundbite.

But it is good that both Stuart and I are setting out to define what we see as the proper relationship between State and sector and are drawing lines in the sand as to what we, the guardians of Big Society, see as that role. We must not allow the State to determine that relationship alone.

I'm blogging from the Eurostar to Brussels. Euclid Board meeting tonight. Over dinner. When in Europe do it the civilised way! Then tomorrow its our Annual meeting which we hold in the EU Commission. Baroness Cathy Ashton(the bizarrely named EU High Representative; sounds so Gilbert and Sullivan!)is making a major speech on Europe and the role of civil society. There is a strong case for the ideas of the "Big Society" to be translated into EU politics and bigger role given to thee many and varied traditions of the third sector across the continent.

Friday 10 September 2010

Bonds , Bishops and history!

Good to see all the publicity about the social impact bond launched today by the MoJ for Peterborough prison. My good friend and ACEVO member Rob Owen has been a driving force behind this initiative. The Social Investment Business is proud that it gave Social finance the initial development grant to work up the bond. It is a brilliant move. But it is essential it is not a one off. This bond is small scale measure against the need and the real ability of our sector to deliver big scale on rehabilitation if we have access to capital. This will require a big scale bank AND a finance sector that makes loans to charities and social enterprises. Scant evidence of that yet.

And how disgusting that the Banks are back to their old tricks. The behaviour of Barclays is a lesson in arrogance only the Banks could manage. Perhaps our politicians should get a little more outraged at this than the current " let's kick welfare claimants" orgy.

I was at the OFT seminar yesterday and heard the CEO of Capita explain that all surveys of staff show that " pay" is not the main reason people give as important in their job. As I pointed out to him , if that were true how come executives in top jobs in finance and commerce have such enormous salaries and bonuses and howl with rage if anyone dares suggest they pay more tax to support the state in its task of ensuring fairness. A point entirely lost on the apologists in the British Bankers Association on their trips round the studios defending the indefensible. These people have no shame. And somehow I think we can predict that the spending cuts are not going to affect these folk.

I just hope that the growing evidence of the problems of making cuts and ensuring fairness will make some impact. Our 370 CEO letter to Osborne and Alexander is important. I hope they see it as a way forward.

I have been in Charlbury walking the Hound( or rather the other way round) but taking calls from the Bishop of London and the Mail on Sunday amongst others!

I was discussing the" big society " with the Bishop. He is a marvellous cleric of the first order; great intellect , presence and superb oratory. He was explaining that The Church knows full well the problems of organising volunteers and the costs involved through the increasing use of non stipendaries. Volunteering is not effective without support and management. That is a cost. And he suggested that one of the problems we face is that the chartered accountants retiring and giving up their time voluntarily are doing so in the leafy suburbs, not Dalston.

As blog readers will know I have been asking members for stories about the history of their charities. I'm getting some fabulous responses. A marvellous book arrived yesterday recounting the near 1000 year history of St Johns hospital in Bath.

One email was interesting as it recounts on a little known strand of charity history; the municipal charities where the local council administered the charity, often with big endowments.

I have an email from Richard Eggington , ACEVO member ,who is the CEO of the Stratford Town Trust. He writes,

"This charity is one of those ancient (founded 1553) civic charities that were a joint operation with the local council. It’s been an independent charity since 2001 (since when it’s more than doubled the amount of money awarded in grants than was the case under the Council!). On an asset basis it’s about 120th wealthiest in the country with most of its assets still in Stratford property.

Thus until 2001 the Town Clerk was also the Clerk to the Charities.

• We know the name of every person who has held that post since 1553.

• I was the last from 1998 to 2001 (I am now just the CEO of the Town Trust)

• The first Clerk, Richard Symons, lost three children to the plague in about 1557.

• We still have all of the archives and minutes (recorded in Latin in Symons’ fair hand) from 1553.

• It is said that until not that long ago, the Clerk was revered. When there was a meeting the Councillors/Trustees assembled first; then when the Clerk walked into the room, they all stood up!"

Now those were the days. Perhaps ACEVO should issue governance guidance to trustees that they stand up on the entrance of the CEO. Entirely proper don't you think. I'm suggesting it to my Chair! But don't hold your breath!

"Competitive Neutrality"

I was speaking at a conference for the Office of Fair Trading on the changing shape of public commissioninig. My session was discussing the barriers to third sector in securing competitive neutrality.

I suggested that the term may be unhelpful. It implies an analy retentive approach by procurement officers and may inhibit wider considerations in commissioning.

Commissioners can and should actively seek out certain qualities in their services - eg services that reach the hard to help, services that people trust, services that bring added value elsewhere, services that increase civic participation etc. Which in practice means our sector. EU rules are not a problem with this, some people just think they are.

So the point is that 'competitive neutrality' has ceased to be useful, not because what it says is wrong, but because it makes people ignore the fact that they can do the above. It makes them 'neutral' in a lazy or anally retentive sense (not talking to providers etc) rather than in the way it was intended.

Maybe what we need is 'competitive active neutrality'? Still competitive, still neutral on sectors, but more active in seeking out the best the market has to offer and more active in talking to providers?

Following my usual practice , on my way to the OFT I popped into St Bride's Church on Fleet St. It's the Printers Church and its well known tower is a model for wedding cakes!

And again , like St George's in Bermondsey, a salutary reminder of the Blitz. 70 years ago, in a massive German attack on the City, 9 churches, including St Brides and the Guildhall were bombed out. Only great heroism of the firewatchers at St Pauls saved our marvellous London Cathedral. But in the case of St Bride's it had one unusual effect. The bombs destroyed the interior but revealed the lost crypt which was built on the old Roman roads and pavements of London.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Mulgan Savages Big Society, CUTS and Europe!

Article in Times neatly sums up the problem of "Big Society".

The headline runs;

"Big Society is baffling public, Young Foundation says".

"David Cameron's commitment to renew civic life is called into question by think tank and charity most closely associated with the project (Rosemary Bennett writes).

The Young Foundation says that Big Society is in danger of being reduced to slogan, with ministers failing to establish what the programme will entail and the public baffled by the few things seen so far. Geoff Mulgan, Director of the Foundation, said: "This autumn we need to see detailed plans of specific programmes, budgets and how the Government plans to measure its success. "

And the Young Foundation is a neat lead into a jury panel for "This is European Social Innovation" which is a competition to identify ten champions across Europe. It is a venture between the Young Foundation's SIX (their social innovation exchange) Euclid and the European Commission .

The EU Commission will be using them as case studies to demonstrate what social innovation looks like across Europe.

We held the jury by a "telepresence" conference at the CISCO headquarters in Finsbury Square, courtesy of SIX Chair, CISCO Director and generally cool guy Diogo Vasconselos.

The first time I have done a telepresence. It's very smart and meant we were talking to people in Madrid and Brussels and able to see them.

Here we can see the Brussels link; Peter Droell is the top EU official in charge of Innovation, working to Baroso. You can see his ethereal presence here:

We shortlisted ten brilliant projects.

But now back to Cuts. Our ACEVO members are increasingly concerned about how cuts will affect communities unfairly.

Today 370 charity and social enterprise Chief Executives have written to Osborne and Alexander to remind them of the Coalition agreement to fairness. We have asked them both to take steps to ensure fairness in decisions on cuts. We have asked them to set up a "Fairness Panel" of this sector CEOs to review decisions to see if they are unfairly hitting the most vulnerable. See letter here.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

History is our guide to the Future!

A brilliant breakfast meeting at ACEVO this morning. We had Professor Matthew Hilton of Birmingham University and Professor Bernard Harris of Southampton University to talk about historical evidence on the role of the sector and state and civic participation.

Matthew introduced a paper he has written that shows that there has been no decline in levels of civic participant since the war. Further he shows that there has been no "crowding out" of the voluntary sector by the State (in particular the welfare state as some feared). Certainly there have been changes in the way people participate and the sector itself has evolved and changed.

The paper "Civic Participation and social responsibility" 7 Sept 2010; NGOs in Britain Project, Birmingham University.

This evidence undermines the thesis of people like my friend Phillip Blond (in his book "Red Tory"). He has argued that civil participation has collapsed and the state has driven out independent and voluntary action. On that mistaken thesis an edifice of "Big Society" is being built. That is a dangerously mistaken premise and has serious implications for Government policy.

If civic participation has not dropped, if levels of volunteering are remarkably static how will Government increase it?

That is not to say Government should not encourage and empower community engagement; it should, but it something that requires concerted action between the third sector, state and communities. And it must be based on the reality of the lives of citizens not a romantic notion of civic participation, particularly at a time of state retrenchment.

Indeed, as the great report of The Young Foundation published this week shows, the assumption that if the State role declines or it withdraws then civic participation flourishes is not simply wrong but the opposite may happen, for example as it did in the States.

There is also something odd about a top down Government led approach to community empowerment. So far Big Society initiatives, like the national citizen service are entirely top down Government devised schemes where alternative ideas and approaches have not been encouraged. The pathfinder areas have chosen from the centre. Of course you have to start somewhere. But they could have done this through the third sector organisations who have the real experience of community organisation.

And a good discussion followed on all this with our invited audience of members and Peers (there is an important Lord debate in October on all this).

I had to leave to get to a meeting with Nat Wei at the Cabinet office where he outlined the next phase of the "Big Society" project and "Your Square Mile". All very interesting. Particularly to compare with the breakfast event. Apparently the "Town Hall Tour" will be spelling all this out. Being organised by DCLG and their Big Society Network it is directly modelled on the Obama Town Hall tours I'm told. Again, most interesting. Hope they have some good orators when community groups want to know why their local councils are withdrawing council funding. Nat Wei is an engaging, articulate and intellectual promoter of the project. He is a true believer. We shall see.

Nat has a basement office at the back of No 10. Last time I was there it was all rather bleak and joyless. It was where, appropriately, John Major wrote his memoirs. No pictures, I commented. Now he has three very good pictures from the Government Art Collection. They make all the difference!

On my way out a quick chat with Andrew Lansley MP on his GP commissioning ideas which we are discussing with the Royal College of General Practitioners, led by ACEVO member Hilary De Lyon. Then whisked off to The Guardian Public Sector Awards Judging Panel. A fun event done in style over lunch at The Globe Theatre. And it's grand to do judging and networking all at the same time! And no amount of champagne will winkle the names of winners out of me!

Finally a meeting of the ACF Board - a charity I Chair which is part of the Social Investment Business. And what could be more agreeable than doing the annual accounts and audit report.(This is ironic in case you ask!).

And in the spirit of the Londoner during the Blitz I soldiered around London in spite of Bob Crowe's best efforts to disrupt the Capital.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

A day in the life...

Straight from a meeting with the Editor of The Times it was back to the office for a meeting with a brilliant young guy, David Erasmus, who has been developing a "Get Giving" app. It will rapidly simplify how to give through your mobile phone, including using mobile photos to allow you to take a shot of a charity billboard and then donate. Fantastic. But Apple have rejected it. Wretched lot. We shall have to see about that!!

Then, walking through the rain, to a meeting with The Cabinet Secretary. Fascinating. Gus has a superb office. One of the joys of the ACEVO job is that over the last ten years I have got to know three Cabinet Secretaries, and their taste in office furniture!

Straight from Gus to see John Denham MP at the Commons. John is the Opposition spokesperson for Local Government so we had much to talk about. He is also the policy campaign manger for Ed Miliband and so we talked about public service reform. I said one of the worst decisions of the last Labour Government was "preferred provider" and I was worried that too much genuflecting to unions was going on by ED and others. I was appalled when I heard Andy Burnham say that policy was one of his proudest moments. Appalling.

And just to show political balance (don't want dear Charity Commission getting the wobbles) I was off to the launch of "Digital Giving" with Nick Hurd MP and ResPublica. They are a superb Think Tank led by the irrepressible Phillip Blond who is one of the most agreeable people I know. Always huge fun. And their work is changing policy so ACEVO is working with them closely.

The key point made by the new ResPublica report, which CAF commissioned, is the need to enable gift aid to be claimed on mobile donations. This is crucial for the future. We suspect mobile donations will increase significantly, especially amongst the young. We already lose some £750m in unclaimed Gift Aid so we have to insist Government sort this. The app approach would help this so Apple must sort that.

We will have to press HMT hard. So far they have been obfuscatory and unhelpful. The Gift Aid Forum discussions are on their way to become the most unproductive meetings ever held in our sector unless Nick Hurd MP and Justine Greening MP can exert themselves over the officials who have clearly decided to talk this one out.

Good to see Nick Hurd. He announced he had just got married. A week ago. In Scotland.

Congratulations Nick.

And then I could relax; off for dinner with my Deputy, Dr Kyle, to chew over the day as we chewed and drank at Chez Gerard.

Monday 6 September 2010

Big Society: whither?

It is probably to early to send flowers to the funeral of this idea. But the patient is ailing.

There are few signs that those involved in making cuts understand the importance of protecting our sector and its vital work in supporting communities and beneficiaries. The Coalition promised fairness in this process. How will that be achieved if the sector has its funding slashed?

This week is crucial. Important meetings of the Spending Committee are due. Departmental budget proposals are being examined. Have they calculated the effect on the sector and how fair their proposals are?

Let's be clear to any Big Society romantics (and the so called Big Society Network is a leader in that field) money is crucial. And do not imagine if the State withdraws there is an army of people just itching to get involved and fill the gaps. Or that miraculous giving rises dramatically.

I am a great supporter of the plans to build a hugely increased role for the sector in delivering services. This has both an economic and social underpinning. It has a clear rationale; more cost effective service closer to the user. If the Government had stuck to this instead of layering on community organisers, more volunteering etc they would have had more traction with the idea. And, as often happens with new Governments they have hyped it and over promised.

And the brute reality is about to hit in the Spending Review.

I am preparing for my Lecture on 22 September (to book click here) and in doing that members have been sending me histories of their charities. A particularly interesting though more recent account comes from Cliff Southcombe. It makes fascinating reading.

"I was appointed a "Project Manager" of Community Routes (a community transport project in the notorious Hattersley estate in Tameside) in 1979. One of the reasons I went for the job was because of the title Manager as opposed to "Co-ordinator" which was more common then. I recall thinking that we needed to move away from a community development role (which to me a co-ordinator implied) to a more business approach to such projects.

My first meeting with the Chair, Richard Armitage, was him saying to me that he was not interested in social or community work, what the people of Hattersley needed first and foremost was MONEY and JOBS. Within three years we had transformed a small community transport project into England's first and largest community co-operative setting up a number of viable businesses, opening up shops and a factory unit employing local people. We were one of the first organisations to set up as a company limited by Guarantee (1982).

It was also a time of co-operatives - and collectives - so I found myself - or so it seemed to me - in a unique position of a "Manager" of a democratic but community based organisation. We experimented with social auditing to make sense of the management and government structure we were developing.

The Board and Richard realised that my role was becoming much closer to business than community development and my title was changed to "General Manager" in about 1983.

We were probably ahead of our time. We even had an audacious plan to buy the local shopping centre! "

There are two key points here. No good lecturing people in deprived communities about volunteering more or taking more responsibility. What deprived Communities need is MONEY and JOBS as they discovered in Tameside.

And we also need a professional approach in our own sector. It was a point I discussed at a great meeting this morning with James Harding, the Editor of The Times, and their sterling reporter on our affairs, Rosie Bennett, over at the Times office in Bermondsey.

James made the rather pertinent point that as attention is increasingly given to our sector and our delivery role grows then we will be held increasingly to account. He is right. We will need to demonstrate our impact. We will need to become ever more professional. Just declaiming our saintly virtues will not be enough. And that also means the wimpish and self defeating approach taken by fundraisers over the recent chugging story will not do. We have to be robust as a sector. Not afraid to defend our efficiency and to change our practices when we are not.

And on the way to the times I followed my usual practice of popping into a nearby Church; this time the magnificent Hawksmoor St George's. I have often seen it from the road but never popped in. What I had not realised is that the interior was badly damaged in the Blitz and so now a modern Church nestles within the Hawksmoor walls and splendid tower. And another treat. The grave of Thomas Raine, founder of the great Raine Foundation. He was a huge benefactor to the sector, establishing various charities such as a school in 1719 to educate boys into apprenticeships. Another reminder of our country's glorious charitable heritage. And how cool to see this on the 70th anniversary of the start of the Blitz! A reminder of just how much damage was done to London and our great British cities.

Thursday 2 September 2010

Chiding and Losing

"We are a charity. Ordinary people trying to change the world. Join us."

This is the marvellous injunction at the entrance to The Eden Project. My father, brother and I were popping in on the way back from the magnificent Lost Gardens of Heligan. But it sums up the great charity ethos. Not about making soup for the deserving poor, but aiming to change the world. That is why trust in charity is so important and so precious.

An amusing headline on a story in Charity Finance this week! "Bubb chides his members after Newsnight chugging fiasco" it said. I suspect the journos at Charity Finance have ambitions to work at "The Sun"; chiding sums up a rather Victorian image of me in Headmasterly garb wagging my fingers at members! In fact if I was criticising anyone it was the fundraising community for not responding to the challenge of the Newsnight programme on chugging in a more robust way. We failed to defend face to face fundraising and many fundraisers seemed to think the best way to approach Newsnight was to refuse to co-operate, refuse to reveal details or put up a spokesperson.

But I think this reveals a wider issue for us: the role of the CEO in fundraising. I wonder if we have as much a grip on this as we should? It was clear in the run up to the Newsnight story that the response was by fundraisers. It should have been led by CEOs. A CEO should have been on Newsnight giving a strong defence. Given ACEVO's role in running the Impact Coalition I thought I should take this up. So I have written to the top 50 fundraising charities. The letter raises my concern over failure to defend the sector’s practices on Newsnight, which which featured a report on the fees that UK charities pay to fundraising companies for recruiting new donors.

The programme implied that face-to-face fundraising was wasteful because donations were wiped out by the fees paid to the companies.

Only two of the 20 charities questioned - The British Heart Foundation and Cancer Research UK - were willing to say how much they paid to sign up each donor.

My concern is that this reveals "a worrying lack of accountability and transparency on the part of charities".

Trust is so crucial that given the high profile of the feature and its influence on public opinion, there needed to have been greater involvement of chief executives in defending the sector on the programme and protecting its reputation.

The danger is that refusing to defend what are entirely defensible practices poses a very real reputational risk to the whole sector and could reinforce the kind of myths presented in the programme’s feature.

We experience high levels of public trust, but this trust is based on goodwill and is therefore fragile. We need to get better at explaining what we do in order to build the requisite confidence needed to strengthen this fragile trust, and we must do it in a clear, transparent and accountable way.

( See full letter here)

We are going to discuss this further in the ImpACT Coalition and determine how to take it forward. And I want to see how CEOs in particular can play a higher role in fundraising communities. I know this is an issue on which my friend, Lindsey Boswell, feels strongly - he has complained before that CEOs do not get involved enough.

This is going to be crucial for our sector as grants and Government funding generally gets tighter. We need to maintain and grow fundraising. We need to ramp up giving. Government is keen to lend its weight to a giving campaign and to promote a giving day. I know Nick Hurd, and Greg Clarke before him both feel that as a country we do not give enough. They are right.

So whether its "chiding" but I don't mind if the stories attract attention. So far responses have been favourable. The PFRA wrote to thank me for,

"a measured and insightful intervention. The visceral and destructive comments which this has already attracted – even from “professionals” from within our own fundraising community – shows just how far ImpACT – and the Institute – still have to go in dispelling dinner-party myths and uninformed gossip and hearsay about the effectiveness, legitimacy, and durable public acceptance of both face-to-face in particular and all fundraising methodologies in general."

Hear hear to that. And a comment from a fundraising consultancy said,

" I find it immensely frustrating that so many CEOs seem to see fundraising as a peripheral activity.

You only have to look at attrition rates to see that fundraising doesn't seem to be working. Research shows that few donors actively enjoy their relationship with charities.

If charities are going to grow in importance, they need to start treating donors as key stakeholders – and that can only happen when CEOs start taking fundraising seriously

An interesting reflection on our role. I am sure I will also get critical reactions as well but at least I hope to have stirred up a debate.

Now back to the Eden Project! I suspect we all know of Tim Smid's work there but, perhaps as important, was his heroic effort in reclaiming the "Lost Gardens of Heligan". A beautiful and impressive garden that had been built up by the Tremayne family over 400 years had gradually been left to nature to reclaim. The estate fell on hard times and the 200 acres just required too much manpower to keep up. So the magnificent collection of exotic palms and tress, camellias and rare rhododendrons had been covered in rambling brambles and ivy. Tim and one of the surviving Tremaynes determined to reclaim the gardens and valleys and set about this mammoth task in 1990. And it is volunteer effort that did this. No less than the superb skills and organisation of that great conservation charity, BTCV, got to work to rediscover this lost treasure. And how stunning these gardens now are. A real testament to the power of visionary pioneers and volunteers who, against the odds, did what everyone told them was not possible or just plain silly. A privilege to be there. And I am carting back two camellias from their National Collection as a memento!

Some photos to delight;

The Lost Gardens of Heligan

Father at Heligan

Father and brother with a large courgette
Father and me - if a better photo you could see Megavissy


So let's remember that charites like the Eden Project or the work at Heligan are precious. They must be protected and promoted as they form the backbone of what makes the UK such a special place. And that is why fundraising is too important to be left to fundraisers.