Walking through the imposing gates of the Royal Mint I was musing on the journey acevo has come on since it began 25 years ago. For those that remember those days; and there are many of the founders still around, the national standing of ACEVO now is remarkable. A real voice for sector Leaders, able to speak truth to power and influence Government, but also arguing for a professional and pragmatic
approach to the sector's role.
Our 25th Anniversary Conference was in a new conference facility behind the Mint; not inappropriate as money is much on the mind of the charity CEO!
3 speeches in particular were of note. Prof Anheir is one of the worlds top academics in civil society studies. He was warning against the current trend to too much accountability and audit in non profits. He suggested the current trend to ever more impact reporting and measurement was simply not right for non profits and is a costly burden. And a stimulating contribution from Trevor Pears on the "Give More" campaign.
But the highlight was the speech of Corporal Johnson Beharry VC. He talked abut his upbringing in Grenada and his life of disruption and petty crime as a teenager. And then about the extraordinary events that led to his award of the Victoria Cross, when he saved the lives of over 40 comrade soldiers.
It's worth recapping exactly what he did. On 1 May 2004, Beharry was driving a Warrior Armoured Vehicle that had been called to the assistance of a foot patrol caught in a series of ambushes. The Warrior was hit by multiple rocket propelled grenades, causing damage and resulting in the loss of radio communications. The platoon commander, the vehicle’s gunner and a number of other soldiers in the vehicle were injured. Due to damage to his periscope optics, Beharry was forced to open his hatch to steer his vehicle, exposing his face and head to withering small arms fire. Beharry drove the crippled Warrior through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other Warriors to safety. He then extracted his wounded comrades from the vehicle, all the time exposed to further enemy fire. He was cited on this occasion for "valour of the highest order".
While back on duty on 11 June 2004, Beharry was again driving the lead Warrior of his platoon when his vehicle was ambushed. A rocket propelled grenade hit the vehicle six inches from Beharry's head, and he received serious shrapnel injuries to his face and brain. Other rockets then hit the vehicle, incapacitating his commander and injuring several of the crew. Despite his life threatening injuries, Beharry retained control of his vehicle and drove it out of the ambush area before losing consciousness. He required brain surgery for his head injuries.
I can tell you there was hardly a dry eye in the room as he spoke of his leadership and heroism. And he now dedicates his life to working for charity. He received the first standing ovation at an ACEVO conference!
Here he is with ACEVO staff;
And at the Conference.
Geraldine Peacock is known to many of us in the sector as one of the greats (former Guide Dogs CEO and Chair of the Charity Commission). She was on the Panel that appointed me as CEO so many years back. She was due at our Gala Dinner but could not make it in the end but she sent me a lovely note I want to reproduce:
"It seems like only yesterday that I attended a learning set for ACEVNO. The people who attended the programme with me are all now significant leaders in the sector. It just shows how this organisation empowers people. I was very honoured to be Vice Chair and Chair of ACEVO for a number of years and to have the pleasure of appointing you dear Stephen. I think my time and involvement with ACEVO is one of my best achievements."
But to cap off a splendid day I went off to Kensington Palace for the Reception to mark the closing of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund. A glittering affair which marked both the end of a Fund that commemorated the humanitarian work of Diana and a celebration of the life of a remarkable woman. I was sorry I ended up stepping on the toes of Diana's sister Sarah as I arrived!
I was the founding Chair of the Landmark in Lambeth back in the 80s, which was the South London equivalent of the more famous HIV-AIDS centre in Notting Hill (the Lighthouse) which Diana had supported so famously.
In 1986 Diana came to the opening of the Landmark and I was privileged to be able to introduce her and ask her to mark the Opening by unveiling a rather tasteful plaque. My young nephew Alexander gave her a bouquet which made the front pages of the press. He and she were very cute! I had a conversation with her before the event and, like so many others, was charmed and entranced by her beauty and obvious concern for the marginalised and abused. Her championing of AIDS at that time was enormously influential in turning public opinion against the bigots who talked of the AIDS plaque. Since then the Memorial Fund has very successfully championed causes Diana felt strongly about like land mines. But it is remarkable that the trustees of the Memorial Fund decided they would spend the donations rather than store up gold for the future. Doing good now when it is needed , not in the distant future.
Rather splendid champagne and good canapes ,after a day of conferencing and networking meant a rather late and meandering return home. A late start to Friday!