Wednesday 30 November 2011


Watching the news is no fun. I even found myself doing a calculation on my pension last night. And the good news ( for me at least) is George has not stolen another year off me.

But the reality that we are in recession and face at least 5 years more of gloom is depressing. What does not come through is all the economic analysis is the effect of all this on the citizens and communities our sector serves.

And for the sector CEO , already stretched by trying to cope with declining income and growing demand there seems little light at the end of the tunnel.

But there is no point in wallowing in the doom. We have a job to do. What any sector CEO knows is that we are often at our best when facing down difficulty.

And in thinking through new ways to raise funds or to innovate I thought it was unhelpful of Kevin Curley of NAVCA , in his last conference speech( as reported in Third Sector ) , to criticise relationships that have developed between the third and private sectors. He suggested some partnerships with companies appeared to be at odds with their purpose in tackling disadvantage ie the work programme.

This sub prime marxism is really not a helpful contribution to our future. Clearly we must ensure that whatever partnerships we pursue, whether with the public or private sectors meet our objectives. We must have tight contracts and CEOs need to be vigilant a out their terms and monitor outcomes. But the idea we should not engage with companies simply because they make and maximise profits is nonsensical. We live in a capitalist system. We engage with it on behalf of our beneficiaries.

If we can make partnerships that help create jobs, as many of our members are doing in the Work Programme then that is furthering our mission. What does not help our beneficiaries is abstract theological or ideological debate on engaging with companies because they wickedly maximise profit.

He asks should we be " helping G4S and A4E to maximise their profits?".
This is a nonsensical question. No third sector organisation in their supply chains agreed to that other than to help hard to reach people back into work.

The real questions are;

* does the deal help people into work we couldn't help otherwise?
*does it further our overall mission
* are the terms and payments such that we do not make a loss ourselves and we are not being exploited?

Somehow I don't think ACEVO members out there wake up in the morning thinking how they can help a company make a profit. But they do desperately want to help people back into work. No one has been more upfront in criticism of the WP than ACEVO. See Blog yesterday. But let's ensure our critique is right, not ideology.

In wider terms I think developing partnership working with others in public or private sector organisations is a good way forward for a CEO thinking how to survive the recession.

Anyway that's enough rant. I'm off for a lunch with J P Morgan wearing my SIB hat. We have to engage the finance sector in the social finance market. Until making loans to our sector becomes part of mainstream banking we can't advance the way in which we access capital as organisations.

I may detest the way they pay themselves bonuses ( as I said to Stephen Hester of RBS last week ) but not engaging in constructive dialogue is not sensible. So sorry Kevin, I'm supping with the devil. But that's what a CEO sometimes has to do to advance our cause.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

George speaks

All attention in ACEVO Towers is on George's statement. We prepare a note to all our members on the key aspects that affect our sector.

I'd had a heads up on one important piece of the announcements; VAT on shared services. A somewhat esoteric subject I admit but the operation of the VAT regime in doubling charging on shared services make cooperative ventures between charities very problematic. Its an issue ACEVO has been on about to the Treasury for years.

As always details need to be sorted HMRC have a habit of making these things to complicated! However I have to credit George with doing a number of small but really useful changes that have benefited the sector, such as on the gift aid regime and giving.

One interesting example of how a cooperative approach can work is provided by one of my ACEVO board members Virginia Beardshaw. She runs the impressive national charity I CAN.

The Department for Education has recently announced that I CAN is leading a strong consortium of third sector organisations to deliver an Early language development programme in Children’s Centres. Partner organisations are Action for Children, the Children’s Society, the Pre School Learning Alliance, Elklan CIC, and the Office of Public Management. .
This £1.3 million funded programme will support the foundations of good communication development in young children who are most at risk of language delay. It will give early years practitioners and parents the skills and knowledge they need to support speech, language and communication development in young children. The programme will particularly target 0-2 year olds and their families in England’s most disadvantaged areas.

Third sector organisations have campaigned long and hard for early intervention in speech and language and so it is gratifying that the Department is backing a consortium of ACEVO members to take early language development work forward.

Work Programme...

A rather late start to the day ( a jolly birthday party at my brother's yesterday !) speaking at the conference of ERSA- the employment related services association on the Work Programme.

I was in a gloomy mood. It reflects the views we are getting from ACEVO members in this area. We recently reviewed how its going. The survey showed;

- only 8% of respondents thought that the Work Programme would meet its minimum performance levels;
- only 9% thought that the differentiated payment system was sufficient to help the hardest to reach.
- furthermore, third sector still bearing significant risk

- some evidence of sector still being used as bid candy as well as only 18% of respondents thinking that their prime had softened their payment profile (ie made it less outcome based - bit more money upfront or along the process rather than just the end)

Experience shows a huge variance in referrals of job seekers.

For the Work Programme to work it must reach very hard to help groups like the homeless. So it is particularly important for the very specialist providers who are having a very hard time and receiving (seemingly across the board) negligible numbers of clients.

I said that Government needs to;
* make the whole system more transparent (DWP are not allowing performance data to be published until about this time next year) to enable the spread of best practice, better continuity planning and more effective competition

* Ensure that DWP monitor how the work programme is/isn't working for the hardest to help (e.g. refugees, homeless etc)

* Ensure that Merlin and the arbitration board are in place asap and DWP must have a communications drive around what these mean and (more importantly) what they don't mean ie if you have signed up to a crap contract, it won't protect you from your crap contract

Against a background of the coming recession and massive unemployment times do not look good. And this is all the more reason to be worried about how welfare benefit reforms are rolling out.

And such a shame that politicians can't admit to mistakes. If we still had the Future Jobs Fund there would have been a strong vehicle for creating jobs for the young unemployed. Indeed not only does the Government not admit to a mistake it continues to make tendentious claims about the scheme. Only on Friday did I hear Clegg claiming that the FJF had not created permanent jobs. Yet last week Allison Ogden- Newton pointed out that of the scheme Social Enterprise London had taken 500 young people. 74% of them had gone into long term jobs. And David Orr, the CEO of the Housing Federation said that many of the housing associations that had taken part in the scheme had also created long term jobs for youth.

What a shame that the Government cancelled the independent evaluation of the scheme that had started and then they would have had that real evidence. In the meantime perhaps the slurs on the many third sector bodies that took part in FJF could cease.

A rather arsy questioner after our session had ended got the rough end of my tongue! He was suggesting we shouldn't be promoting one sector over another! As I said that's the whole point of my job and in any case it is only the third sector that can actually reach the hardest to help communities. So if the third sector thinks the Work Programme isn't working properly then it probably isn't.

Fortunately ACEVO has the great Lord Freud speaking at one of our exclusive learning with leaders lunches on Thursday. We shall have a frank interchange. We can't afford to get this wrong. We all want the Work programme to be successful and we are here to make that happen. The architecture of the scheme is good, but operationally there are clear problems.

And after a week where I was out every evening it was a joy to spend a night at home. The Archers and Corrie; goodness I must be getting old!

Friday 25 November 2011

Health and Leaders

So I started the day with the Deputy PM and ended it with the PM! As I blogged yesterday Clegg was talking about Scarman. Cameron was at the NHS chief executives annual conference to round off the day after Andrew Lansley had spoken. I had been invited to represent the sector in a sea of NHS CEOs!

Lansley spoke about the importance of the "no decision about me, without me" policy. He said that we should welcome the extension of choice and competition because we need to put patients first. He is right. The NHS is too dominated by a professional approach that assumes we, the "patient" are the passive recipient of health care, rather than a citizen entitled to be advised and consulted on our care. And I know from a brilliant seminar laid on by the Health Foundation (CEO Stephen Thornton is an acevo member) in the recent listening exercise that enabling people to take part in decisions on their care improves health outcomes.

But perhaps the most interesting contribution came from David Nicholson, the NHS chief executive. He had earlier greeted me warmly "competition is not a disease" he declaimed!

He said that he had felt that it was his duty to be the best leader he could be and to pay attention to his own professional development. It was a good point and well made. He talked about a 360 degree appraisal where staff had been asked to comment in a sentence on their overall view of him. "we love you, you evil bastard" was the response!

It's worth reflecting on this; I suspect many third sector CEOs have felt that as times get harder they should set an example and not go on a development course or event. Not go to a conference. This is not a good approach, and it's important to consider how we carry on development that may be less expensive. Not all development is an expensive leadership course.

David Cameron made an appearance at the end of the conference and set out his 3 priorities for the service. Interesting to ask when is a target not a target? When it is a priority! He said waiting times and lists must be brought down. He is right. It should be a target to reduce it!

Think it is a pity he can't drive the choice and competition agenda with more strength. The problem is that the Lib Dems vetoed stronger action. But they should reflect on recent evidence on the value of competition.

David Nicholson

Andrew Lansley

David Cameron

Independent Sector Treatment Centres (or ISTCs, set up under Labour, have been accused of being dangerous and of “cherry-picking” (siphoning off the easiest cases while dumping the complex cases back into the NHS). A serious academic study published in the British Medical Journal blows this out of the water. Compared with patients treated in NHS centres, it finds, patients who had surgery in ISTCs had “better outcomes in terms of severity of symptoms, health related quality of life, and post operative complications”. It found no evidence of "cherry-picking”.

This is a big deal for anyone who prefers evidence to ideology. In 2002, the Department of Health started the procurement of ISTCs in England to reduce waiting times, give patients more choice, and encourage innovative models for the provision of non-emergency services. It was a sensible programme. There are now about 30 ISTCs operating, most of them providing common elective procedures, such as hip and knee replacements, cataract surgery, hernia repair, and so on. Only 2 per cent of elective activity is carried out in the independent sector, a tiny proportion by international standards. The scare stories put out by the various vested interests in the service should take note.

I rounded off the evening by giving a Lecture at the Diawa Japanese Foundation. An event chaired by my old friend Baroness Angela Smith. ACEVO has strong links with what is called the NPO sector in Japan. We helped in the formation of JACEVO, the Japanese third sector leaders body. It was a great evening. I spoke with a member of the lower House of Councillors in Japan, Akiko Kamei . She is a leading member of the People's New Party. We were debating the role of charities and the state in the UK and Japan. I spoke of the dual role of our sector on campaigning and delivering services to our beneficiaries.

Thursday 24 November 2011

Back to Scarman

Back to Scarman

A short trip down Brixton Hill to the Loughborough Estate and the community centre to a Lecture marking the 30th anniversary of the Brixton riots and the subsequent Scarman enquiry.

Nick Clegg gave the Lecture. A strong showing from both the local community sector and from third sector organisations nationally. Andrew Barnett (Director of the UK Branch of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation) was there and spoke. Julian Corner from a newly merged grant foundation Lankelly Chase, Nick Wilkie of London Youth ( soon to step down to be a full time dad')and Julia Unwin of Joseph Rowntree. ACEVO members all !

Darra Singh was also there. His riots report is due out next week. That will be fascinating.

Having lived in Brixton for nearly 4 decades I saw the riots and was involved in the rebuilding of the community that went on after those riots when I was elected to Lambeth Council in 1982. A fascinating 4 years!

One key lesson for me was how the Council needed to work with black community organisations. The Council provided White led public services for largely White communities. So the large black community in Brixton developed their own organisations and developed their own services. The Council realised that regeneration depended on working through community organisations , not against them.

As we confront the challenges of recession let's not forget the role the third sector must continue to play in community cohesion and in delivering citizen focused public services.

An interesting lecture from Clegg. But i found it extraordinary he did not talk properly about youth unemployment. The link between the events of 1981 and 2011 is that we have now returned to the drastic levels of youth unemployment we saw then. Over a million young unemployed. A quarter of them for over a year. So it was odd he talked about the wage disparities suffered by many because of race and gender and failed to talk about what the Government is doing about it. He said that he was going to do this tomorrow! We shall see!

Let's mark the 30th anniversary of the Scarman report by getting to grips with youth unemployment and to put a stop to disastrous cuts to community amd third sector organisations like those we had today in the Loughborough estate .

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Europe gets behind social investment

It's not often you find yourself sat next to the President of the European Commission- Jose Barroso! I was at a major conference on social enterprise and social innovation at the Commission on Friday. They were announcing their new policy to support civil society across Europe together with a new social investment fund.

Euclid and the SIB were closely involved in the lead up to the announcement and the planning of the day( it was chaired by Paul Adamson who sits on the Euclid board). The UK leads the field in the development of social finance and Ronnie Cohen made an impressive and impassioned speech about the power of loans to transform our sector.

A lot of the top brass were there. 2 commissioners; Barnier ( internal markets) came over for a chat. He said " I know you" which made me wonder if MI5 had passed on the file!

The European Invesment bank is also launching a new social finance fund of funds. At long last Europe seems to have got behind the growth of the third sector. Whilst the actual policy document is confused and opaque in a way only the EU Commission can manage its a strong start and a firm indication that the EU sees this as a major plank to develop.

Nick Hurd spoke on behalf of the UK government. He was almost Churchillian (obviously been on a FCO briefing!).And, as if you can't get enough of Nick, I was making a speech with him on monday morning at the launch of the Transition Institute ( I'm a board member). This is an exciting new initiative , thought up by the dynamic Allison Ogden-Newton of Social Enterprise London.

Then in the afternoon I was speaking with Nick on Europe and the sector at an event organised in Europe house in Smith Square. This was part of a programme that the strategic partners lead for the Cabinet Office. ACEVO and Euclid lead on Europe for the strategic partners but we work closeley with ncvo and so this was a 4 way collaboration between Euclid and ACEVO, ncvo and the OCS. A good event. Over 100 delegates talking about funding and the need for the EU to reform the processes of the structural funds.

And talking of collaboration my chair and I then went off for dinner with the Chair+CEO of ncvo. Martyn Lewis was talking about our journey together at our ACEVO conference last week. And no journey can begin without sustenance; so joint dining will lead to more joint work!

And yet more dining last night; the Guardian Public Sector awards. A glittering occassion when public services are celebrated and awarded. It was great that the overall winner of the awards was a third sector organisation! I was there to give the award for volunteering. It went to Hull Fire and Civil Defence Authority. A splendid body of folk who have really ramped up volunteering and given professional support to it. Allison Ogden-Newton texted me to say "was this the first time Bubb had been up on stage, in the spotlight before hundreds of folk and not said a word?"

And , thank goodness, unlike the many third sector award ceremonies this one ended at the civilised hour of 10.30 so a quick taxi back to Brixton meant I got my usual beauty sleep and refreshed for battles ahead.

Commissioner Barnier

Friday 18 November 2011

Hester, Caan, and our Annual conference ....

A rather stellar line up at our Annual conference today. Leadership in troubling times...

Last night our annual dinner at the Royal College of Physicians (ACEVO member is the CEO Martin Else ) was relaxed and fun , despite the disgust we all felt at the news on youth unemployment. Guy Laurence , the CEO of Vodaphone gave an impassioned speech on text giving which Vodaphone have championed and invested in.

The Conference proved a mega success. An interestoing and reflective contribution from Hester. A charming and persuasive speech from James Caan, the dragons den man, a brilliant talk on governance and tips for chairs and CEOs from Bill Ryan. And a panel of Chairs and CEOs reflecting on their experiences.

I began by warning we now need to plan for recession. . Communities are hurting. With youth Unemployment rising to over a million our job as sector Leaders becomes ever more crucial. As I said " If young Britain is not working, Britain is not working ".

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Professional Pay for CEOs, dinner and Andrew

Tonight we launch our annual Pay Survey. David Fielding from attenti will be outlining the key points at the Royal College of Pysicians ( The CEO Martin Else, is an ACEVO member) where we have our annual ACEVO dinner.

Don't you get irritated by those who think that CEOs shouldn't be paid at all or take a low salary?

The topline findings from this year's survey show that

On pay

No sector has been immune to the major economic pressures we face as a country. It’s inevitable therefore that this will have an impact on the pay of both leaders and the workforce in our sector.

Whilst we’ve been making the case for professional pay for professional jobs for decades, it’s clear that the sector has made a sound decision in taking a responsible approach to setting the pay of its leaders in times of strain. Like last year the average CEO salary in the sector has risen by less than inflation (this year by 3.5% TO £60K).

Having said this, we cannot allow difficult times to set us on a backward path. We need strong and experienced leaders more than ever to steer organisations through the significant challenges ahead.

It’s clear that as organisations look to make major changes in how they operate, in many cases looking to merge, restructure or make redundancies, leaders are going to need be clear and more confident than ever in communicating their value, impact and worth as CEO.

On cuts

The findings of this year’s survey show the alarming reality the impact of cuts are having on the sector. We knew 12 months ago that things were going to be tough, but we couldn’t be sure how the cuts would fall, and whether or not our sector would be less or worse hit than others.

With 70% of ACEVO members which receive public funding experiencing a cut. Worth on average 23% of that funding, the figures clearly support the noise that’s been out there for a while; that in places cuts are falling disproportionately hard on the sector.

The impact is already taking its toll on services, organisations and ultimately the beneficiaries which the sector is there to serve with 32% reducing service levels and 41% of organisations having to make redundancies this year.

On diversity

Despite the scale of challenges the sector faces. We cannot afford to overlook ongoing issues which the sector needs to address. I’ve long been stressing the importance of diversity both at the top and throughout all levels of third sector organisations.

It’s promising to see that the number of female trustees has risen significantly this year, from 17% to 40% and that women actually outnumber their male counterparts at senior management level with 3 out of 5 positions being occupied by women.

However the gender pay gap remains of real concern. The gap has risen again this year from 10-16% with women in some positions being paid as 30% less than their male counterparts.

Ethnicity remains an issue too. With 96% of chairs coming from a white background, and 94% of CEOs.

On leadership

It’s not all doom and gloom, there is much to celebrate in the findings on our leadership this year. Despite 58% of CEOs facing an increased workload sector leaders remain passionate to the cause and 85% of CEOs are optimistic about the future of their organisation.

Visit the ACEVO homepage from tomorrow to get the findings in full.

This morning I was at the NHS Future Forum. I challenged Andrew Lansley on the " right to challenge", a key recommendation from the Choice and Competition report. I suggested you can hardly promote integrated health and social care services where citizens have a Right to Challenge the Council but denied that right for the NHS.

And now I need to get home and change for our dinner. We have the CEO of Vodaphone as our guest speaker and there are the usual clutch of VIPs to wine and dine on behalf of the members. And as I have to make a speech tomorrow introducing the CEO of RBS at our annual conference I shall not be drinking!

Yes, we are good!

An interview with the FT , another media story , a panel appearance at the London Health Conference , not to mention a 2 hour Directors Group to grapple with budgets! Exhausted by the time I eventually get home.

And , to be honest, it was a late night. Our joint dinner with NCVO board members turned into a triumph. Shock. Horror, we got on! Both trustee boards are working for the good of the sector. Martyn Lewis , the NCVO chair and my Chair , Lesley Anne spoke about the " journey" we are on as organisations. We are moving in to the NCVO refurbished office in it's new reincarnation as a sector hub. Who knows where that will lead. Possibly not joint walking holidays with me and Stuart though wine swapping may be on the cards. Seriously though we swap views on sector developments. I regret no photos of the historic event. But perhaps CCLA will be applying for a blue plaque.

I send a note to my members saying " you told us you wanted us to work more closely with NCVO. We heard. So we are". On Thursday the NCVO chair speaks at our annual conference. Both firsts. But not lasts.

I also say it is time we put an end to silly debates about small v large , national v local. This internal sizist nonsense is of no interest to beneficiaries or people generally .

Rob Owen , who is the CEO of the St Giles Trust which works with offenders emailed me yesterday to tell me about a quality mark they have achieved. I want to reproduce his email because it illustrates the power of our third sector. And as a reminder to Francis Maude and Oliver Letwin they need to pull their fingers out and increase commissioning of the sector becuase we are good!

"We have recently undergone a review of our MATRIX standards (an external quality mark for Information, Advice and Guidance services) which, to put it lightly, was extremely positive. Coming from an external agency it really gets what we are about and applauds aspects of our work as not just best practise but “best in class”! I have attached a copy for your information which we hope will support and demonstrate our ability to make the difference so currently needed in breaking the cycle."

My personal favourite bit from the report comes in the introduction. Here it is

St Giles have as their motto ‘Breaking the cycle of offending’ and they aim to achieve this by

‘putting offenders at the centre of the solution’. These are not just words that sound good or describe an ideal; they really represent the ethos that is passionately running through the organisation and personnel interviewed during the assessment. The results of such passion and energy is clearly seen in the high rate of successful outcomes, the dedication to maintaining a ‘real’ quality framework that constantly focuses on improving the ability of staff, improving the organisation and giving people a second chance in life with a view to
ultimately improving the ‘whole’ wherever it touches.

Our success, I strongly feel happens because we can believe we are part of something exciting. Big and bold. But it’s even more impactful when external audiences also realise our potential to do things substantially different.".

Rob is a star. A former banker and arch capitalist. He saw the light amd now runs a highly professional and hugely successful organisation. An active ACEVO member. As you would expect.

Monday 14 November 2011

An interesting week!

Ahead. We start with the ACEVO annual Board Strategy away day; I have a good board- constructive and always wanting to build and promote ACEVO as the voice of CEOs.

And tonight we have a dinner between the ncvo and ACEVO Boards. A first. But not the last ! We have got CCLA , the financial advisors and investors for our sector to host what will be an interesting event. I shall bring you the gossip tomorrow!

Then Wednesday is the ACEVO annual dinner( at the Royal College of Physicians- a member)and the ACEVO National conference on Thursday. A magnificent range of speakers. A number of members have said to me ; why have you asked the CEO of RBS , Stephen Hester. I think we need a constructive dialogue with our financial sector but I also believe we should use this opportunity to raise issues like one of my favourites; the gross irresponsibility of bonuses.

We will be putting questions from members to him. So let me know what you want us to ask him.

And it was good to have a relaxing weekend to prepare for the week. What glorious weather we had . Charlbury was in fine fettle for Remembrance Sunday. See the photos here.

Thursday 10 November 2011

In the Pulpit!

Yes, I was in the Pulpit last night. Chelmsford Cathedral to be precise. I was delivering the Keene Lecture on " Faith in the Community". I argued there were two strands to faith working in communities; the role of the " Samaritan " in doing charitable works and in giving , and the role of the activist in pursuing social justice . You can read it here.

And pleasant to have dinner beforehand with the Dean. It turns out he is one of the Trustees of the Churches Conservation Trust , Crispin Truman the CEO, is a long standing ACEVO member.

We have a a number of faith based members in organisations like The Church Urban Fund, Stewardship and the CEO of the Church of England amongst others. And our special interest group for faith based organisations chaired by former ACEVO Board Member Fran Beckett, is having a relaunch as of January 2012. More on this soon.

It was rather fun being up there in the pulpit surveying the contrarily below. First time but hopefully not the last. I always rather fancied being a Bishop.

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Big Society Bank, Eric books and pensions

An historic day perhaps? The first meeting of the Board of the Big Society Trust, chaired by the legendary Ronnie Cohen on Tuesday. This is a crucial body to drive forward new approaches to capital and asset aquisition by the sector. I'm proud to be there.

Baroness Pitkeithly kindly gave me a lift back to Westminster but hte journey ended in pain when I shut my thumb in the car door! Throbbing I made my way to a meeting of the Ministerial Recovery Group, looking at the aftermath of the riots. But my frind Eric Pickles does not hang around; he finished it in half an hour and I arrived as it finished. Hopeless I know! But then I was in the vicinity for a meet with the new third sector opposition Minister , Gareth Thomas MP. A lively , intelligent and committed guy- destined for higher things if Ed ever makes it!

Any membership body needs to stay in touch with what members need. We have recently done a members' survey. I know these things can be irritating- I get them for all sorts of things- so we offered a prize for completion.

Members that completed the member’s survey were entered into a draw to win a free place at the ACEVO annual conference and dinner. CEO Dean Casswell of Bag Books was drawn as the winner. Bag Books is a great cause. It’s the only organisation in the world that publishes multi-sensory books for people with learning disabilities. The organisation reaches around 18,000 people in the UK with profound and severe learning or those severely affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorder every year. I am looking forward to meeting Dean at the conference. It shows the value of a dynamic national organisation. Its good that ACEVO can promote such national bodies.

And finally pensions! It's been somewhat on my mind as I get older. The sector is hugely disadvantaged by not being able to offer the sort of pensions the public sector provide. I can understand the anger of public servants at the demands they pay more at a time when they face pay freezes and rising living standards. But the reality of many third sector staff retiring on a stakeholder pension is that current conditions are bleak for them acquiring an annuity that will provide any decent pensions for the future. And pensions pose a real issue in TUPE transfers.

There are also important pension reforms for us on the way. Pensions are boring, yes, but the pensions reform, coming into play next year, is really important for members and our sector to know about.

Monday 7 November 2011

Guy Fawkes

Well, they know how to do a good Guy Fawkes bonfire in Charlbury- as you can see.

And a rather pleasant birthday lunch with my 3 nephews- all conveniently up the road at Oxford ( Hertford, Keble and Brasenose (to be precise). The afternoon was comatose in front of the fire!

And it seems our ACEVO CEO support service continues to break records. Since I blogged on Thursday Jenny has had 2 further calls from CEO's in crisis. This is not going to get any better I suspect. I don't feel any sympathy for the " exhausted " Boss of Lloyds ( especially as the tales of how he drove his staff are legendary ). He was paid mega millions after all. But the job at the top can often be stressful and traumatic. It's why we argue in ACEVO that " it's lonely at the top" and why we devote time and resource to support for our CEO members. We are their " union", ensuring they can lead their organisations effectively.

Friday 4 November 2011

The Seasons...

It's " the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" ( that's Shelley to non poetic blog readers ) ! And Charlbury is looking magnificent as you can see from the photos taken on my walk across to my favourite pub, The Plough in Finstock.

It's my birthday tomorrow; you can tell I'm a Guy Fawkes lad can't you ! So it's a long weekend and lunch in Kingham in the pub once graced ( disgraced perhaps more accurate) by the Chipping Norton set. I've had lots of these and not saying what my glorious age now is but I'm clearly still as youthful as ever.

The only bad spot of the day was when I went into the Charlbury Co-op. There, slap bang near the entrance was a brazen Health Lottery stand. Prominent. Unlike the minimally advertised National Lottery. An angry letter is off to the Mid Counties co - op CEO to demand change! Remember. The health Lottery gives only 20p to charity. NL gives 28p. So if the health lottery takes custom away , charities will lose out. That is not on.

Bridge over troubled waters!

And ACEVO is that bridge! One of the most crucial services we provide is support, advice and comradeship to individual CEOs. It's core to our mission, and although less well publicised than our policy and advocacy work it can make a real difference.

It is a sign of the times that ACEVO's CEO in crisis service is experiencing a sharp rise. Yesterday, for example , Jenny Berry, our ACEVO North Director who handles this service had to deal with 4 CEOs facing major crisis. One running an organisation that is going out of business, and the others where there is appalling governance that is incapable of coping with the challenge of cuts, and where trustees are not working effectively with their CEOs ( indeed abusing them).

This is not going to get better. I met with a group of my ACEVO members in Manchester on Wednesday at the great Lesbian and Gay Foundation there ( led by the dynamic and experienced CEO Paul Martin ).

One member was facing the challenge of a reduction in her funding of 45%. This scale of cut is not just a disaster for the organisation, but more importantly will impact directly on the services provided for vulnerable people.

So ACEVO has a dual task; fighting irresponsible cuts in services and gearing up our support and advice services for individual CEOs. Organisations can be very bad at supporting their Leaders. Leaders themselves can be very bad at handling stress and looking after their health and development needs. ACEVO has a job to do in promoting strong leadership. That is why our CEO in crisis service is so vital.

I was delighted to be asked to speak at the very first national convention of Locality in Manchester . The merger of the DTA and BASSAC was a great example to the sector of 2 organisations coming together in troubled waters to better support the needs of community enterprise.

Locality is led by Steve Wyler, who I'm proud to say is an ACEVO member. Steve has a progressive and strong leadership style. He has refused to get involved in the silly and destructive debates about small is best or local always better than national. Yet he is a passionate advocate of local communities. As I said in my speech at the Convention what the sector needs at the moment is unity around essentials. We should have no truck with those who want to pursue internal theological discussions whilst ignoring the needs of our beneficiaries. So ACEVO will be woking to promote our broad and rich sector; communities of interest and of place, large and small, national and local. And we want to promote more partnership and alliances that build on the strengths of all.

I have got to know Steve well through his role as a trustee on the Adventure Capital Fund ( part of the SIB ). He has long been a key advocate for the power of loans to promote community enterprise. ACF is a brilliant example of how community organisations can have huge ambition and aim to grow. We have been able to develop strong enterprise at local level through loans. We want more of this!

But, as I said in my speech. If we want to speak truth to power then we need a sector that is fit for purpose and united on mission.