Tuesday 30 August 2011

Postcard from Cebu

The Blue Orchid Resort, Moalboal , Cebu island; can you imagine the palm fringed white sand beach, the turquoise of the waters over the coral reef ? And Bubb on the sun lounger by the pool with the latest superb Alan Hollinghurst !

The excellent David Fielding, head hunter to the sector , is also a top Akido champion ( just gained his 6th Dan no less ! )and his Akido partner Michael Mccavish owns this resort which he kindly asked me to visit before heading back to the UK.

And what better place to spend an English Bank Holiday than in the sun with the latest Alan Hollinhurst novel; even though at 90 degrees it's hot in the sun. But I have also been energetic and done some snorkelling. I have only a few wounds to show for my generally pathetic efforts ( coral can be quite sharp you know! ). This is one of the top diving resorts in the world and there are threats to get me into a wetsuit to try it out. Um?

But there are few things more treasured than spending a few days with no diary schedule or emails , by a pool , eating fish caught from the sea and drinking mango juice. And a light walk along the beach at low tide reflecting on , well whatever!

The resort...

But all good thing must come to an end and I'm now homeward bound!

Friday 26 August 2011

Talking and Seeing!

The highlight of the tour today; addressing the Social Enterprise Summit held at the Jesuit University ; The Ateneo de Manila University. This University is one of the foremost learning institutions in the country and is a forerunner in teaching a social enterprise course.

I was talking about " scaling up " because the key issue here is how to develop third sector- social entrepreneurship and if it is to make a real dent in rural and urban poverty social enterprise it needs to go to scale.

An interesting reflection on our own sector when there is debate about large v small. Here though they do not have the luxury of that debate; when half of Manila's citizens live in slums and some 18m people in rural villages have no electricity, then scale is urgent.

I argued that, in general terms , 5 factors are needed for scale.

# First, there clearly has to be opportunity to scale up. In the UK this is provided by public service reform and by a policy commitment to " big society".

# Access to capital is crucial for growth. This applies here as much as in the UK. And I'm glad to say there is not the same debate we have about grants v loans. Here there is a very clear understanding that loans are a crucial way of growing organisations; whether micro finance or social venture capitalists. They see the value of loans as empowering sustainable development. I talked of the Big Society Bank idea and the work of the Social Investment Business as " engaged investors".

# Government support; I argued crucial to sector development in the UK has been work with Government , advocacy and campaigning to get Governments on side. That is more tricky here; especially with a Government that has a nasty habit of not paying bills or honouring commitments and when the state officials are often corrupt. Someone told me that anyone building roads for local government will expect to put down over 50% in bribes up front. So some way to go before the Philippines Government set up an Office of the Third Sector!

# Collaboration and partnership. I argued that one way to achieve scale is through collaborative approaches across the sector between organisations and between the public , private and third sectors. I spoke about the examples of 3sc and Serco and Turning Point and Catch 22. There are already such arrangements here and this must grow, just as it must in the UK. I argued that one way to secure scale without undermining the value of localism was to develop consortia that harness scale but involve a framework of local and small scale porducers.

# Leadership; the bottom line is the quality of the people at the top of the organisation. You loan to individuals , not organisations. I also warned against getting hung up on process and models. I said the UK often got too hung up on trying to define what a social enterprise is and who qualifiers and who does not. I explained that we don't have a legal form for social enterprise and many are registered as charities. It's a verb not a noun as Liam Black was always saying.

It's the attitude that matters. Whatever form of body you are you need to have the attitude of social entrepreneurs. You need strong Leaders and invest in their training and development.

I also spoke at a dinner later in the day for members of the faculties at the university and students, especially those taking a module on social enterprise. The Q+A was lively and informative. I was even asked was the " Big Society" all rhetoric and a cover for cuts. A good question ( though I was uncharacteristically diplomatic in response! ).

But the highlight for me has been meeting and visiting social enterprises. I had an amazing brunch with the founder trustees of GKonomics, 5 dynamic and elegant ladies ( Pinky Poe, Cecile Manheimer, Divine Duran and Marivic Pineda ) who are clearly a force to be reckoned with.

Their vision is to build a new generation of producers; building enterprises which produce world class products they then bring to market.

They set up their social enterprise 2 years ago to bring to market the products produced in many isolated villages or in poor urban areas . Products that make use of natural products or recycling. So , for example they arrange for villagers to make really fashionable and snazy bags made from recycled fruit juice cartons or magazines. They are selling these at the high end of the market and have already made inroads overseas.

Earlier today I went to visit the" Echo Store". This is another social enterprise set up by a number of formidable women like Chat Juan ( interesting how the social enterprise sector here is dominated by women! ). Chat ran her own successful coffee shop company until she sold it and went into developing the Echo store concept. The store sells a range of products from their own line of organic cosmetics, coffee, jewellery made from both natural and recycled products, dog and cat products ( obviously I bought a rather nice organic dog shampoo for you know who ! ) Wastepaper baskets etc! They have grand plans for expansion and already have a farm and restaurant. They source their products from many rural or marginalised communities along both fair trade and organic principles.

You can see the range of bags here in the display in the Echo store..

My last visit of the trip was to see jim Ayala of Hybrid Social Solutions. They are dedicated to supporting rural communities that have no access to electricity or usable water by developing solar energy and water purification plants. He showed me their solar lamp which will give enough light to light a room. This proves both inexpensive but also cuts out the use of dangerous lighting methods like kerosene lamps. You can even recharge your mobile off it!

The British Council have done me proud by organising all the visits in such an efficient way. The British Council is a fine organisation. It is often forgotten it is part of the third sector and indeed Vernon Ellis their current Chair was knighted at the same time as me! They have been doing a lot of work in Asia promoting the idea of social enterprise and bringing UK experience to help in the development of social entrepreneurs across the region.

I've now finished the official part of my visit and am off to a small resort on a beautiful island for some R+R on a palm fringed beach. All work and no play make Bubb a dull boy. Which no one would ever dream of suggesting I'm sure!

Thursday 25 August 2011

Engaged investors and Paxman!

Micro finance was once held out as the new big idea for rural development and poverty eradication. Helping poor people stand on their own 2 feet. But the model has been widely seen as having flaws and the reason why was clear when I went to visit Hapinoy; a micro finance social enterprise that has got it right.

They work to support " sari-sari" shops ( it means many-many as in a corner shop ). These are very small shops out in rural areas which will provide basic necessities to the local community. They could be as small as a front window or hut.

They realised simply giving even small ( by our standards) sums of money as a loan to people who have never had such larger sums often led to a failure to use it effectively for the growth of the business. So for Erika Tatad, the Director of Hapinoy, they are clear they will only provide a loan if it is coupled with involvement in their training courses. And the genius of what they do is they combine practical skills development like book keeping, with personal leadership skills.

So they are very much committed to the engaged investor model. You don't just give a loan without also accepting responsibility for developing the people and organisation. It's exactly the approach we have in the UK in our Social Investment Business.

They also provide scale with locality. So they use their collective buying power as an organisation to bargain with the big suppliers and companies to obtain discounts they can pass on to their village networks. So they achieve the economy of scale you need to be productive whilst maintaining the local nature of the sari sari shop. They have now even developed a range of products themselves like water and rice which they brand as hapinoy and then the shops sell them. They also encourage the stores to stock things like anti malarial mosi nets and to do some basic community development. They are working on providing a range of basic medicines as well. Good luck to them I say!

It's a remarkable and successful social enterprise that I found very inspiring.

The Hapinoy HQ with their brand logo

Me and Erika with a Hapinoy bag of Lentils ( so voluntary sector!!! )

I also met up with Rhea Medenilla who runs the Jeepney magazine. This is a street magazine modelled on our very own " Big Issue". Another inspiring story but they face one huge obstacle; its against the law for sellers to sell on the streets or outside shops and transport hubs. So they have to get position to go into offices and cafes to sell. This has really hampered growth.

But its a high class and well produced magazine with brilliant photography and good journalism. They also run the homeless world cup for all the countries that now have street magazines. The teams are made up of the homeless street sellers.

I was dead impressed with Rhea- and that was not just because she said she had been inspired by my talk on Tuesday to start her own Blog!

The elegant Rhea with one of the Jeepney issues

And back at home we get a call from Newsnight ; they want me to take part in a debate on the National Citizen Service. Now I've been gasping to be interviewed by Paxman and when the chance comes up I'm here ! But the estimable Dr Kyle did a superb job, making the point a top down, national scheme for all young people is not the answer and you need a diversity of provision, not to mention the irony of huge cuts to the Youth Service at the same time as they want to spend money on this!

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Social entrepreneurs; it's about attitude

If you want to see what a city is like when there is no good public transport come to Manila! I have spent more time than I care to mention sitting in cars that are stationery in jams for as much as they are actually driving!

Stuart Etherington, who told me he has been to the Philippines twice said, " avoid Manila" which is somewhat difficult when said city is the venue for the Conference!

But it is fascinating in its own way. A massive urban sprawl of over 11 million people. Tower blocks and slums. Glaring evidence of inequality. In fact Manila was a fine and attractive Asian city but , along with Warsaw and Hiroshima , it was the city most damaged in the War when American troops fought street by street to clear out the Japanese. Huge civilian casualties and the historic Spanish old city obliterated.

But first stop on arrival here was the Embassy. A meeting with the Ambassador ; though as it turns out the Deputy, Trevor Lewis, as he has been called away to something more important. But it turns out I'm not the only famous Brit arriving in Manila: an illustrious visitor is here but I am not saying who.

From the Embassy a geographically short journey though one which takes an hour to meet with Go Negosyo and to speak to a gathering of some 100 social entrepreneurs. An exhilarating meeting where I learn as much about the state of the sector here as they learn from me: but then it's crucial that even slightly olding Leaders like myself continue to learn and be inspired by others.

Go Negosyo is an advocacy body promoting social entrepreneurs by arguing for change in " mindset and attitude". They say,

" We believe that Filipinos can address poverty in the county by engaging in entrepreneurship and developing an optimistic, passionate, creative and innovative , resourceful diligent and persevering character . We encourage everyone to take charge and make the most of their resources and abilities"!!

They produce a range of great books and provide mentoring support and advice. I met Mary Canon-Abaquin who has produced a best seller book for parents " 8 simple secrets to raising entrepreneurs" , on how to develop these skills in kids. They even have social enterprise on The curriculum, something the Social Enterprise Coalition has yet to achieve in the UK!

I speak about experience in the UK but emphasise the importance of leadership development. I strike a cord when I tell them ACEVO believes the hallmarks of leaders in the third sector are professionalism and passion. Professionalism without passion is sterile, whilst passion on its own just gets you well meaning amateurs. I say its the major defining difference between us and commerce.

I have an appalling cough and go through 6 glasses of water during the presentation. They were worried it was Manilla polution but I assure them it's UK grown!

A great and lively Q+A when I am asked about my Blog and I reveal there is a spoof one. So Sir Robin , you must now be getting hits from the Philippines!

I'm asked about the need for laws to promote social enterprise but I explain there is no legal form for social enterprise in the UK; many are registered charities. I argue its attitude that matters, not process. It's the message that Go Negosyo promotes. They are right.

An evening dinner hosted by the Deputy Ambassador and the British Council provides a more intimate occasion for an exchange of views. Much interest in the mechanics of knighthood and swords etc.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Social Enterprise in the Philippines!

I'm en route to make a key note speech at the Asian social enterprise conference in Manila,courtesy of the great British Council. A stop over in Hong Kong makes a refreshing interlude.

I was last here at the Handover in '97. A cousin lived here on the Peak and I took part in some of the closing ceremonies. Perhaps the most memorable being the very last Communion service in the Prince of Wales Barracks Chapel. At the end I went with the Priest to a Parish in Kowloon where he presented the Parish Priest there with the Chalice and Patten from the Barracks.

The Barracks now houses the "Peoples" Liberation Army. I hate to think what they have done with the Chapel!

I remember back in '97, the Royal Yacht Britannia, complete with the last Governor General and the PoW ,slipping her moorings and gliding out of the Pearl river into the ocean and an Imperial sunset. My cousin also left and I boarded a plane just after the Red army marched across the frontier. But little has changed it seems. The Hong Kongese carry on as before. Making money. And still with an awkward sense of independence from the mainland. Certainly the HK charity sector flourishes, setting an example to the rest of China.

I went to the main mass at St Johns Cathedral, where services continue much as they have for the last 2 centuries: though we prayed for the President of the People's Republic as opposed to Our Sovereign Lady The Queen.

The one rather retrograde change is that the charming rickety old peak tram , which ran from downtown up to the Peak, and which I have used on my previous visits is now merely a tourist curiosity and the tram stop on the mountain top is but a vast and disgusting shopping centre. The magnificent view can now only be seen from the " Sky Terrace " 10 dollars to you sir! "

I leave you with the rather gorgeous photo of the sunset taken from my hotel room. Hong Kong is really rather a marvellous place! Look forward to the next blogs on the state of social enterprise in Asia and what they learn from the UK ! The UK is seen as a modal third sector and our relations with Government in promoting social enterprise is regarded as an inspiring example. I am to visit a wide range of social enterprises and meet with key entrepreneurs as well as doing an event for the Ambassador.

Monday 22 August 2011

Public Services belong to us !

One of those round robin letters in Saturday's Guardian, signed by some 50 people, denouncing the government's open public services White Paper as " privatisation" and deriding the notion of choice.

As always the letter precedes on an assumption that what is best for those who run public services is best for the rest of us: public services belong to the staff not the people. It's what in health we know as the " doctor knows best " syndrome. Shut up and be grateful. What if you can't get a doctor's appointment at the weekend? You surely don't expect them to work weekends do you?

It's an attitude I remember from my time as a Councillor, when housing offices only opened during the staff's working hours ( and closed for 2 hours every monday for " training "! ). But Councils gradually got the message. The public do matter. The users of services do have rights too. Councils started to look at customers and what they wanted.

But we still have far to go. The idea that we as the users and funders of the public services have the right to the best that can be provided is still an alien concept , as evidenced by the continued opposition to reform.

The bedrock of the new White Paper is that citizens have the right to the best service , regardless of who actually provides it. If the service can be delivered better by a third sector body then that is what should happen. And that is ultimately why we need reform. To open up service delivery to a diversity of providers so that people have choice .

Choice is not a dirty word ( except of course for nostalgic Soviet lovers ). And that is why the notion of giving all citizens the " right to choice " as proposed in the White Paper is so correct.

Many of our ACEVO members run organisations that were founded out of a refusal to accept what the state offered. Mental health and disability charities are prime examples of people who took control and power into their own hands and said they would run the services themselves that the State made such a mess off.

So it is not just because I helped launch the new White Paper with the PM that ACEVO is supporting it strongly. I wrote to Cameron recently to express our hope for strong reform.

He replied in equally firm manner saying, “departments will be seeking ACEVO’s views on the new ideas in the White Paper” and “I hope that ACEVO will continue to play an active role in driving the debate and shaping proposals over the coming months”.

We certainly shall. We have a range of round tables coming up for our members to meet with Departments to discuss reform.

And finally the estimable Dr Kyle emails me to say I have appeared in a documentary ! Here is the picture he sent.

A somewhat younger Bubb. The hair! The glasses! The thinness! But one thing has not changed. My excellent taste in ties. She liked it too!

Friday 19 August 2011

David Miliband to lead ACEVO Commission on youth unemployment

Nearly 1 million young people in the UK are now unemployed. The unemployment rate for 16- to 24-year-olds is 20.2%. Things have rarely been this serious.

The problem is clearly very real and has been growing for some time.

What’s more we know that unemployment, particularly if prolonged, causes lasting damage to the individuals concerned – particularly the young.

Studies suggest unemployment makes people unhappy and fosters feelings of helplessness. Young unemployed people are more likely to feel ashamed, rejected, lost, anxious, insecure. They’re likely to be less confident of the future, and say that they have nothing to look forward to or that life has no direction. They are more likely to say they have turned to drugs.

We know that unemployment makes people unhealthy ; increasing susceptibility to malnutrition, illness, mental stress and loss of self-esteem leading to depression, and increasing the probability of poor physical health outcomes in later life

Being unemployed also makes it more likely that people will be repeatedly unemployed (or ‘state dependent’) and makes people less likely to be well-paid in future. The longer the period of unemployment, the greater the damage to the individual appears to be – and nearly a quarter of a million 16- to 24-year-olds have now been unemployed for over a year.

But it’s not only the individuals directly impacted, which unemployment has a negative impact on but society as a whole and the public purse. Evidence suggests that as unemployment rates rise, crime tends to rise. Higher unemployment rates mean fewer people contributing to the economy, and more people claiming benefits. Increases in the unemployment rate lower the happiness of everyone, not just the unemployed and the deterioration of the health of the unemployed will ultimately translate into cost burdens for the NHS.

ACEVO has long championed the role that third sector organisations can play in tackling unemployment which is why it’s so exciting to today be unveiling what we hope will be ACEVO’s most significant Commission yet.

We have been in discussions with David Miliband since youth unemployment reached a new high earlier this year. It is great that David has agreed to chair our latest Commission exploring the issue.

The Commission has been set up to consider the potential role of the third sector but also look more broadly at potential solutions to the issue of youth unemployment.

The Commission itself will be a relatively small group but it is an all-star cast, including Katherine Kerswell (CEO, Kent County Council), Prof. Paul Gregg (Bristol University) Jonathan Portes (Director, National Institute for Economic and Social Research) and a great sector figure Baroness Stedman-Scott (CEO of the charity Tomorrow’s People),

Over the course of the next few months the taskforce will be seeking evidence from ACEVO’s 2,000 members and a wide range of experts and other groups from the public, private and third sectors.

Today we’re launching a call for evidence. We’re extremely keen to hear from you right from the start. To share your views you can either email ACEVO’s policy team directly on policy@acevo.org.uk or you can take part in the survey here.

The Commission will be reporting this Winter.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Prison does not work!

In the light of the devastation and criminality of the riots it is clear prison sentences for offenders are not just right but needed as a deterrent. Indeed I think some exemplary sentencing is important.

But what I also know from my 20 years as a youth court Magistrate, sitting in South London, is that sentencing must be seen to be fair, proportionate and free from political interference. Many of my former colleagues would wholeheartedly sign up for that , but some of the recent sentencing shows signs of inconsistency and unfairness. This is not good for the longer term. Our english notions of fair play underline society's acceptance of the criminal justice system.

And let's also be clear that prison does not work. The evidence; the majority of those who have been in prison are back there in a year. In 2 years the figure rises to 77%.

Given that our prisons were already full to creaking the sudden influx of more customers means one thing; less time and scope for rehabilitation work in the prison.

So whilst the recent bout of sentencing may act as a wider deterrence it is clear many of those we are now sending to prison have been condemned to a life of crime. It is particularly sad that many of the young people who are sent away will emerge to no support and no hope.

Yesterday's unemployment figures are shocking; especially in the growing army of young unemployed. As the Times editorial this morning says what is most needed in more jobs for the young.

Have we not learnt the lessons of the staggering youth unemployment of the 80s. Those people largely never got jobs and are the parents of today's young unemployed.

Government needs to wake up to the perils of the youth unemployment figures and take action. Many aspects of DC's speech in Witney were excellent ( somewhat odd comment on health and safety! But what the young people he was talking to needed was the prospect of a job. As Camilla Cavendish of The Times said , " get young kids into jobs, not youth clubs. ".

She has a point. Though I think both would be good too; because in the current climate kids jobs and youth clubs are both fast disappearing.

Wednesday 17 August 2011

Letter to the PM

We had a useful meeting of some of our CEOs much involved in the aftermath of the riots yesterday.

Following this I wrote to the PM. The letter is here.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

Vengeance is mine!

There is a particular biblical text which I heard on Sunday and which seems appropriate to the current frenzy, nay riot, of hobby horses being ridden around by politicians and pundits since the end of the riots.

" Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord".

This is a sentiment you also find in the Koran and which Tarig Jahan was expressing when he asked that revenge not be taken after the killing of his son.

But this is a sentiment apparently alien to some of those rushing to explain and tackle the events of last week . Not content with leaving the courts to do their job in punishing offenders they want in on the act. And indeed justice must now be meeted out, not just to criminals, but to their families, regardless of their innocence of any crime.

How interesting to see that the family that vengeful Wandsworth Council has picked on , is led by a lady who is a devout Christian and who has tried to bring her family up in the right way; and her 8 year old daughter. These people are to be cast on to the streets to satisfy a viscous tendency among certain politicians to lash out and be seen to be " tough".

It is offensive to all our notions of justice in this country that people who have not committed crimes are punished by association. That was always the Soviet approach to dissent and criminality but not, as yet, an English one.

This nonsense was brought into stark relief by the screaming front page headline of today's Daily Telegraph: "ignore the rule book and lock up looters, JPs told".

So notions of judicial independence and fair trials and punishment are also to be thrown to the wind ? Do we not want more adherence by all sections of society to rule books?

What appears to be emerging from this is a return to Victorian notions of the deserving and undeserving poor. This was exemplified by the Mail on Sunday's rabid comment piece which blamed the riots on 60 years of the welfare state.

I wonder how long it will be before someone suggests removing benefits is not enough? Why should the families of rioters not have some health benefits removed? Make them wait longer than the law abiding for hip replacements, organ transplants and the like? The logic is , after all , the same.

And we must avoid the double standards. Did anyone suggest that the families of MPs caught defrauding the public be punished? Or the chap who desecrated the Cenotaph , wild on drugs: did anyone suggest his family be punished for their failures in parenting?

One interesting suggestion came from IDS. He argued that children hanging around at night with gangs would be picked up and driven to church halls by police to speak to youth workers.

The problem for Iain ( and I'm in favour of more intervention by youth workers! )is that Councils have been busy closing youth centres and slashing the numbers of youth workers.

I agree with IDS that we need a more one to one interventionist approach. One that looks at families and intervention as a whole- this is where the third sector adds real value. He understands the importance of work by charities at the grass roots .Intervention is needed. But it is not a cost free zone.

So far the Government have been doing a lot of telling. We need to move to listening and this is where our sector must play a leading role. I very much welcome the review DC has established and I think the fact it is not a judicial enquiry is a strength . In that review we will ensure full engagement with the sector and our views.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Grandstanding in Wandsworth

I wonder if the CEO and Leader of Wandsworth Council were listening to Tarig Jahan, the father of Haroon who was killed in the Birmingham riots on the Today programme this morning. He said we should all pause for reflection and not seek revenge and retribution. In Wandsworth these sentiments are clearly not being heard as they take steps to evict a woman ( who was not involved in the riots) and her son ( who has been charged but not convicted ) .

It is for the criminal justice system to punish crime. Not Wandsworth Council. And what exactly do they think they will achieve by making these people homeless? Is this social cleansing so that some other Borough picks up the problem of housing them? How exactly does this contribute to a reasoned and sensible response to the riots?

What is particularly stomach turning about the range of Councils who have now joined the bandwagon of retribution is that they are the self same organisations that have been implementing savage cuts to our charity and community sector. If they want to tackle the aftermath of the riots they will need to work with civil society and yet they have been cavalier in their behaviour to our sector. So stop the grandstanding and think about how you can use our great third sector to build a more cohesive society.

As Suzanne Moore wrote on the papers this morning , " my fear is that the post riot rhetoric- punitive,hard,condemning- is simply mirroring the alienation so many feel " .

A good article by Polly Tonybee argues , " go on then , take away their benefits,evict them from their council homes, but then what? How will you stop it happening again? ". She continues , " all social remedies are slow,difficult with no quick fixes, taking a wall of money whatever Cameron pretends - but that's cheaper than crime and chaos. what's needed is consistent public and political will to make gains over generations , without abandoning schemes that never deliver to electoral timetables. The dumb moralisers don't have to be in the wrong,but moralising and plastic bullets won't be enough ".

I'm pleased that our many housing association members have resisted this simplistic eviction approach. Social housing is strong and vibrant and the many ACEVO members who run them play a significant role in community development and regeneration. How fortunate it is that most social housing is provided by the third sector and not the grandstanding burghers of some local councils.

Friday 12 August 2011

NO; not a "sick society".

I always hated the political soundbite "broken britain" and "sick society" is even worse. That sort of knee jerk simplification gets us nowhere.

ACEVO is having a meeting of CEOs next Tuesday to have an initial discussion about recent events and what our sector response should be. We will be working with NCVO to respond to Government.

I have asked members for views. A couple of interesting points already :

"One thing we need to head off at the pass is that this is all about gang culture. Yes, gang members were involved in some of the violence and crime - but so were a lot of others with little or no affiliation to gangs. The causes are many and complex - my biggest worry at the moment is that we will lose the chance for a serious debate, and hence serious answers, in the Gadarene rush for simplistic solutions.

Anyone thought about why no riots in Wales and Scotland?? "


"One key issue is whether communities feel that they have a real stake in, and sense of ownership of, their area. Does anyone like IPSOS Mori measure this? People in our housing co-ops look after their properties remarkably well – perhaps not surprisingly since if things get broken they either charge the tenant or the co-op pays (in which case all members share the costs)! I know we have talked about community buildings being “the only ones not touched” in some previous rioting – was it Bradford? Establishing a link between engagement in local institutions and absence of destructive behaviour would certainly support investment in developing such engagement "

Reading through the accounts of people being charged dispels the myth this is just a class of "feral rats" or gangs. I agree with Ed Miliband that we should have an enquiry. But we shall certainly be reflecting on this in our sector.

Wednesday 10 August 2011


Well, this week I've been going to bed with the sound of police helicopters overhead and the sound of police car sirens in the background. Although Brixton has had its share of trouble it is nothing like the riots of '81 which I also experienced. But clearly these events are different and we need to understand why.

Some of the press commentary has been appalling. The Mail in particular is a disgrace. The headline on Saturday about the "gangster" who had been shot (when we now know he did not threaten police with a gun) was a further example of how our media standards have slipped. And for some papers- like the Sun- to take the high moral ground after their criminal behaviour is the height of hypocrisy. When the media, the banks, MPs have been shown lacking in moral standards they must be careful about moralising others!

Been talking to members about the recent problems on the streets. Nick Wilkie is the CEO of London Youth and much in demand by the media. We spent an evening in the garden at home on Monday debating our sector response. We know that council cuts have damaged youth services. We know that youth unemployment is rising. We know that DWP were crass in cancelling the Future jobs Fund just as it was getting going. We know the effects of recession generally. None of this is to excuse looting, mugging and other gross acts of violence against communities. So at the moment it is difficult to engage in debate on the causes of this criminality when tensions are so high.

A good article on this was from my vice Chair Allison Ogden-Newton. Read it here.


And meanwhile, what is potentially much more damaging for communities is the growing international economic crisis. That is what must really worry our sector. Cuts in support for the third sector continue to damage organisations. Yet demand for our services rises as the recession bites ever harder.

I'm now off to see ACEVO member Roy O'Shaughnessy who runs one of the countries biggest charities working in welfare to work CDG. His office in Brixton was damaged. He works at the front line of youth unemployment. I will be interested in his angle on current events.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Reds under the bed!

I rather like Bob Neild MP. Minister at DCLG but has he been eating to much red meat! He has accused the National Trust and CPRE of harbouring "left wingers"! Now either times have moved on or he is getting his politics in a tizzy. These are venerable national institutions we are talking about. They are indeed national treasures run by rather marvellous staff and volunteers. And the magnificent Dame Fiona Reynolds harbouring Trotskytes? I don't think so.

Besides when exactly did wanting to protect our countryside become left wing? I know David Cameron has been keen to reinvent the Tories but surely this is a step too far?

Next time I'm in a stately home I better check there is not a fearsome Red hiding behind the wainscot.