This blog promises to reveal the inside track of a third sector leader influencing in Whitehall, championing professionalism and causing a stir.
Sir Stephen Bubb is CEO of Charity Futures, which promotes better charity governance and leadership. He was formerly Chief Executive of ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) until 2016.
His blog is part of the British Library’s national blog archive.
Friday, 29 October 2010
What Cuts mean; why we need more Giving.
They are also to make people who get social care services to "pay a more realistic charge".
This shocking example is being followed elsewhere in other Councils.
In this context I loved the Editorial in The Times yesterday on "The Giving Age". As it says,
"the fact remains that charitable giving does not permeate Britain's wealthy as it should"....charity should be at the centre of David Cameron's Big Society. As Sir Francis Bacon said, money is like muck in that it is more useful when it is spread around".
You can read the full Editorial here;
Wealthy individuals in Britain could do a lot more with their fortunes
It was Aeschylus who coined the word "philanthropy" by combining the words for love and humanity. Some of Britain's wealthiest people could perhaps use a nudge in the direction of both.
Though the economic fortunes of the nation have not risen in a straight line, the postwar period has brought a huge growth in individual prosperity. There are now 53 British billionaires. There are still 284,000 millionaires, even after a recession, between them worth £1.28 trillion.
Yet examples such as Lloyd Dorfman's gift to the National Theatre are still rare in Britain. We report today that British universities are turning to their alumni to plug the gaps in their funding, a source of income that is taken for granted in the United States. Giving in the UK is little more than 1 per cent of GDP, half of that in America. American households with annual incomes above $200,000 give 7.4 per cent of their income to charity. UK households with a similar income give 1.2 per cent.
Those wealthy Britons who give do so generously. One could provide a lengthy and honourable roll call of British philanthropists, from the high-profile (the Sainsburys, John Duffield, Sir Tom Hunter) to the less so (Christopher Cooper-Hohn, Margie and Jamie Moffat) to the outright famous (Sir Elton John, J. K. Rowling).
They and many others deserve credit. But the fact remains that charitable giving does not permeate Britain's wealthy as it should. Even at the highest level, stories such as Leonard Blavatnik's gift of £75million to the University of Oxford are rare in this country. We have nothing to match the long tradition of American philanthropy. Andrew Carnegie, for example, gave $350 million ($7 billion in today's money) in 1901 to a range of good causes, including building Carnegie Hall.
Today, Bill Gates is slowly deploying his massive fortune to try to eradicate malaria and river blindness and Warren Buffett has helped through the largest individual charitable gift in American history - a donation of $31 billion. Why the difference? In part, Britain's rich are often second-generation, and those who have inherited can feel honour-bound to their offspring. A munificent State, also, can lessen the voice of individual conscience.
Then there is tax. The British Government sponsors Gift Aid, by which charities are able to claim an additional 25p from every £1 donated by UK taxpayers. Those in the 40p tax bracket enjoy the same break for philanthropy. Top-rate taxpayers can claim 37.5p on every £1. Gifts of shares attract tax relief and exemption from capital gains tax. Charitable gifts are free of inheritance tax.
The one serious fiscal difference, however, is that the use of financial intermediaries in the US is much more sophisticated. In the US, a tax break can be taken immediately on donations involving more complex financial arrangements.
Mr Gates and Mr Buffett recently issued a Giving Pledge in which they challenged America's wealthiest to give away half their fortunes. Even a tenth would significantly alter the state of charitable giving in Britain. There are some signs of progress, notably in "giving circles" such as the Funding Network, ARK and the Private Equity Foundation. But so much more could be done. Charity must be at the centre of David Cameron's Big Society. As Sir Francis Bacon said, money is like muck in that it is more useful when it is spread around.
Amanda McLean the new CEO of the Institute of Fundraising and I wrote a letter in response which the Times published today.
Read it here
Amanda and I met with Justine Greening MP, the Treasury Minister responsible for Gift Aid recently. We urged her to look at extending Gift Aid while the revenue start reforms to the bureaucracy around the scheme. We also spoke of the need to protect charities from the VAT increases in January. It is not simply a matter of the rise itself; this acts as an impediment to charities taking over the running of services from local Councils because they don't pay VAT. This is particularly dotty when third sector organisations share services they still face two VAT bills.
I was impressed with Justine. Clearly a rising star, on top of the brief and genuinely interested in how Government can help us expand and deliver more for citizens and communities. We also talked about the need for more social finance and how HMT could give this a bigger push. So we shall see.
What we all know is that as the cuts hit, we face two further blows; VAT increases in January and loss of relief on Gift Aid in April. This is damaging to our role in meeting the rising demand from our beneficiaries at a time of spending cuts.
Thursday, 28 October 2010
Health and the Priestleys
Well , that was alright then; its official, I shall survive a while yet! But whilst in Charlbury I did pop into the cemetery. It's a beautiful quiet spot looking out towards the Wychwood Forest and the autumn colours were remarkable in the glorious sun yesterday. My plot is already purchased. Important to forward plan and you never know if some Government will try and force us all to be burnt!
And talking of dying (not) have you made your will? If not why don't you take advantage of the charity will service that takes place in November. It's a great scheme. A range of excellent socially minded lawyers offer a simple will service and you pay a small amount which goes to charity.
Click here for the details.
Charlbury was looking particularly gorgeous and, as I had a good check up, I popped into one of my favourite local pubs, the Bull, for lunch. A splendid Bull special brew and soup. Just what the Doctor ordered (not ).
See how lovely it all looks in David Cameron's Constituency.
Back in time for the theatre. A little known fact ; Leila Ferguson, one of my brilliant ACEVO Trustees and CEO of West Berkshire Mencap, is the granddaughter of JB Priestley. So every time there is a JB Priestley play she and all of his descendants (he had four daughters and one son) get invites to the press night. So Leila kindly asked me and my sister Lucy to see "When we are Married", a play premiered in 1938.
A stunning cast: Roy Hudd, Maureen Lipman, Sam Kelly, Susie Blake (from Corrie), Lynda Baron...
And as this was press night the audience was a cast list in itself, just to mention Juliet Mills, Tony Benn and, my favourite, June Whitfield from Absolutely Fabulous!
Here she is;
And finally here is Leila with her mother, J B Priestley's daughter, and me.
And I also met Uncle Tom!
Wednesday, 27 October 2010
My Decade Celebration in pictures!
James, Margo, Francis and Pay
"This will be very messy. This will be quite anarchic... this will not be neat."
This is fine in an Oxford tutorial, or in Opposition, but in Government you need to articulate and spell out your framework and parameters. Failure to do so allows others, the non anarchists, to define it for you and in ways that may not help. I don't quite understand Francis. A top class politician, practical and pragmatic, with a great brain and experience. Tories are supposed to be in favour of order and establishment, not anarchy!
There is also perhaps a glaring inconsistency in promoting one of the BigSoc major initiates which is clearly not anarchic and is very neat; that's the NCS, where a top down, centrally driven and one size fits all approach is favoured. So Francis, kick the anarchy; it doesn't suit you! On with the tie, out with the chaos.
Margo Horsley is a delight. I knew her when she was a key advisor at the Charities Board back In the 90s. She now runs the Public Service Broadcasting Trust. They organise the ITV Fixers. This is a scheme (funded by V) that encourages young people to volunteer, or rather as they put it "to take action on any issue they feel strongly about- changing things for the better". And every month there is a slot on the ITV regional news for a young person to talk about their cause. More than 4000 young people have taken part and there has been some compelling TV.
This illustrates the power and potential of volunteering. Government sometimes fails to recognise that most people volunteer to take action, to campaign, to stop bad things happening and to demand a better world. Yet when Ministers talk, it's often about helping our neighbours. Not that that is bad, it's just it fails to excite and to undermine the real impulse towards volunteering. In fact in a strange sort of way I suspect the cuts will generate a rise in volunteering as people organise communities to oppose cuts that damage the social fabric of the nation.
Colin Jones is one of LDA and the Mayor of London's advisors on the third sector. Also known from Charity Board days! We were talking London's role in promoting a strong third sector economy and have some ideas! I'm going to work with him on this, though as I said if it's about an old fashioned cosy view of our sector, at the margins doing "good things" that can be patronised, then count me out.
The evening drew to a close with th launch of the ACEVO's annual Pay Survey. There were two key messages from this year.
1. Frugality. The salaries of charity leaders have remained roughly static for the third year running. The survey of 763 chief executives, said the median average pay in 2010 is £57,974 - only £734 more than it was three years ago. In contrast, median average pay rose rapidly from £48,500 to £57,240 between 2004 and 2007.
2. Professional Development. The survey contained worrying findings about the level of investment in professional development. Sixty-one per cent of chief executives said that they didn't have any personal development plans in place and a quarter did not receive an appraisal. Our Director of Strategy, Seb Elsworth's quote in Third Sector bears this out. "There is a concern that professional development is being neglected when chief executives have to lead the sector through a difficult time".
David Fielding from Tribal, who sponsor the Survey, gave a sparkling speech complementing the sector on restraint and its values. The issue for me though is that we must never compromise on our drive for a professional sector and that means professional levels of pay. Our CEOs salaries are still, on average, some £20-30k less than equivalents in the public sector. It's not as though the job is any easier! Far from it.
And continuing with the volunteering theme, an interesting chat with Derek Twine, the impressive CEO of the Scouts. He has been in post for all the time I've been at ACEVO so he is a seasoned hand! He tells me The Home Office are looking at the issue of charges for charities to get CRB checks. The Scouts have to do 60,000 checks a year. They are necessary and important. If they are charged it will cost the Scouts a cool £2.75m pa. That will drive a coach and horses through any attempts to increase volunteering as part of BigSoc. So Theresa, you may have had a bad settlement but don't do that!
And so now I'm off to Charlbury. To the Doctors. Of course our great GPs haven't quite got the customer focus yet that enables you to go out of office hours. When will that change I wonder? I'm having my annual Flu jab (have you had yours?) and my diabetes check up. Wish me well!
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
The local paper says a York charity which faces losing thousands of pounds in funding from a cash-strapped NHS have branded the cuts “ridiculous”. NHS North Yorkshire and York has suspended a string of contracts for organisations in the voluntary sector after revealing its 2010/11 budget is currently overspent by £17.9 million and the cash gap will rise unless it acts immediately. This means York Council for Voluntary Service, which provides back-up to about 1,000 community groups around the city and volunteering opportunities for people with mental health problems and learning difficulties, being left with a £17,500 shortfall in four weeks time.
So a very typical response of health service managers. And I suspect for Council officers too. Rather than think of cuts that might involve your own jobs, cut others. Rather than think of radical alternatives, cut the third sector.
The meeting with members was rather sombre. In the meetings we had for members at the beginning of the year I always asked whether people felt optimistic or pessimistic. Overwhelmingly people used to be optimistic. The picture has changed. It was much more mixed today. Members were concerned at how the cuts will affect them. And how the cuts will affect the people they work with. There was concern at how Councils and Health Authorities will behave and whether they will be like the York health lot.
But there was also optimism that in the longer term there are opportunities for the sector to grow. I was encouraging members to push their case on the public sector for how we can deliver better services. Be proactive. Make the case for how we cam deliver in the face of spending cuts.
I was due back in London for a dinner but it was cancelled so I had a couple of happy hours in York. A visit to one of the country's best tea shops, Bettys, where I stocked up on good tea (leaves obviously) and coffee beans and a Yorkshire tea cake! See the tea counter here.
And then off to the Minster. See how glorious it is in the autumn colours!
My Deputy has been developing Bubb like tendencies. He is currently at Windsor Castle! One of our members, the Windsor Leadership Trust and their leadership course. And last week he was making a presentation for the Duchess of Cornwall at the French Ambassador's residence! He sends me a photo of St George's Chapel!
Monday, 25 October 2010
Sunday Lunch and Channel 4
Obviously I accept, especially as they offer to come up to Clinks to do it. It means several takes as during the course of one soundbite, the Hound, who has been watching from the Garden, decides she should be the centre of attention and starts barking.
But comes out well in the end and the nation is treated to my views and views of my house. All very edifying. David Fielding texts me later to say well done; "gravitas and regal"!
As the dust settles on the CSR it is clear how much potential damage could be done to our sector. Our ACEVO estimate of £4.5bn is now widely accepted, NPC take a similar view and Dame Suzi concurs.
I thought Dame Suzi was magnificent in her interview with the BBC Politics Show. She has very bravely spoken out on behalf of the sector to warn of potential damage. Good for her I thought. When our members hurt, we defend them. When there is palpable damage we speak up. That's what independence means.
I remember all those lectures from Foundations about independence. Barings in particular produced a number of reports on it. Will they now support those who speak up? Will they now step up to the mark and support sector organisations that will be cut. How about the Foundations getting together and implementing their own "Transition Fund"? And there is a Big challenge for the Big Lottery Fund. Time for you to act too Peter?
Channel 4 also had an interesting interview with John Bird of the fantastic "Big Issue" who was setting out his views on how we should organise ourselves.
We want "the reform of terrible competition" he says. And his vision of the Big Society is "to scrub out duplication and promote pan sector work". Interesting. But it develops.
"The gravy train for charities has come to an end, but the big question is not how to obtain money - but how to improve your services without money".
I'm sure this will be welcome news to the many homeless charities that are now having grants removed and contracts slashed, at the same time as the Government's welfare cuts will mean more people on the streets.
I wonder if John is implementing this advice himself? Is he in discussion with Shelter, or other homeless charities to merge or share costs?
I'd be very happy to chat to John about supporting ACEVO's own advice and support services on mergers and partnerships. We are publishing advice on this in two weeks at our annual conference. Of course more cooperation is good. There is a lot of joint working and this will grow. There is more of it than John knows. Just look at how the health charities work together, or the partnerships in welfare.
But John should also remember that there is strength in our diversity and properly we resist Stalinist attempts to tidy us up! There is strength in our differing approaches and our proud individual traditions. The drive and ambition of people like John Bird when he set up Big Issue (as opposed to working through an existing charity) are the well spring of innovation and dynamism. There are many charities because many people support them through their giving and their volunteering.
And strange to say, sometimes competition is a spur to improvement! So tidy us up a tad yes. One size fits all no.
Oh, and if you've found that magic wand you wave that helps us deliver services with no money, do pass it on.
I'm now off to York (on the Flying Scotsman no less!) for a meeting with ACEVO members to talk about the CSR and its effects. Important in these times to keep in touch with members and to ensure we hone our support services, our advice and our advocacy on their behalf.
Friday, 22 October 2010
The undeserving poor
My recent lecture reminded members that not so long ago there many people believed there were the deserving and undeserving poor. And anyone listening to a recent Any Questions would have heard the revolting modern expression of this by David Starkey, a man of whom it is hard to think of anything favourable.
Let's be warned where this could lead. George Osborne is fond of talking about the hard working man who gets up in the morning for work and sees the blinds pulled down firmly at his neighbours, shirking work.
There are indeed such people. A small minority. And the cost of fraud is actually much smaller than the amount lost by DWP in administrative errors, or that lost to the country by tax avoidance.
The problem with this approach is that it stereotypes and ignores economic realities of recessionary times.
CRISIS have produced a fact sheet on so called housing benefit fraud. See it here.
And let's learn from history where this can lead.
The Charitable Organisation Society argued that there should be no welfare for the undeserving poor as it would just encourage mendacity.
A pamphlet by the COS in 1889 related to the feeding of school children. Hungry children of improvident or negligent parents receive no food because “to feed their children for them is to debase the moral standard by practically inviting parents to spend in idleness or drink the time and money which should have been given to provision for their family”.
They argued that State or public action demoralised private charity and so they opposed almost any State provision, including, for example, the provision of old age pensions, or national health insurance.
These attitudes persisted into the twentieth century. Bishop Chavasse of Liverpool deplored the “lack of response by the poor to the campaign for inducing habits of thrift, their preference for starvation in their familiar slums rather than migration under the auspices of the Charitable Organisation Society bears witness to deterioration in the moral stamina of the poor.”
Attlee recounts the story from his time at Toynbee Hall where one charity in the 1930s served burnt porridge to the children of the undeserving poor in order that they did not acquire habits of indolence or dependency!
Many ACEVO members are worried that the current cuts package will have serious and damaging impacts on the most vulnerable, the elderly as social care budgets are slashed, or the disabled. And it was good to see Campbell Robb, now CEO of Shelter, warning of growing homelessness, particularly among young people who will suffer from the housing benefit axe that has fallen drastically on the under 35s.
We now know from the IFS that the package has not met the fairness test and for all the huffing and puffing from Nick Clegg that is of great concern for our sector as we will work to mitigate the effects of the cuts on poorer communities at the same time as our own funding is cut.
Testing times indeed for our sector and for the leadership of ACEVO members. But we are up for the challenge.
My lecture used a marvellous quote from St Francis, which the Bishop of London also used at my decade bash,
"Where there is charity and wisdom there is neither fear nor ignorance".
Thursday, 21 October 2010
The Decade Reception
I had got to know Angela well when she was the Third Sector Minister and it was good of her to say how much they had been able to trust me in working with them on plans for the sector, and not even to mention sensitive stuff in my Blog if that was not appropriate. And she clearly likes the Blog! But then, why wouldn't you?
It was a superb do and the speeches were a model; wit and anecdote and suitable praise! I think people really enjoyed the tales of my appointment from first Chair, Geraldine Peacock! She described the marmite effect but said the people I irritate probably need it! She said I had "snog" quality, though not in the sense we usually think of it. It meant, if I remember right, Savvy, Nous, Oomph and Gumption. Lots of mention of famous Blog!
But it was perhaps the Bishop of London who stole the speaking prize. Richard Chartres is a superb orator. He had done his homework on me and was most amusing about the "ubiquitous Bubb".
He was followed by a pairing of two old friends from Oxford days, Damian Green MP, who is Immigration Minister, and Gordon Marsden MP who holds the Shadow brief for Further Education and Skills.
Some lovely moments such as when I introduce my old College friend, the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, to his nephew (by recent marriage) Nick Hurd MP, who then pumped him for info on my dissolute past. Champagne featuring prominently.
And it was good to congratulate Nick on his success with the Transition Fund. In fact there were four other former Third Sector Ministers there.
As you might expect there was much reminiscing. Damian Green MP, reminded us of the "Blue Nun and Flares" days when I was renowned as a Bollinger Bolshevik, though now suggesting I had moved to "vin rouge radical"!
Dame Suzi was pumping my Mother for further info! And I overheard Mother describing how she had brought up her first born according to some book she had bought at a jumble sale!
And then today lots of fantastic notes of thanks. One I really liked was from that great ACEVO member Rob Owen, who runs the St Giles Trust.
"What an amazing 10th birthday party. Wonderful speeches and wonderful company.
It also reinvigorated why I am proud to work in our arena.
Thank you for championing our missions, thank you for being such a strong driver. Thank you for being determined to do the right thing."
Now that made me feel good. No point in being in a post for 10 years if you have not been able to make change happen. And if you can't continue to do that, you had better retire. And I'm not retiring!
You can read my, mercifully short speech to the assembled throng here.
And I can report the event was crowded out. Indeed they had to turn members away and that lead to a major demonstration outside Parliament.
See photo of those turned away here.
Wednesday, 20 October 2010
Of course overall this is a difficult settlement for our sector and for our beneficiaries.
The Chancellor has set out the biggest cuts to public spending in a generation. So of course it is going to hurt.
The Spending Review, published at a few hours ago, included an average Departmental budget cuts of 19% over four years, a 28% cut to Local Government funding from Whitehall over four years, and £7 billion of cuts to the welfare bill.
These cuts will undoubtedly mean very difficult times for our sector. As Departments and Local Authorities now work through how they spend their funding allocations over the coming years, we will need to engage with them to ensure that they see the sector as a partner in achieving more for less, not a soft target for short-sighted cuts (the latter being an attitude I have found worryingly prevalent in Local Authority circles).
I have been encouraged by the growing recognition in central Government of the need for practical support for our sector in what will be testing times. I was pleased listening to his speech to the Commons, the Chancellor recognised that the cuts would be difficult for the third sector and so committed £470 million to capacity-building, including the one-year £100 million Transition Fund for third sector organisations in difficulty but with the potential to improve their ability to deliver services with some support.
The speech had a strong emphasis on public service reform, including through a greater role for the third sector in areas such as offender rehabilitation and welfare to work. It promised a consultation on the HMT Fair Deal policy on public sector pensions, which remains a big barrier to ACEVO members seizing what opportunities there are likely to be over the coming years. Given the concerns of ACEVO members working in social care, I was also encouraged by the additional £2 billion in funding for social care announced today. David Behan at the Department of Health rang me to tell me what they had achieved. This is important, though social care will still get hit by bad Councils!
We now have a fight on our hands to ensure the headline cuts announced today are implemented in partnership with our sector, and to ensure that the supportive measures announced are built upon.
So tomorrow I will be meeting with the Chief Economic Secretary to the Treasury to push for reform of Gift Aid and VAT, as central Government Departments and Local Authorities work through how they spend their funding allocations over the coming years.
Now if you want more then, you will be able to read analysis and reactions to the Spending Review on ACEVO’s website!!
Now getting all the press stuff done. What a day!
Today; Lords and Cuts
Of course this is only the outline of what size the cuts will be. The detail, and importantly how much the axe will fall on third sector bodies, will be decided over the coming months. I have heard yet more evidence that local Councils intend to slash spending on the sector. Adult care services, meals on wheels, transport for the disabled, home care, care for people with disabilities and mental health are all top of the list for Councils who want to protect their own and pass on the pain to others. As I heard from one Council Leader - at least you can go and fundraise! How disgusting.
So a busy day beckons. And the to cap it, if that is the right expression, tonight there is a reception in the House of Lords to mark my decade in post. Lots of members, friends and family, old Oxonians and assorted MPs, Peers and other movers and shakers will be rolling along.
Two old friends from Oxford are saying a few (kind?) words, Damian Green MP, the Immigration Minister and Gordon Marsden MP, the opposition Further Education and Skills Minister. And capped off by a blessing by the Bishop of London (good for all the attendant atheists).
Unusually I have even prepared a short speech myself just so you can have the pleasure of reading it tomorrow.
I guess the coincidence of this event on the day of the CSR is propitious. I believe that the skill and experience I have built up over the last 10 years in handling Government and civil service will be crucial in guiding our response over this next two years. My Leadership and that of my members will be tested. ACEVO must be there to support CEOs in troubling times. And to guide to the opportunities to deliver more.
Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Grants and contracts
"Younger said the sector should be encouraged by the sentiment emanating from government that the “affairs of charities are climbing the political agenda”. But in order to make the most of this opportunity, the sector must, “move from a grant mentality – the expectation that they will be supported because their heart is in the right place – to a contract mentality. To an understanding that you are going to need to bid for support for certain projects, services, or activities in return for demonstrable public benefit.”
Spot on. A message ACEVO has been making for years, before the current cuts crisis. You need a diversity of funding and income streams. Over reliance on grants is dangerous.
And an important point that needs to be made is illustrated by a story in yesterday's Times which suggests that some charities that have income "from the state" of up to 90% are in danger. Actually it depends on how this is made up. Is it a mix of contracts and grants and contracts spread over a range of bodies? And are they contracts in areas that are set to expand (welfare to work, health, justice etc)?
The CSR on Wednesday will be a mixed message for our sector. Cuts, especially as implemented by local Councils will be brutal and clumsy. There is no doubt that state bodies will often want to protect their own. As Jack Straw wrote in The Times today, "People in large organisations quickly develop a tribal loyalty. Their unit becomes their second family, which holds together and resists outsiders".
But the scale may lead to some radical change. Some Councils; Lambeth and Suffolk for example, clearly see an expansion of service delivery by the sector as the way to deliver more effective services.
This was rather borne out at a meeting last night of some of the investees of The Social Investment Business. We had gathered them together to take the temperature and find out how their loans were going.
It was interesting to see the optimism they can exploit the current circumstances for the good of their beneficiaries. A realistic optimism! We had a good mix of national bodies, Independent Midwives for example, (a marvellous group of people who even delivered a third sector baby to the wonderful Matthew Thomson and his wife!)and local groups like Harrow Carers.
There was also striking evidence that at local level groups in the sector are getting together to discuss partnerships and alliances, consortia for tenders or even mergers.
I suspect the cuts will lead to quite a big shake up in our sector. Some of this will be good, but I have no doubt some will be bad. We may loose some brilliant organisations because cuts are often carried out stupidly. It is not just the inefficient who fall.
So we await tomorrow!
Friday, 15 October 2010
Bristol and Lambeth Commission on Personalisation
Here she is from a statue in one of the chapels.
Bristol has a glorious history of Charity. In the early 19th Century the many ancient and often religious charities had been visited by the Brougham Charity Commissioners and it was decided to reorganise them under the 1834 Local Authority reorganisation which allowed Councils to take over and amalgamate parochial charities. And so the Bristol Charity was born, and still running today. It incorporates some 13 old charities but is still going strong by incorporating more recent organisations.
I suspect we may see more of this reorganisation, amalgamation and merger happening when the cuts bite. Although this would go down like a lead ballon in many parts of the sector, I wonder if local Councils might play a more proactive role in encouraging charities to come together!
ACEVO has been working with Lambeth Council on developing support to the local voluntary sector on making the transition to a personalised market. A brilliant piece of work led by one of my fabulous policy team Amy Richards. It reports soon - Nov 9th to be exact. Watch out for it. As part of this work The Lambeth Commission on Personalisation was led by jeremy Swain, the talented CEO of Thames Reach, a thriving and expanding homelessness Charity, with an annual turnover of £22 m. One of the special features of their work is that they employ homeless people in their work. 103 of them. They use the experience and expertise of these staff to ensure their service delivery is well and truly tuned to the needs of homeless people.
I wonder is this an example of the "Big Charity mindset" Nat Wei was describing?
Board and Deloitte
It was our annual strategic Away-Day where we review progress over the year and review our strategic plans and focus. Clearly this was much influenced by the forthcoming spending round and Government plans on BigSoc (we were trying to divine what they were, but decided it was best if we defined it ourselves).
One of the key conclusions is that ACEVO needs to gear up to support members in what may be bloody times. This will range from all the many network events we hold (the chance to talk and consult with fellow CEOs is invaluable when in crisis) then the range of helpline and one to one services we provide, as well as professional development. On the later it was felt that the immediate need lay in short sharp practical learning. So, sadly stuff on redundancy and merger becomes ever more important. We have reflected that in our annual conference on 11 November, where the emphasis is not on Government speakers but on practical seminars and workshops.
I had to skedaddle just before the end to make a speech to the gathered senior partners of the Deloitte public sector practise in Bristol. A good opportunity to sell the sector,our power and potential. I think this aspect of my job is important. I have always grabbed opportunities to promote sector leadership and our growing role in the nations economy as well as in society, and the Deloitte lot get around! Probably why my sister Lucy works for them!
I was also speaking with the new CEO of the Skills body that has taken over from the Learning and Skills Council and an old friend, Dan Mickelthwaite. Dan is now in a rather exalted position in the Treasury as HMT Director of Strategy and a member of the HMT Board. So in a great position to tell us what exactly is going on in the cuts discussions. Only he didn't. A masterful speech that sounded profound but told us nothing, in the finest traditions of the British Civil Service. I knew Dan when he was in the third sector team in HMT. He worked on policy on issues like Futurebuilders and so knows our sector well. I'm sure he went back to the Treasury with renewed determination to insist that in the cuts process Government looks at how to deliver more through our sector. Go to it Dan!
A great chat over dinner with Mary Reilly, the very senior partner, who heads up the practice on the third sector side as well as on public sector and we dissect BigSoc over the chicken....
And finally, Jan Tallis one of my long standing trustees, she runs School-Home Support, is standing down after her maximum term of six years on the ACEVO Board. She sends me a nice note which says
"A strategy day with the ACEVO Board. Fascinating. I have been a trustee for almost six years and the organisation has grown in professionalism and impact beyond any ambitious target we might have set. A good day."
Thursday, 14 October 2010
Eric, wine and chairs
But I reminded Eric, in an audience which consisted of large numbers of Council Leaders,that the Prime Minister had been clear they wanted power devolved beyond the Town Hall to citizens and communities and I was not seeing much of that! Indeed quite the opposite as Councils hack at spending on the voluntary sector.
And all credit to Eric; he made a very strong statement about the importance of Councils not cutting spending here. He said Councils "could not be serious" if they thought they should cut our sector. And he said that he knew this was happening and that Bob Neill, one of his DCLG Ministers, had been having a word with said Councils! I could not have hoped for a stronger statement from Eric. And in November Stuart, Kevin and I are in a series of three meetings around the country with Council Leaders and the Ministers Greg Clark and Nick Hurd to talk about exactly that.
As a sector we are going to have to keep up the pressure on local Councils to not just protect the sector, but to expand our role, remit and delivery function. Too often local Councils see us as a marginal extra, and sometimes even an irritating one. It's time for a radical revolution in attitudes and a handing over of real power to local communities and a major delivery role to the third sector.
We shall see!
A ride back into town with Rob Whiteman, the splendidly upholstered chief of the local Government Improvement Agency. I like Rob a lot. A clear force for change and we talk how we can progress this agenda.
But then it was health! I was talking at a Reform lunch on "How the third sector will save the NHS"! I was one half of a powerful double act with Paul Corrigan. We are concocting plans for a 3SC4H; a third sector consortium for health; a vehicle for expanding our delivery role in health in light of Government plans for GP commissioning. Its bold and innovative. Exciting. You will be hearing more on this!
I was feeling a tad frail all day. Tuesday night I had managed to fling myself off a chair whilst trying to change a light bulb; hitting head on coffee table - was a mess! But it will take more than a few knocks to keep me from work, and it was good to spend Wednesday night in a wine tasting with members of my Board. I find wine is a glorious medicine and anaesthetic!
My Directors (Katherine Hudson and Louise Smith) enjoying life
The session was a preliminary to our annual Board Away-Day taking place today. Strategic planning for the year ahead and reflecting on achievements and challenges. Making use of a Board of 12 highly talented and visionary CEOs. And I was awoken early as LBC wanted to interview on the "bonfire of the quangos". They were taking the piss out of the "Compact". So I set them right on that!
In fact I had an excellent chat last night with Nick Hurd MP and he was outlining plans for life after the Commission for the Compact and Capacitybuilders go (announced today). I have to say that the plans are good. There have been strong discussions with Compact Voice and I'm convinced Nick's plans will potentially strengthen adherence to the Compact - especially with a "refreshed" Compact. I got a really strong impression from Nick that he has thought this through carefully and understood the potential for upset if the Commission was abolished without plans to strengthen observance by Government and by local Councils. ACEVO thinks this is a good outcome.
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
There is a marvellous article on leadership styles by Victor Adebowale, the CEO of that great charity, Turning Point. He talks in a direct and compelling way about his own style in operation. It makes huge sense and I recommend any sector CEO reads this, as opposed to all those management texts by private sector folk.
He says "the most important aspect of strong leadership is to recognise that leadership is a philosophy and state of mind. Good leadership is about doing all you can to allow your organisation to develop and grow."
Later he argues his philosophy is simple "hire good people and let them get on with it!"
I strongly agree with this and I'm sure that has been a hallmark of ACEVO's success. Like Victor I doubt anyone would accuse us of being micro managers!
And he makes the rather key and interesting point that,
"In my view, my job isn't to run Turning Point but to provide the conditions in which it can be run."
This is a great article. Access it here.
Now I'm off to listen to a speech Eric Pickles MP under the alluring title of "Protecting Front Line Services" and where we are promised to hear about the "Ways in which Councils can protect front line services and manage the impact of next week's Spending Review."
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Has Nat met Philip Green?
Yet in some areas it appears Government are about to move in the opposite direction i.e. local commissioning and breaking up central approaches. A discussion I had with Nat Wei in the Cabinet Office suggested that most Government commissioning will move local. He repeated this point in the recent Lords debate on the sector.
Yet in many cases to do so will involve the loss of economies of scale and encourage duplication and waste; exactly what Green is warning against.
I had a worrying conversation with the CEO of the NHS on central commissioning. I used the glaring example of diabetic retinal eye tests, currently usually carried out in hospitals, doctor surgeries or vans. The cost is significant - up to £400 per test. Yet the same test can be done by, say Spec Savers, for £15. And guess what, you can get it done at the weekend or evening, which is more than can be said for your local doctor.
So why does the DH not put out a national tender for these tests and get a great deal for patients, and even better team up a deal with Diabetes UK on follow up, I asked Nicholson. He said it will be down to local GP commissioners. Absurd. They won't get the deal from the opticians the DH could. A chance to save wasted on the grounds of ideology.
And there are plenty more examples; community equipment, things like wheelchairs could be sorted better and cheaper in a national tender. And there are a range of my members who fear that what has been commissioned centrally by DH will go local.
Another example, the Family Planning Association; a great organisation that is commissioned by DH to produce family planning advice etc. Quality is high and economies achieved. Is this to go local? If so it will cost more, quality impaired and even possibly some GP commissioners deciding not to bother.
So, my message for Francis Maude MP, as he prepares his Commissioning White Paper, is to bear in mind the principles of subsidiarity (indeed there is a helpful Papal Encyclical on this); make the decisions at the appropriate level. If central gives savings and quality, don't make it local. If quality and empowering citizens, as in personalising services, then go local.
Sometimes central and national is good! And that also applies to "big charities" where in that Lords debate Nat Wei was attacking what he calls the "big charity mindset".
I had a meeting with a range of my members last night to discuss the current situation. My Chair, the CEO of RNIB, was talking about the empowering role that charity has for the blind and visually impaired. They run the worlds largest talking books service, efficiently and economically sending out some 40,000 books a week. They have the size and strength to do that. That will not be delivered locally. They also had the power to pioneer the development of the talking chip application that you can now buy commercially and which enables blind people to navigate the TV channels. Companies said it was not possible or commercial so RNIB sunk their money into it and did it. Now you can buy it. That would not have been possible by a small Charity.
And it is directly empowering citizens.
Likewise with Tomorrow's People pioneering work placing advisors in doctor's surgeries, Turning Point's connected Care service, Addaction's family centred pilots, Catch22 contracts for prisons, or ICan's work on tools to identify learning difficulties in schools at an early stage.
And let's remember some of the recent brilliant campaigns to raise awareness on mental health, or on ageing by Age UK, or child poverty by Barnados and Action for Children. They show why big charity is so vital to the health of our country. Attacking their work is not just unhelpful but raises suspicions about whether Government just wants a local small sector because it is more biddable.
The laws of economics do not stop at the gates of a charity so what Green has identified for commissioning by Government applies to the third sector.
Of course I agree with Nat that all charities must look to their laurels. Big charities need to continue to show flexibility of approach and guard against bureaucracy. They must retain trust of members and clients.
But also, and Nat did not raise this point, small charities need to develop capacity and professionalism so as to provide the best for their beneficiaries. This is not a game of small good, big bad.
The problem of Big Charity is one I don't recognise as he articulated it. I think Nat needs to get to know our great national charities a tad better before preaching about them.
And why is it that big business is ok but big charity is not?
A great letter in The Times yesterday from my old boss, the wonderful Sir Rodney Brooke, who complains that Tesco is to force a major supermarket development on the community in Ilkley. They don't want it and it will close down local shops.
I wonder, will the Big Society Network be supporting local communities that want to protect their locality and its business and shops against the degradation of Big Supermarkets, including ASDA? Will they be jetting into Ilkley to support those good folk fighting off this unwelcome development? I'm sure other parts of our third sector will!
Of course as charities grow they must take care to marry efficiency and professionalism with always promoting the beneficiary. The CEOs I know understand that well. So let's pay tribute to their work, their dedication, innovation and skill as well as celebrating local and small. Trying to divide the sector on size is hardly a helpful contribution to building a Big Society Nat?
I had thought we had moved away from this attack big charities nonsense. In a diverse sector we need the strength of local and community as well as national or large. The work ACEVO has done with BASSAC on this point illustrates how we can work together. Let's do that. And encourage that.
So I shall be looking to Nat spending time with the big charities to get to know their work. I am sure we can allay any concerns he has. And we shall get him on side!
And Nat, do meet Philip Green!
Friday, 8 October 2010
Wales and CVSs
It was a great conference. Filippo spoke about the work of Euclid in bringing together third sector leaders across Europe and I talked about the role of leaders facing a difficult climate of cuts.
I gave them top two tips if facing a funding crisis. Don't whinge and moan publicly. This does not encourage people to support you. You have to get out there and seek new opportunities.
And so networking becomes more important, not less. This is the time when networks of leaders like ACEVO becomes more crucial.
I also said it was crucial for our sector to look at mergers and partnerships, and sharing services and back office support. I suspect we will be seeing much more merger activity over this year. If grants are squeezed it makes sense to look to other organisations to work with.
We are publishing a new guide to handling mergers and partnerships at our Annual Conference on 11 November. We are also forming a Merger Panel of CEO members who can help other CEOs who are about to embark on the process. If you think you can help do contact me.
A great day. Incredibly friendly audience who seemed in good spirit. I asked them if they felt optimistic and the majority were, though a quite large number who were pessimistic (which I guess is hardly surprising!).
A good mix of leaders from organised third sector bodies as well as leaders of entirely voluntary organisations. The good thing about CVSs is that they bring together the full time run and the wholly volunteer side of our sector. But as I said many of the messages are the same.
And after the conference ended a treat. Clive took myself and Filippo out to see Castell Coch, a marvellous fairy tale castle built for the 3rd Marquis of Bute by that wonderful Victorian architect William Burgess in the wooded hills above Cardiff.
Enjoy the snaps;
Thursday, 7 October 2010
Big Society; time to define!
Reflecting back on the last few days I'm convinced that the Coalition Government need to get to grips with what they mean by Big Society. Every time this came up in Brum we got waffle about no plan, we won't know till we see it, it might be chaotic (that was Francis) etc. And it is abundantly clear that many Ministers see it meaning different things - indeed it's clearly convenient if you can announce your latest wheeze as part of Big Society.
The best one I have heard yet was that it is like the Doctrine of the Holy Trinity; if you have to have it explained you clearly do not understand. So it was hardly surprising that there was little applause in DC's speech for the Big Society Lord Kitchener bit.
This has to stop. There is a real danger that the muddle over defining it will inevitably lead people to draw their own conclusions and, after Oct 20, these may lead to the whole concept being ridiculed. And that will blow back on our sector. I have already warned that we are in danger of being sucked into a party political storm around our role in a way that may denigrate the great work of the third sector.
For me the two elements of BigSoc that resonate are;
# radical reforms to public services to place citizens at their heart and enhance the third sector's role,
# decentralising power to people and communities, again enhancing the role of the third sector,
And it is time we got a clear line on the role of the State and the individual and an acknowledgement of the power of the organised third sector to deliver this agenda in a positive way.
Currently we move from exhortations to volunteer more, give more, do more, to instructions about not having too many babies, not shirking work and getting married.
A good fringe meeting in Brum on Tuesday rather illustrated the point; "Magna Carta for localism" it was grandly called, with various Council Leaders (Wandsworth, Westminster and Hammersmith)and Greg Clark MP.
We were discussing the great Saxon tradition of Local Government. Greg (a good guy) talked about the need for rights rather than discretion - which required a new legislative settlement that entrenches those rights; the Localism Bill will give a general power of competence to all Councils.
It is interesting that all political parties tend to talk localism in opposition but soon go centralism in power. But Clark and Pickles are clearly not in that mould.
He talked about the Sustainable Communities Act which gives a right to challenge to communities. He also said that citizens should also have rights against Local Government. Councils have to devolve powers to individuals and communities. If communities feel they can deliver a better service they should be able to do so. He argued this was particularly important for the third sector.
Cllr Barrow, Leader of Westminster, wants to ensure they have more freedom; and not to be the delivery agents for central Government. But when he spoke he ignored Greg's point about giving power away. He failed to mention the third sector or communities. It was all about how he could do more. And the other Council leaders followed. They got Greg's bit about them getting more power. They missed his point about communities. This entirely explains why Councils the length and breadth of the country are slashing spend on the third sector.
And the challenge of how people see BigSoc was explained by Ben Page of Mori in a fringe that Social Investment Business had organised with the RSA. He told us about polling results.
Six out of ten say it is the Government's job to do services. But people like the Nanny State and the enabling State all at the same time!
On BigSoc, half heard of it, but the majority say it "Won't work in practice". Many say it's an excuse for cuts. So skeptical on detail.
Rural areas have historically higher levels of volunteering. Big challenge. If you take into account the index of deprivation then less likely deprived communities will volunteer. And especially as volunteering levels are lower among the unemployed than the employed. Most people get involved to "stop" things happening, not to do stuff; this is at the heart of the conundrum for DC; somehow I suspect he was not talking in his speech about us all doing more campaigning! It's what the Big Society Network failed to understand to their cost.
We don't get told what is good volunteering by Governments. We in civil society determine this. There is an irony in being lectured by politicians to do more, whilst simultaneously also being told Government wants to interfere less.
Matthew Taylor was interesting. He said capacity is key. Community development is expensive and long term. This is an important lesson yet, so far, the organised and experienced third sector has been excluded from planning. We will be getting "community organisers" but according to some predetermined Government plan hatched up in Whitehall and ignoring the centuries of experience in civil society on community development. ASDA appears to be more involved than our sector. And the price of this will be failure.
Public services in deprived areas are critical to social development.
And Francis Maude (another of the good guys) ended the fringe surprisingly by saying this will not be orderly. "I don't have a plan! No single thing we do achieves BigSoc". I can see this to a point but it's not good from a Government Minister in a time of turbulence.
So back to my point. If we are about to experience the biggest cuts to public spending in generations we need to be clear that out Politicians have a plan. Telling us it will not be orderly is an abnegation of responsibility by Government.
Let's get a grip!
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
Fringes , ASDA and Bob
It was back to " Big Society or Big State " with a range of good speakers, and even me! Nick Hurd MP had stood us up! He had gone back to London to do media, but as someone said to me , "well Stephen if it is a choice between speaking to 5 million people on the One Show or a packed room in Brum with you I know what I would choose!" But we got Nat Wei instead so I was not unhappy.
It was good to see Nat again , but he had to suffer a rather trenchant lampooning of the Bigsoc idea by Clare Fox of the Institute of Ideas.
But Nat made a rather pertinent point that at least the concept of Big Society had got people talking. It's the most popular theme of the fringes around here. He said if they had called it building capacity in civil society it would have bombed in a few weeks. He is right! And this is an important point. This debate has certainly focused attention on our sector; what we can do and what we might achieve. So let's not knock that.
I have always been irritated by the " tescoisation" jibes from those who don't uderstand our sector. But I see we now have a supermarket war of our very own, with the news that ASDA ( yes, the American supermarket chain owned by Walmart ! ) is to sponsor the Big Society Network. So I guess we will now be hearing about the Asdisation of the sector.
I wonder where this will go? John Lewis sponsoring social enterprise? Lidl ncvo. Fortnum and Mason ACEVO ( oh yes please ! ).
Up early to go to a breakfast on the Big Society. Bob Neill MP, one of the Ministers at DCLG, said it was about giving power back to communities. And certainly this must be a core conceptual component of BigSoc. I made the point, again; that communities are of interest as well as place. So much of the great work of many national charities is about protecting and promoting the communities of say , the visually impaired or people with disabilities. And let's remember that communities of place are not always a welcoming or progressive place for people with mental health problems!
Bob did say that this issue is something they had been working on and he and Eric would welcome a further discussion on how we tackle this. It's a real issue and I need to get more input from members on how to develop a framework that protects and hears all communities.
The Localism Bill is planned for 3rd week of November so time is short.
Monday, 4 October 2010
Nat on Big Soc
We had a range of speakers but the star was undoubtedly Lord Nat Wei. Although I've met him quite a few times now I have not heard him speak before and he is fascinating. A very compelling speech and an excellent outline of what he sees as the big picture vision for a Big Society. And an interesting outline of the role of " groups". I have worried that the vision of BS is too individualistic and ignores the role of collective action and community cohesion.
He agreed with my point that we cannot simply unleash an army of volunteers onto charities as they do have to be managed. But he suggested that part of the deal might be that corporates should think about using their managerial skills to support this. A good point that I was making to people from Starbucks recently- corporates too often let their staff volunteer , say on painting the youth club, when in fact what is needed is logistical, financial and planning skills to support!
Overall, an intriguing and captivating performance. It was a remarkable change from the usual political speeches you get served up at Party conferences, indeed it had a strong intellectual core!
I suspect though there is much work to do in translating the vision into practicality. We need the mystics, but we need the boring practioneers too and the BigSoc crowd conspicuously lack these around them. It all boils down to connecting the romanticism with the reality of day to day government. As yet the government has not managed to connect in the massive presence and experience of the third sector. I still get that strange " year zero " feeling about the Big society project. It's not a brave new world. In fact it's a very old one; as my recent lecture showed!
The vision will only be realised when the third sector is fully involved and behind the project. So far members get the distinct feeling they are regarded as somewhat marginal in all this. Until the project gets to grip with this salient fact they will fail. And that is not in our interest.
And talking of my lecture, I've now got copies printed and I hand them out to people like an old time preacher flogging gospel tracts. I bumped into the Editor of the Times and gave him one. He said " great, I shall postpone my dinner and read it". But perhaps he was joking?
Fringe over, the ACEVO team hastened to the Respublica marquee for the end of one of their fringes. I managed to catch David Freud ( now Lord Freud) for a long chat on welfare reform. I congratulated him on winning the battle with Treasury. I think Freud has done a magnificent job here, started when Blair appointed him until he was thwarted.
I also had a good discussion with Rory Stewart MP , who avid blog readers will recall I met recently. He is a rising star of the backbenches and was talking about the BS project in Eden in his constituency.
Respublica are certainly making a splash here! The omnipresent Philip Blond is speaking at what I reckon is 30 events! I am speaking at one of them tomorrow! And the highlight last night was their " Big society party"packed to the gunnels( if that is correct of a marquee? ) With third sector folk and politicos. Great fun.
So a somewhat late start to the day....
Saturday, 2 October 2010
Now it's Birmingham
I was interested in the Polly Toynbee article in the Guardian on Saturday. She wrote of her worry that people are not being prepared to stand up against damaging cuts. She writes,
" but the self interest of those professionals in charities,academe,institute and public sector who are not speaking out is the real problem. Weasel words like " we agree with the general direction but..."simply don't sound sufficient alarm. You should hear these people blow off in private - but only off the record, of course. Their fear of putting their head above the parapet does no service to the government ot country."
I am afraid there is much truth about this criticism of our own sector. It was one reason I warned in my recent Lecture we need to remember our core task to speak truth to power. I have been surprised at the general silence around the sector. I know that there are those who have decided not to speak out. They let their members down in doing so. I know from journalists that they are finding that the only
organization prepared to voice criticism is Acevo.
But the argument is more nuanced than Polly allows. As I was arguing in my recent lecture , our sector has a dual role in working with the State as well as campaigning on behalf of beneficiaries. So Acevo will work closely with government departments to ensure delivery plans are sound and sensible and put forward our ideas for delivery through the sector, for capitalisation and capacity building. It is the message I will be pushing in Birmingham. Criticism must be critical not oppositional. It must be geared to improving not destroying. And you must advance an alternative.
Team Acevo will arrive in time for our fringe with Ippr north. I shall be speaking with Nat Wei. I shall blog the highlights.