Monday 31 October 2011

Home ...with hassle

Well there I was. Checked in. Sitting in airport watching as HM boarded her plane and left. Mildly watching TV screens and thinking must be sod all happening if they doing an inteview with Quantas CEO. Then I notice " News Alert". All Quantas fleet grounded. But surely not planes already being loaded me thinks.

Anyway , nearly 3 days later I arrive in a cold Heathrow at 5am and 2 night time flights. By now your heart is bleeding I'm sure!

Still I had an unexpected day in Singapore. Lunch at that fantastic Raffles Hotel and the Sung Evensong at St Andrew's Cathedral.

The last night in Perth was most agreeable. A wash up and party at the Cottesloe Surf Club. Watching the sunset. Seeing the Southern Cross emerge. But not many surfers owing to the fact one was eaten a couple of weeks back by a shark.

Get back to the great announcements about the SCOPE £20m bond. Brilliant. What leadership by Richard Hawkes. Glad to have him as one of my members. This is exactly the kind of dynamic leadership this sector needs in difficult times. New sources of loan finance and investment opportunities will be essential as the cuts bite deeper. An example of a sector body that is both aggressive in fighting for its beneficiaries and innovative in finding new ways to support them when government is getting increasingly dismissive of the plight of the diabled.

Just how important this is was demonstrated by the report from ncvo on the aftermath of the riots. The next year is gearing up to be even more difficult for our sector. It is going to test our relations with Government.

Friday 28 October 2011

Queen Opens CHOGM

Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia (centre)

Me, BYC in UK and Lord Howell, FCO minister

The President of Bangladesh

President Zuma of RSA

The President of Kenya

Thursday 27 October 2011

Foreign Ministers and human rights !

So today the civil society committee got to meet with the Commonwealth Foreign Ministers. I get the feeling this was not the highlight of their visit, though there were some very effective interventions ( not least yours truly- or so William Hague said to me afterwards ).

At a previous Foreign Ministers meeting yesterday a range of countries said they were opposed to the Eminent Persons Group report on a human rights Commissioner . One said their country's constitution did not allow them to support it ! Interesting constitution that doesn't support human rights eh? Another country- one with a historic struggle against racism - said the report was " too political". I'm hoping Australia, which is chairing , will pursue this. They seem to be working towards a Charter but countries are lining up against a Commissioner.

My intervention was to say that while we need a new Charter for the Commonwealth this could be merely rhetoric when what we need is the reality of protection for human rights which is why we must have a Commissioner for democracy and HR.

Kevin Rudd, chairing the meeting as the Australian Foreign Minister, awarded me the prize for what he described as the most potent and brief contribution of the meeting! It does make the point that in meetings like this less is certainly more! And I wanted this to be punchy.

William Hague took up my point and made clear that the UK was backing this recommendation. He said that the Foreign Ministers would certainly note the support of civil society for a Charter and a Commissioner. He also said that the secret report should have been published so that civil society as well as others could have discussed and come back with views for them to consider. He got a very loud clap from the assembled civil society delegates!

A little later Hague spoke at a plenary for the Peoples Forum. He said in a world of networks; the commonwealth is a superb example ; and civil society is core to those networks. He was also firm in support of the proposals to decriminalise homosexuality.

But , he said that in recent years the Commonwealth has not spoken out when human rights and democracy have been challenged. The Commonwealth should want to be seen as a standard bearer on human rights. The UK favours a Charter and a Commissioner to support that, to help refocus attention to democratic values.

A good meeting. Will they be bold? I doubt it , but at least I was able to make an intervention which I hope may have pushed the issue further.

But enough of that. At least I also got a chance to see a bit of the Commonwealth Festival, just by the WA Art Gallery. Sitting in the sun for 10 minutes listening to a band; now that's the life. And the Art Gallery has a great collection; splendid aboriginal art and good representations from 20th century English artists like Stanley Spencer and David Hockney.

And some more Aboriginal art. The first shows the legendary leader Yagan

And finally a painting showing the founding of the Swan Bay Colony. Captain James Stirling watches as Mrs Dance makes the first cut in the tree to be felled to mark the inauguration of Perth ( named after the city of the Colonial Secretary's birth ) in 1829.

Stress and Bells

A bookmark I picked up from the WA Association for Mental Health has 10 tips to stress less. In my role as a CEO mentor I bring them to you;

1. Organise your day,

2. Eat healthily,

3. Go for a walk,

4. Have an early night,

5. See the funny side of life,

6. Catch up with friends,

7. Learn something new,

8. Ask for help,

9. Take time out,

10. Reach out and help others.

I'm afraid last night I somewhat broke 4 and No 2 was thrown to the wind at the Royal Commonwealth reception with all that wonderful WA sparkling wine and fat full canapes. But the RCS seminar on " silence is not an option" with Plan International (ACEVO members both! ) was excellent.

The aim was to draw attention to the need to take action on discrimination against women, for example on early forced marriages.

But Baroness Kathy Ashton pointed out that this is not just a problem for young girls- many men have been forced into marriage,including many gay men.

There was a bit of fun when we had Michael Kirby, one of the members of the EPG, talking of the " high measure of secrecy" around the report , but he said they wanted the report to be published before CHOGM so civil society organisations could comment.

This caused a bit of tension as one of he speakers was the Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. His PM , as the host chair for last CHOGM had been responsible for saying the report should not be published. He tried to defend this by saying it was a matter " of protocol". This did not go down well with an audience of civil society leaders.

Baroness Kathy Ashton

Baroness Ashton and Baroness Prashar next to the CEO of Plan International

The freemantle shipwrecks museum

The bell of the Highland Forest

Earlier I had heard a rather interesting reflection on leadership from some speakers from Africa on education. We were told that one of the top 20 best performing schools in RSA is a primary school , near the borders with Mozambique. It has no water ( the teachers bring that in ) and so no proper toilet facilities. Yet the school is so clean. And they lack many resources. But what makes the difference is the quality of the school leadership. Another speaker said he had seen exactly the same in Tanzania. An interesting thought for us when we blame the lack of resources in inner city schools for poor results!

However I did observe one rule ;no 9. I popped into the Freemantle shipwreck museum. There is a most interesting exhibit; the ship bell from the " Highland Forest ". This was a ship that the great novelist Joseph Conrad had sailed in 1889 as First Mate. It stated in Gravesend, via Rotterdam to Java. It was his first voyage and one not without difficulty. He arrived in Java sick. Later the ship sank off the WA coast and the various remains have been recovered by divers !

Wednesday 26 October 2011

The sector on the world stage

Civil society starts early here. Our plenary and workshops got off to a rousing start at 8.30 with a speech from the Secretary General of CIVICUS ( the world alliance for citizen participation ) Ingrid Srinath, who spoke on the global context of civil society. And a great contribution it was!

She spoke about the downside of 9/11 and the worldwide restrictions on civil liberties and restrictions on freedom of information that have been the consequence.

There has been a subversion of democracy, and worse; a "take over of mindsets" with the reduction of people to economic units.

She said we had fallen into what Gandhi had so eloquently described as the 7 social sins. These are;

# Wealth without work

# Pleasure without concience

# Knowledge without character

# Commerce without morality

# Science without humanity

# Worship without sacrifice

# Politics without principles

Governments have deemed banks too big to fail but citizens too small to matter. The financial crisis has exacerbated the transfer of power and has allowed abuses of power. They have surveyed the state of civil liberties in 90 countries around the world and found most had recently passed legislation that had laws that constricted rights.

There is also a growing criminalisation of protest. So Civil Society is disheartened and faces growing threats.

Yet on the up side , the "arab spring" has shown the power of citizen movements. These peoples movements are challenging established order. Our power as advocates and innovators remains as strong as ever.

The survey also looked at trends in civil society. They found a volatile environment, unsatisfactory government- sector relations and where economic situation and funding has got worse. They also suggested that most success in civil society comes through networks but there is not enough of these. So how do we support what she described as " Joining the dots between networks and movements ". We can do much more. A message that resonantes strongly with ACEVO as it is core to what we do!

We then heard from Sir Ronald Sanders who was a member of the Eminent persons group and part author of the secret report we are not allowed to see but have. I'm glad to say that today's Times has a full report on this so read it!

He could not have been clearer; without reform the Commonwealth will die. Why; the overwhelming point was that the Commonwealth was becoming irrelevant to people. They don't see that the Commonwealth stands for values when many ignore them. Violated a on daily basis but no action taken again them. So a hypocritical organisation. That is why a Commissioner for democracy and human rights is now essential.

He deplored the fact that the report has not been made public. Result is speculation on it. Some governments say new Commissioner is a " policeman " but the idea is to stand behind human rights and to help countries to bring into compliance with C values. It cannot be right that dissent gives you a jail sentence of 20 years in some countries. This is the core issue for the CHOGM!

He wants a charter to set values but wants it fully consulted by civil society organisations. So he wonders why some governments fear these?

There must be greater people participation ; unless this happens, the Commonwealth is totally irrelevant to people. The Commonwealth can be an organisation that can serve humanity. One problem , he said was that some governments see civil society organisations as an opposition that they distrust. If the 14 core recommendations do not get accepted then his group will have failed. The key items are;

# a commissioner for democracy and human rights,

# a charter for Commonwealth values,

# educate people on homosexuality in all C countries,

# governments must repeal laws that criminalise homosexuality ,

# end to discrimination against women,

# a Commonwealth youth fund

# work on environment- an expert group to look at which countries are in greatest danger from global warming- and how to support them ( eg Maldives and parts of Caribbean ).

I was able to take up some of these themes in my subsequent speech in the seminar that followed. I suggested a simple proposition; if you want a thriving democracy you need a thriving civil society and that means strong leaders. We have to invest in leadership in our civil society organisations. If you want to hold countries to account then it is not just good enough to target Governments , you have to ensure strong organisations on the ground who advocate and campaign and support those who are oppressed.

Plenty of meat for thought in all this I'm sure you will agree.

Europe can be good for you!

The European Commission has just published proposals to promote social investment.

Measures to improve the access to funding for social businesses such as:

• Setting up a European financial instrument of €90 million to improve social businesses' access to funding (operational from 2014).

• Introducing an investment priority for social enterprises in the regulations ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) and ESF (European Social Fund), as proposed in the regulatory package on the Structural Funds 2014-2020.


This provides a concrete focus in terms of capital allocation and timescales for the work of our task force over the next two years. Those who attended the launch event in Krakow will be aware that the EIF is finalising €30-50 million from the EIB that, together with match-funding, will be used to finance a pilot programme from 2012.

This is much welcome !

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Youth , Polio and HM !

Part of the CHOGM extravaganza is the Youth Forum; and who should be running this but our very own John Loughton. John has been involved with our ACEVO young CEOs and leaders special interest group. He is now a Director at Relate- ACEVO member Clare Tyler is the CEO. Here he is resplendent in his tartan!

One of the expected announcements from this CHOGM is an initiative to finally eradicate polio. And so on Friday evening there is an" end of Polio " fundraising concert with various bands etc who may well be well known but how would I know! I shall be there - looking for the Bootleg Beetles!

I met the guy who has been organising this; Michael Sheldrick , who is the campaign manager for the Global Poverty project. A dedicated and dynamic young person, involved in the Youth Forum and using his skill and talent to good cause.

Bumped into one of my members who quipped this may well go down as the " content free" commonwealth!

Reflecting further on the behaviour of the Conservative government in WA in increasing support for the sector by 25% it contrasts with the behaviour of our own UK DWP. DWP want to limit the amount of time you can draw the new ESA to one year , even in spite of the compelling evidence that cancer sufferers, for example , often need support for longer.

The heroic CEO Richard Hawkes of SCOPE has been tireless in highlighting the in equities in the new system and how these will impact adversely on many disabled people. Good luck to him and all his colleagues.

Meanwhile The Queen continues her tour to great acclaim and massive crowds: she is going down a bomb here and the poor Oz republicans are well and truly stuffed. Hers a photo from the front window of a Perth bookstore advertising a new book , " Our Queen".

Australia setting an example, openings and wine!

Traditional greeting from the Noongar elders

The Commonwealth's People's Forum opened today with a special event hosted by the Australian PM and Premier of Western Australia. The event was organised by the nattily named WACOSS- the WA Council of Social Services- the peak body for the sector here. Led by Sue Ash , the dynamic CEO .


Julia Gillard spoke about the Commonwealth as its people, but frankly you would hardly notice. It's one of those throw away phrases speech writers shove in PM orations. She did pass on a monarchical quip however. Apparently The Queen suggested the Commonwealth was the original world wide web. Julia continued by saying diversity is its strength-commonwealth values are shown trough civil society and by their ability to bring light to bear on some of our most difficult problems. True, but regrettably some of the Commonwealth countries here don't actually like civil society!

Julia Gillard - PM of Australia

She said that Australia has some 600000 nfps - each making a difference. Driving change. But she did get down to business when she said the time has come to renew and refresh the Commonwealth - the secret EPG report ( which nudge , nudge , some of us have under the counter ! ) offers chance for reform. Importance of human rights. We should support it!

However the highlight was the speech of The Premier of WA Colin Barnett , who said we needed to tackle difficult problems . He talked of the role of the third sector as crucial to that. And , music to my ears, he said they have a model of engaging with the Third Sector through the delivery of services. It began in WA with disability services. 70% of government funding now goes trough third sector organisations. This is now being replicated in mental health. They have even appointed a Mental Health minister with budget. They take pride in partnership with the sector and have been leading on funding. They set up a forum with the sector and recently announced a staggering . Increase in funding for the third sector of 25 %. Yes 25%. That's an increase George Osborne and David Cameron please note!!! And he is a conservative! Goodness makes you want to move here!

And we had entertainment form the local Uni student. A Fantastic Medley of Aussie songs. But led by " Advance Australia Fair". Here here I say.

Advance Australia Fair

And now its reception time. More opportunity to enjoy the richness of Australia's natural resources; its wine!

Monday 24 October 2011

Let culture rule!

The meeting ended, it was time to sample the major cultural events that have been put on for CHOGM.

Perhaps one of the most interesting is in the Convention Centre where the CHOGM opening events take place. It's a celebration of the aboriginal story as seen through the Canning Stock route , a cattle drover's track from Perth northwards that went through the aboriginal lands; stunning display of paintings as you see here.

Then from there to the Western Australia Museum of Art , where there is an exhibition of " Princely Treasures", european masterpieces drawn from the collections of the V+A.

This opened today. The V+A has an amazing collection but it is somewhat overwhelming. The advantage of this exhibition was the carefully selected treasures that made this a real treat. But the treat was not over , because from there I was invited to the reception to mark the opening tomorrow of " Extraordinary Stories from the British Museum".

Again, carefully selected items and treasures, some are priceless objects that have not travelled out of the UK before. But carefully selected like the famous Ife head-bronze from Nigeria and the Saxon Snettisham great torc. I rather liked a more contemporary piece called the " Throne of weapons , made in 2001 and composed of weapons that were used in the Mozambique civil war - made by Mozambiquan artist Canavato. It represents both the tragedy of a war that claimed 1 million lives and the triumph of those who achieved a lasting peace.

I upbraded Neil MacGregor, the Director of the British Museum for stealing one of my staff; Katherine Hudson ! And had a long chat with the Chair of the Museum fundraising foundation - they are not facing the challenges we are in the UK. Indeed the economy in WA is thriving.

And one other highlight; the Devil's Lair Chardonnay served at the reception! Fantastic wine from the Margaret river. Puts the plonk you get at UK receptions in the shade...

Get back to hotel to an email from Robin Osterley , CEO of Making Music, ACEVO Board member and Chair of our acevo arts and heritage special interest group. The SIG have had a meeting at DCLG to discuss the lack of references to culture in their strategy. A lobbying issue for acevo.

It is sometimes forgotten that our third sector includes the incredible work of the arts. One of the many disgusting aspects of the Desmond Lottery has been to try and belittle good cause money given to arts as though health charity work is somehow more important and money spent on art wasted. We know that the health of the mind and soul is as important as the health of the body. Indeed, interesting work has been done on the value of arts and music in recovery from ill health and coping with illness. Its important therapy for mental health.

Anyway , that's enough culture for today!

Civil Society in the Commonwealth?

Met as a civil society committee yesterday in the evening and again this morning to talk about our role in the whole CHOGM and Commonwealth forum process. The official Opening ceremony for the Commonwealth People's Forum takes place tomorrow, opened by Julia Gillard, the much embattled Australian PM.

The big row here is over the Report of the so called " Eminent Persons Group" and the fact it has been kept secret ( see previous Blog from last week ). I have made a fuss about the fact that the civil society committee has not been given a copy even though it refers to the rose of civil society and we have finally got a copy ( unofficially if you know what I mean! ). Interesting bedtime reading!

Although there is a lot of good stuff and strong recommendations on human rights and the need for the Commonwealth to be firmer on Governments who abuse people's rights ( having a Commissioner for HR for example ) but the section on civil society is pathetic. We are going to draw up a response ourselves.

I have always thought the Commonwealth could play a much bigger role in supporting and developing the infrastructure for civil society organisations. The lesson of all ACEVO's work is that if you develop the leaders of civil society you support the development of healthy and thriving democracy.

It is clear that the Commonwealth is becoming much less relevant and yet it could have a role in promoting civil society as a counterweight to oppressive regimes and to support organisations supporting oppressed minorities in countries like Sri Lanka ( and their treatment of the Tamils) or the many Commonwealth countries with oppressive laws on homosexuality ( for example, what is happening in Uganda is a disgrace! ). I remember at the last CHOGM there was a lot of mealy mouthed nonsense about what was happening in Uganda on the proposed new laws which meant a death sentence for acts of sodomy.

If the Commonwealth has a point it should have been condemning Uganda and telling their Government not to go ahead. But that did not happen. So a Commonwealth HR Commissioner could be a strong way forward. But it's no surprise that some governments will oppose that! Amazingly 41 of the 54 commonwealth countries criminalise homosexuality. Time for change surely!

Meanwhile the Queen is going down a storm over here! An incredible example of duty and public service. Hope I'm still going strong at 85; though not perhaps as CEO of ACEVO ( retirement at 75 I think? ).

Friday 21 October 2011

Social Enterprise celebrates!

I think it is a safe bet to say that Luke Lancaster is ACEVO's youngest member! 16 year old Founder and CEO of young people’s charity Young Pioneers, Luke has been awarded the prestigious World of Children Youth Award. Often referred to as the “Nobel Prize for child advocacy”.

This is the first time that the accolade in this category has been given to a British recipient since the awards were launched in 1996.

As the winner of the Youth category, Luke will receive his award at a ceremony in New York on November 3rd 2011.

He founded Young Pioneers at just 12 years of age and has dedicated his teenage years to developing accredited educational initiatives and programmes that enable young people with the skills they need to lead personal and social change. Much of the work the charity does focuses on vulnerable and disadvantaged young people , building confidence and enabling young people to overcome adversity.

Young Pioneers programmes are delivered across the UK and its Tomorrow’s Leader’s programme will be rolled out soon.

And this is not the only award our ACEVO CEO has received! In 2010 Young Pioneers was awarded the Third Sector Engagement Award and Luke , the Children and Young People’s Champion Award .

I'm always unhappy at the idea that" Social enterprise" is somehow different and apart from the third sector as a whole. It isn't. Some of the great social enterprises are in fact charities. What's in a name? It's the attitudes that matters. Having a professional and business like approach where you aim to make a profit you can plough back into the organisation.

So ACEVO's latest Special Interest Group, the Social Enterprise SIG , met in ACEVO's offices this week, led by two of our dynamic members; Kate Welch, CEO of Acumen who is Chair and Allison Ogden-Newton who is Vice-Chair.

Kate shared with the group her organisation's latest new concept 'Reap and Sow', a horticultural enterprise run by prisoners, and currently being piloted in the North East.

So the weekend draws near. I'm intending spending it with friends on the beach down at Mandurah , and a visit to a great little boutique winery, the Peel Estate. Named after Thomas Peel ( 2nd cousin of the great Robert Peel ) who was one of the founders of the Swan Colony back in the 1820s and who owned massive estates here though he died poor having failed to tame the wild countryside. I went to his grave this morning at the 150 year old church- and believe me- that's old here!

Beach at Mandurah

Falcon Bay

Winery in the Swan Valley

Thursday 20 October 2011


An unlikely scene I know: me and 70 kids at school! It was Year 6+7 of the Halls head Primary School and I was talking to them about CHOGM, the Royal Family and knights!

A bright bunch. I rather enjoyed myself and they were a lot more lively and enquiring than some of the voluntary sector gatherings I have been to in England! They asked me what was my favourite charity and I told them, but at risk of offending my 1999 members who I didn't mention I better not say. Just a hint; a previous ACEVO Vice Chair is its CEO !

It was a very interactive session which may surprise those who have sat listening to various of my Lectures. Perhaps the example of my sister Sara is rubbing off. She has written 14 books on teacher training and induction; all very interesting I'm sure...

Wednesday 19 October 2011

The Commonwealth

When I was a kid we were taught about the Commonwealth. I even remember several trips to the Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High St; a truly beautiful building.

I doubt the Commonwealth gets much of a look in on the national curriculum these days. And like the fate of that wonderful building there seems to be questions about the usefulness of this modern day Commonwealth of Nations.

I've arrived in Perth. ( That's Perth Australia not Scotland ! ) for CHOGM; the bi-annual gathering of the heads of the Commonwealth- 15 of them with the Queen as Head of State. I'm here as part of the Commonwealth's civil society Committee which organises a big world wide civil society gathering and people's forum. I'm speaking on UK developments in civil society ( not sure the big society idea travels but we shall see ! ) And as well as taking part in the seminars I'm meeting Australian civil society leaders.

This year there is controversy because Commonwealth leaders are sitting on a groundbreaking report prepared by their own advisory group that has concluded the 54-nation organisation will lose international relevancy and moral authority unless it institutes key reforms.

The warning comes from the Commonwealth Eminent Persons Group, an 11-person panel appointed by Commonwealth leaders at their last meeting in 2009.

The group was tasked with raising the profile and influence of the Commonwealth. After a major review that included public consultation, the advisory group submitted its final report, " A Commonwealth of the People: Time for Urgent Reform ", about a month ago.

There are 106 recommendations in the report, and its direction is clear from a statement the group issued in the spring. They are proposing a Charter of the Commonwealth, and the appointment of a commissioner for democracy and the rule of law who would keep track of whether member nations are persistently violating "core values" in areas such as human rights.

Moreover, the group advocates more initiatives to battle HIV/AIDS, a stronger collective interest in the debt challenges faced by developing countries, a firm plan on climate change and measures to ensure women are treated fairly and equally.

The Commonwealth is in danger of becoming irrelevant and unconvincing as a values-based association the advisory group warned in a statement last March.

Earlier this month , the group submitted its final report to Commonwealth leaders and requested that it be publicly released before the Perth CHOGM.

But some countries have opposed that and as a result, because the Commonwealth operates by consensus, the document is remaining secret for now.

That has perturbed some of the advisory group's members such as Sir Ronald Sanders, who delivered an impassioned speech last week in London at the Royal Commonwealth Society ( the CEO is an ACEVO member ).

The world which the Commonwealth now serves is way different than what it was 50 years ago. The largest democracy in the Commonwealth is now India. The change in the way in which people live their lives has been remarkable. The challenges of poverty , sustainability and development are overwhelming.

The organisation could play a substantial role if its goals and principles are clear instead of being perceived as an international body that works behind the scenes and has little to say for itself . But it's a voluntary association of 54 countries and 2.4 billion people and could play a bigger role. The Tories said they would place more emphasis on the commonwealth but I'm not sure anyone has noticed.

At last week's speech, Sanders - a former high commissioner for Antigua and Barbuda to Britain - said he and other members of the advisory group believe CHOGM will be a "defining occasion" for the Commonwealth.

"As a result of the decisions made there, the Commonwealth will either go forward, reinvigorated and resolute as a values-based organization intent on making a difference to its people and the wider international community, or it will limp along as a much devalued grouping to a future of disregard, deterioration and disappearance."

Sanders said the advisory group received 330 written submissions from throughout the Commonwealth, including governments, trade unions political parties and civil society groups.

"If the Commonwealth continues with its business as usual, it will lose its moral authority and international respect, providing little benefit to its member states, particularly the small ones."

Apart from instances of unconstitutional coups of governments, he said, the Commonwealth has not spoken out or taken action, "to bring errant countries into compliance. This absence of action - and the silence of the Commonwealth collectively - has severely hurt the Commonwealth's credibility. It has resulted in the accusation that the organisation is hypocritical."

"If they fail to do so, the Commonwealth might limp along for a while longer, but it will surely lose its influence within its own membership and in the wider international community in which it has played an important role in the past."

But back to my opening;my first task tomorrow will be speaking to school children in Mandurah, a city down the coast from Perth! I'm sure it will be a memorable occasion...

Tuesday 18 October 2011

Small is good; Large is good! Stop being sizist!

There is an absurd contention in our sector that small is good and large is not. The reality is that there are some stunning small and community charities and there are some stunning large national charities too. It's the diversity of the sector. I get cheesed off when I'm told ACEVO only represents large nationals. The reality is we have a wonderfully diverse membership.

So let me tell you about an ACEVO member to prove the point!

Eric (Education + Resources for Improving Childhood Continence) last week won the Third Sector award for Small Charity, Big Achiever for its Banish the Wee Horror campaign; an awareness month held in June last year to raise awareness of bed-wetting and childhood continence problems. Eric is led by CEO and active ACEVO member Jenny Perez. Jenny is also a member of ACEVO's Women CEO Special Interest Group.

The Banish the Wee Horror campaign cost Eric just £550 but punched way above its weight. With just eight staff behind it, Eric's campaign generated significant coverage in newspapers, magazines and on websites.

ACEVO members will recall the campaign as it featured in the ACEVO membership magazine Network earlier this year.

It's always difficult to raise awareness for tough and sometimes embarrassing issues such as bed-wetting! You can't imagine a local council doing this can you!

Congratulations to Jenny for overcoming the financial obstacles and creating an award winning campaign. More info on Jenny and her team can be found on Eric's website

Monday 17 October 2011

Loans developing community enterprise!

I'm very proud of my involvement in developing loan finance for our sector as Chair of the Social Investment Business. From 7 years ago, when I took up the reigns as chair of the charity, adventure capital fund ( ACF ), now SIB, I have seen how loans can grow our sector and encourage dynamic and innovative enterprise.

Today a new loan scheme opens.

We are looking for six of the best, most promising examples of sustainable, community regeneration projects in England to be pioneer investees of the new era of the Community Builders Fund run by SIB.

After running the scheme Community builders since 2009 the ACF was endowed with the Fund by the Department for Communities and Local Government in March this year and is now re-opening to applications - looking for up to six exemplary projects to support from this initial funding round. The window for applications opens at noon today and runs till Friday 9 December.

The offer is predominantly loan funding - loans of between £250,000 and £750,000 will be made to the most promising examples of sustainable, community regeneration projects.

This concentration on loans is crucial to the long-term viability of Community Builders and the Fund's ability to continue to support the community sector for years to come by recycling and reinvesting repayments.

Organisations wishing to apply need to be based in England, have operated for at least 12 months and to be looking to build their long-term financial independence. Successful applicants will be able to demonstrate they are having a significant positive impact in their communities as providers of multiple services and facilities. (The full list of criteria and an online eligibility checker will be available on the Communitybuilders website

To date Community Builders has supported some dynamic community organisations - St Andrews Church in Fulham Fields, the Barton Hill Settlement in Bristol and South Holland Radio in Spalding, Lincolnshire to name just a few.

So if you are involved in, or know of, a community organisation that's looking to expand , or take on an ambitious asset transfer project, or needs a final co-funder to complete a significant funding package for their big plans then apply.

Friday 14 October 2011

Public Schools

The debate about charitable status for public schools has been rumbling along, especially since the charity law reforms brought them firmly within scope of Charity Commission regulation and inspection. Many public schoold have a good tradition of support for the community, bursaries and opening up their facilities. Some have been involved in supporting the development of Academies. Some have been expanding overseas - like Dulwich - so delivering economic benefit. But not all. All need to come up to the standards of the best.

The Independent Schools Federation had challenged the Charity Commission. The Tribunal announced its verdict this morning and it is a vindication of the actions and judgment of the Commission.

Looking at it I am pleased that this decision reinforces the need for all charities - including public schools - to demonstrate how they benefit the public, and for the Charity Commission to challenge them where they do not.

The decision was important because of the wider implications for "public benefit" and how it might be judged.

We now need all charitable private schools to do as much as they can for the communities they operate in, rather than thinking about the minimum required for a tax break. Many do. Many have looked at increasing their work in this area so they can show public benefit. That's good. And we need the Charity Commission to have no fear in challenging schools who are not doing enough.

The CC are to produce new guidance. I hope that the new guidance, in due course, will bring further clarification to the issue of fee charging charities and other charities who charge fees and public benefit.

Now that was a week!

The week began with my Director's group and me at an intensive awayday looking at our strategy for next year and how to focus our work as a Chief Executives body. Next year we will celebrate 25 years of CEO leadership. But let's not doubt CEOs next year face huge financial challenges. Acevo, as their membership body has to be there supporting and advising, developing, representing and challenging.

And we are planning our silver jubilee events that both celebrate 25 years but look forward to the challenges ahead for a third sector CEO. During January to March myself and my Chair Lesley-Anne will be meeting with our members across the UK to discuss how we together tackle the task of leadership at a time of major damage to society and communities.

We were also preparing our proposals for a full Acevo Board awayday later in November. I am lucky to have a superbly talented top team. A delight to work with them. And fun too. Never a dull debate for us!

And yesterday a great lunch with Sir Bob Kerslake, the Permanent Secretary DCLG, so of key interest for us in our members work in local councils. It was one of our Acevo "Learning with Leaders" lunches where we draw together 25 of our members to discuss issues of the day over lunch (kindly provided yesterday by CCLA, The top charity financial advisor and investor).

A great discussion about the cuts the sector and local government face. I made the point that members are telling me Cuts by councils next year will be even more difficult and lead to even more damage to the vital services we provide in communities.

Then off to a meeting in No 10 on Open Public Services. I'm worried that this agenda is going awry and there is less push and dynamism from government on it. If we face continuing cuts we need a Government that pushes innovation and reform in service delivery. A Government that is saying to local councils; use the sector more. Change the way you work with communities by using third sector bodies to deliver, to act as champions and advocates. Entrench rights for citizens to challenge. extend rights to choice and redress. And look at Acevo's proposal for a "Right to voice".

Elderly people in hospital beds can't make their voice heard. So we need to give organisations representing older people the power to challenge on their behalf.

I have spent a decade arguing the case for third sector service delivery. With Blair. With Brown. Now with Cameron. I think Cameron gets the point that reform is about extending rights and empowering citizens and communities. But many Departments don't. And they are getting signals it doesn't matter and vested interests will win. Depressing. I felt like saying put me in charge of reform and I'd put a rocket under them. I am planning my rocket attack in any case!

But not depressed for long as I was off to dinner with The Zurich International Advisory committee annual dinner on which Tony Blair sits!

During the course of the meal I get one of those phone calls which mean immediate action re preparation for the press. You will see what that was about shortly!

And now its in the office for meetings with staff and then home; I'm off on leave. Every good boy deserves an occasional treat. But, fear not, I shall continue blogging and next week will reveal where I am on holiday, my trusty blackberry is coming with me!

Thursday 13 October 2011

Abusing old people

The revelations about the way old people are being abused in many NHS hospitals is truly disgusting. Can there be any better case for reform and for opening up provision of services to more providers like charities and social enterprises? And what better case for strengthening the power of Health Watch?

In my report on choice and competition in the NHS I argued for the introduction of a Right to Challenge for citizens. The CQC inspection report showing one in 5 hospitals breaking the law in their treatment of old people makes the case for his new right and the need for action to put it in place.

This would give us as citizens, carers and family of patients the right to say to a hospital that is failing to provide decent standards of care that we want a different provider.

Listening to the various professionals on Today this morning was an unappetising experience; the excuses and weasly words that try to cover over behaviour that is simply unacceptable.

Let's see the NHS take action to change. And the professional organisations in the service need to stop bleating about competition and the health bill and turn their attention to stamping out this abuse. If the NHS hospitals that have been exposed here cannot provide basic standards of care then other providers should. And what better case for the many Acevo members who work in care for older people and who want to see more care in the community to expand their work. Many older people stay in hospitals for too long because community care is inadequate. Not enough attention is paid to alternative ways of providing support at home or in the community. Palliative care needs to be provided by the third sector, not generally in hospitals.

I was in the House of Lords yesterday for a Reform round table led by Baroness Cumberledge and Nick Seddon, which just followed on from the Government winning the vote on the Bill. We were talking about long term conditions, like diabetes, and the need for reform in the way we deliver care.

10% of the entire NHS budget is spent on diabetes care. 2.8m people being supported- poorly. Almost 40% of diabetes patients are in bad control. Often the patient is not in control of their care. The CQC report simply highlights the need for radical change in our care and health services which we already know from the way in which we prioritise acute care over community.

Its time we moved on from the arguments on the health Bill to addressing the fundamental issues that face our care and health service. Unless we look at a major expansion of the role of different providers I don't see how we will get the changes we so obviously need. Competition and expanding the work of the third sector is one way we can drive innovation, better care and help shake up the culture of a service that often puts the needs of the staff above that of the patients they care for.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

What is the Government doing about youth unemployment?

The ACEVO Commission on Youth Unemployment, chaired by David Miliband, is warning that tomorrow’s youth unemployment figures are likely to be a “wake up call” to all those concerned about the future of young people in the UK.

New NIESR research undertaken for the Commission, and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, sheds new light on young people’s experiences of being unemployed, inactive and/or NEET (not in education, employment or training).

In advance of tomorrow’s ONS unemployment figures, David Miliband MP said,

"This week’s figures are likely to be a challenge to the whole country. Youth unemployment scars people for life, particularly if it is prolonged, and at today's levels it will be costing the country millions of pounds a week. Our aim is to understand the problems we face, arrive at the right solutions, and then act. We must not let the scourge of unemployment leave a permanent mark on the hundreds of thousands of young people living through it today."

Over 100 charities, local councils, businesses and others worried about youth unemployment levels have submitted evidence to the Commission on Youth Unemployment.

But despite growing concern in the UK and abroad at youth unemployment, the broad definition of NEET - which can cover everyone from teenage mothers to those taking gap years - and reliance on point-in-time estimates has limited the evidence available on the issue.

Now preliminary results from new NIESR research presented to the Commission on Youth Unemployment yesterday shed light on how youth unemployment and NEEThood are set within individuals' wider education and labour market histories.

NIESR's work uses nationally representative survey data to classify young individuals into groups sharing similar labour market histories between the age of 16 and 21. By shifting the focus from a snapshot picture to the entire youth labour market history, the research allows us to consider the full richness of individuals' youth labour market experience.

NIESR's results suggest that:
- A group of 10% of young people are most likely to warrant policy attention
- This group can be divided into a number of categories, including:
  • long-term NEEThood from the age of 16 and 18;
  • long-term worklessness straddling unemployment and inactivity;
  • individuals experiencing some employment but developing only limited labour market attachment; and
  • individuals who appear to withdraw from the labour market following an apparently successful entry into employment.

The results also highlight the central importance of the school to work transition to successful longer term outcomes.

I believe these results will be an important addition to our evidence base on the youth labour market. They classify, in a rigorous way, young people's different experiences to help us distinguish, say, those who take gap years from those at risk of serious long-term labour market exclusion. This knowledge is an essential precondition for successful intervention. The results also highlight the importance of the school to work transition for subsequent success in the labour market.

NIESR's next steps will be to compare the characteristics of the members of each group, and in particular of those falling within groups associated with unsuccessful labour market trajectories. This will aim to uncover which individual characteristics (such as gender, skills, disability, family structure, or social attitudes) are good predictors of adverse labour market outcomes in the long-run. This work will help inform the policy recommendations of the Commission.

The key issue now is what will Government do ab out it? The various reviews and analyses of the recent riots have so far failed to draw links between what happened and underlying social and community damage. Its no good just arguing it was a bout of criminality.

There is now a very strong danger we have learnt nothing from the lessons of long term youth unemployment in the 80s. Many of those unemployed then are unemployed now. Their kids are the new youth unemployed.

Time for the Government to get a grip on this problem before it is too late. Acevo members are at the forefront of action on tackling both the causes and the consequences of youth unemployment. Yet these are the very organisations being hit by cuts and having to scale back their work. That is criminal.

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Barbara Young rocks!

I am a great admirer of Barbara Young , and that is not just because she is an ACEVO member! An article in the Guardian is worth reading ; extract below ;

On Barbara Young's office table is a graph. A bar chart, actually: four columns of green, purple, red and bright blue showing the progression, in England, of rates of coronary heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes over the past five years. The first two are flatlining or falling. Cancer, in red, is rising, but slowly. Trace a line between the blue bars from 2005 to 2010, and it soars off the chart.

"Diabetes," says Young flatly, "is becoming a crisis. The crisis. It's big, it's scary, it's growing and it's very, very expensive. It's clearly an epidemic, and it could bring the health service to its knees. Something really does need to happen."

Baroness Young is, admittedly, the chief executive of Diabetes UK, Britain's main diabetes charity and campaigning group. It's her job to say such things. But the figures are behind her all the way: diabetes is fast becoming the 21st century's major public-health concern. The condition is now nearly four times as common as all forms of cancer combined, and causes more deaths than breast and prostate cancer combined. Some 2.8m people in the UK have been diagnosed with it; an estimated 850,000 more probably have type 2 diabetes but don't yet know. Another 7m are classified as high-risk of developing type 2; between 40% and 50% of them will go on to develop it. By the year 2025, more than 5m people in this country will have diabetes.

The implications for the NHS, obviously, don't bear thinking about. Diabetes already costs the service around £1m an hour, roughly 10% of its entire budget. That's not just because the condition generally has to be managed with medication or insulin, but because by the time they are diagnosed, around half the people with type 2 – by far the most common and fastest growing form – have developed a longer-term complication.

Cardiovascular disease, for example, will kill 52% of people with type 2 diabetes, who are also twice as likely to have a stroke in the first five years after diagnosis as the population at large. Almost one in three people with the condition will develop kidney disease, and diabetes is the single biggest cause of end-stage kidney failure. You are up to 20 times more likely to go blind if you have diabetes.

"The cost of some of these complications, in terms of medical and social care, unemployment benefits, everything, is just enormous," says Young. "People can't work, can't drive ... And so many personal tragedies. People with diabetes have a foot amputated 70 times a week in England, and 80% of those amputations wouldn't have been necessary if it had been caught earlier and looked after properly."

Recently, Young says, she met a former ballerina. "No one had told her, when she was in her 20s and 30s, that maybe it wasn't such a good idea, might be dangerous even, to keep her blood sugar level deliberately high, for energy. She just had her heel amputated."

Nor is this, of course, a national epidemic. Around the world, some 285m people now have diabetes, a figure expected to climb to 440m within 20 years. In north America, one in five men over 50 have the condition; in India, it's 19% of the population; in parts of the Middle East, 25%. On the tiny Pacific island of Nauru, very nearly one in three people has diabetes. This goes some way to explain why some countries are taking a tough stance on health – Denmark has imposed a "fat tax" of 16 kroner (£1.84) per kilogram (2.2lbs) on saturated fat in a product, while France is adding just over 1p to the price of fizzy drinks (although zero-calorie "diet" versions are – that would contribute to raising the profile of diabetes as "an important and ghastly condition", plus a proper risk-assessment programme. She's not confident of getting the former, because this government doesn't much like big, centralised, top-down initiatives. On the latter, she says, the NHS has something called a Vascular Health Check, which people over 40 should be getting, "except most of us haven't heard of it. We screen for cervical cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure. The stroke programme's completely revamped. But diabetes is now a much bigger problem than stroke. A vascular check would help pick it up, and it's not working."

Diabetes UK has drawn up a 15-point list to help ensure everyone diagnosed with diabetes gets the care they need, including checks on blood sugar levels, blood pressure, cholesterol, eyes, feet and kidneys. "We want 2.8m people up on their hind legs, demanding they get the right care," says Young. "That has to change. Plus there are big variations in care regionally."

So good luck Barbara Young and Diabetes uk. Yet another reason why the NHS needs reform. Moving resources from acute to community care. This issue is simply not being addressed. Witness the poor quality of debate in the Lords on the Health Bill. This is the sort of issue they should be focusing on.

Healthy choices!

Yes, people do want choice in our NHS- contrary to what the BMA might claim.

A new survey carried out by an independent research company on behalf of the Department of Health establishes patients do want choice. A great reposte to the BMA who have tried to claim otherwise. Its what our members working in health and social care know is right. We have been advocating more choice and more control for patients and citizens over their care.

The new survey of 5,000 people reveals that over 80 per cent of patients want more choice over how and where they are treated in the NHS and nearly three quarters of patients want more choice in who provides their hospital care.

Full results of the survey show that:

80.88 per cent of respondents want more choice in where they are treated in the NHS; 78.62 per cent of respondents want more choice in how they are treated in the NHS; 49.52 per cent of respondents were not aware that they can choose which hospital to go to for non-emergency treatment; 74.88 per cent of respondents wanted a choice over which hospital consultant is in charge of their care; 74.62 per cent of respondents wanted a choice over which hospital consultant is in charge over their children’s care.

Women and older people in particular want to see more patient choice in the NHS. Nine out of 10 people over the age of 55 want to have a greater say in how and where they are treated.

The Government need to understand this message and ensure that DH culture changes.

When Health Watch becomes as powerful as the BMA we will know things have changed. Until then Acevo members need to keep pushing this message.

Thursday 6 October 2011

The case against the Desmond Lottery

I suppose the irony of the Express newspaper front page on Tuesday was lost on Mr Desmond ( proprietor of same ) . Atop the screaming headline: "New lottery to make Britain better" was a promotion involving a free chocolate wagon wheel!

And strangely, in their supposed reportage of the launch of the new lottery , there was no mention of the criticism of it.

So Daily Express I challenge you to cover this story properly. And in the meantime good luck to the journalist academic who has reported them to the Advertising Standards Authority for a flagrant breach of the ASA Code. I shall be writing to the ASA myself to back this complaint. We cannot have the Express and Star using their reportage to plug the lottery of their owner .

And an offer to the Editor of the Express. Allow me space to say why I am concerned about the new Lottery. And cover this on your front page to show you can report news fairly.

I think there is an issue about whether the society lottery legislation is properly used by an organisation trying to challenge the National Lottery. It was supposed to be about allowing organisations like the hospices to do lotteries.

The new lottery is clearly intended to compete with the National Lottery. It will have access to more retail outlets and is being heavily marketed on the back of the work of health charities.

The National Lottery gives 28p in the pound to good causes and charities across our sector including sports and arts and heritage. It also gives 12p to the treasury in tax so making a contribution to public finances.

Desmond will give only 20p to charity and pay no lottery levy to the Treasury. The rest goes in prize money , marketing and profit.

Last year the BLF gave £270m to health charities in a total of £1.3b to good causes.

So what does this mean. Say Desmond successfulIy hits his targets, making 50 mil for charity (and therefore taking 250 mil altogether). If that money comes from people not playing the lottery, it would mean £20 million less for good causes and £30 million less for HMT.

So if the new lottery is a success it will affect the overall sum going to the sector. This must be resisted. Whilst individual charities in health will be able to apply and get support ( and why should they not ) it is important that we pursue the overall case for all the sector and its funding.

The counter attack from the new lottery has been lamentable. They try to claim that much of the good cause money is going on the Olympics or art like the Opera. Shameful. The Olympics , in any case , is over next year. But the basis of the good cause distribution was to cover all the causes that the British people give their money to. People who love the arts, fundraise and support the work of the Royal Opera- a charity- for example. Many people give to heritage organisations like the National Trust.

I deeply dislike the claims being pursued by the Desmond Lottery that somehow the charities they will support are more worthy, and we should have a hierarchy of giving. Of course health charities do brilliant work; saving lives,supporting the most vulnerable. They are at the heart of giving and form a superb group of CEOs in ACEVO. But so do charities working with young people in our most deprived communities. Or those working with the unemployed. Or drug addiction. Excluded communities. And so on.

We cannot allow this to go unchallenged. I have challenged Mr Desmond to raise the amount he gives to health charities to 28p in the pound. I await his answer.

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Loans work!

An important publication is launched today by The Social Investment Business. As Chair, I commissioned one of my trustees – former City banker and then chair of BTCV, Dr Rupert Evenett – to conduct an analysis of the state of the UK social investment market, and to look at the record of social finance so far.

He and co-author Karl Richter have produced an important contribution to the debate about extending loan finance for our sector .

The unique element of this review being that it is written from two perspectives – from the " bottom-up" perspective of third sector organisations and entrepreneurs as well as from a financial perspective, seeking comments and insights from social lenders like Triodos and Social Finance as well as commercial financial institutions such as Deutsche Bank and RBS.

The whole project has been sponsored by our friends CityUK, who represent the financial services industry, which shows how seriously traditional commercial lenders are taking the issue of the development of the UK social investment market.

Funding for the third sector isn’t something that’s ‘nice to have’ when the economy is strong, it’s something that’s more essential than ever when the demand for the services offered by the sector is increasing.

Yesterday's news that growth has flatlined and the cuts in public spending have the greatest impact on the most vulnerable. If charities, social enterprises and community organisations are going to take on more public service delivery and more help to the unemployed and marginalised they need a robust and sustainable financial platform.

This review explains in detail the need for an integrated social impact investment market with a range of financial products suitable for the different stages of organisations’ development with a range of funding providers, bringing in traditional lenders and investors to what has so far been a niche investment area. The “sell” to financiers shouldn’t be hard, social investment has all the characteristics of a distinctive asset class – best understood as an intermediate capital market with features of both debt and equity - which, from an investor’s perspective, can offer sustainable financial return, assessable risk and the potential for diversification.

But there are still reactionary elements in the sector who are fighting the whole notion of "loans". This is deeply damaging. On tuesday I had to counter arguments being put forward by Debra Alcock- Tyler at the NW voluntary sector annual meeting that the big society capital is a bad thing. She advanced the wholly unjustified view that loans only support larger organisations. This is simply not supported by the facts if Debra had bothered to check. Loans from SIB have gone to a large number of small and local organisations nd community enterprises. Organisations that could not access grant or fundraising at the level they need to expand and acquire assets. The 2 independent academic evaluations of the these loan programmes demonstrated their power in community development. Its time debra and those who have supported this line got a grip on the evidence. I shall be sending her our new report.

At a time of huge pressure o our sector it strikes me as quite damaging not to support new ways of diversifying income streams and campaigning for our sector to have access to capital. Its a progressive cause. Let's push for it.

Next steps? Expert social investors need to start working together to launch drive growth in the market, including by launching new funds that are attractive to commercial investors – pension funds, investment banks and high net worth individuals. Markets don’t just happen, they are created – and it’s time that social investment market moved from the margins to become a mainstream option for traditional investors. The track record has been achieved by the pioneers to prove to others it can be done.

The foreword by my good friend Oliver Letwin MP calls the report “an important and useful contribution to the debate..which offers a prospectus for practical actions to help take that market forward.”

You can download it

Tuesday 4 October 2011

At the Tories

The final gig; the Tory conference in Manchester. I'm down to speak at 6 fringes and a roundtable so its hard work- and all that essential networking.

Yesterday was the last of the 3 ncvo-acevo fringe meetings. Slightly more energised than the other 2 as Charlie Elphike MP was speaking and rather roused the room with criticising CEO pay and us campaigning. He said he fully supported our independence; but surely its our campaigning that ensures that very indepencne. Anyway dame Clare Tickell took him to task. That saved me to doing this- and I had to get to a round table on welfare to work ...

I met the usual round of ministers and the like. Eric Pickles MP greeted me warmly "hello comrade" he said! And I had a brief word with the Prime Minister. (I've become "Steve" ).

The evening was rounded off rather late with dinner with my team and Richard Hawkes CEO of SCOPE. We found ourselves sandwiched between Damien Green, his wife and Nick Robinson of the BBC on the one side and Teresa May on the other. Funnily enough I knew both at Oxford!

Today I started off with a fringe hosted by NAS-UWT and Unison. I talked about public service reform. I even got clapped. It was on to the RSA and SIB fringe. I was chairing an incredible panel; Matthew Taylor and Ben Page, Jesse Norman MP and Andrew Lansley, and Jennifer Dixon of the Nuffield Trust. From there it was the NWVCS annual conference and a panel with Debra Alcok-Tyler, Kevin Curley and the opposition spokesman on the sector Roberta Blackman-Woods. I'm blogging from the panel at the moment....

Here is the panel;

And here a photo of John Low kneeling in front of Dame Clare and Nick Hurd.

And finally a photo of me at the conference.