Thursday 16 February 2012

Lunching with PG tips, GPs and Ambassadors.

A hard old life it is! I have to do all these lunches and people just keep on asking! Perhaps the highlight this week was at the Gherkin; that wonderful Norman Foster tower in the City. 180 metres high and 40 floors, the top 2 floors are a restaurant, bar and viewing platform with stunning views out across London.

See view here;

Good to look down on the Tower of London and remember my goodly ancestor Sir Edward Neville, beheaded by Henry VIII as an adherent to the Roman faith. Always useful to be reminded there are sometimes consequences for speaking truth to power!

But don't think I was just swanning around. I was meeting one of my members , Suzanne Boardman, who runs Twycross Zoo, together with Derek Bishop who as a leadership development consultant has been supporting her through turbulent times.

Photo of suzanne and derek.

Every so often you meet someone who renews your faith in how wonderful our sector can be. Suzanne is one of those third sector CEOs who combine incredible professionalism with a fiery determination to support her cause. In her case the protection of primates. This has led her into battle in gypsy camps in Greece as she rescued dancing bears. And in China. She runs Twycross Zoo which is the biggest collection of primates in the world.

The zoo has a fascinating history. Set up in 1963 by 2 ladies with business flare , Badham and Evans (Evans is still alive - 92- and involved in the Zoo Suzanne tells me). They started with just a few monkeys as pets but then got given more and started collecting. Their chimpanzees are the original PG Tips chimps- so they made enough money on royalties to buy a rectory and start the Zoo!

Suzanne faced a financial challenge from hell when she has started a bold new developement of a visitor and training centre. Then came the Lehman brothers collapse and their investments were decimated. But she reorganised and refinanced and survived. With true grit she said whatever happened she would not allow the collection of animals to be broken up and sent off to who knows what conditions. It's true that one of our distinguishing features is that strong and fierce commitment to our beneficiaries. A third sector CEO isn't just doing a job; they are on a mission. She also tells me she had a severe governance crisis which she survived and transformed.

Incidentally Suzanne tells me their new centre is ideal for board and staff awaydays. You can even have dinner with snow leopards watching you!


And yesterday was a double whammy. Lunch with my old Oxford friend the Irish Ambassador , at the Embassy , and then dinner at the Royal College of GPs. Neil Hunt is their CEO and a member and their Chair is my friend Clare Gerada (another dedicated and fiery woman!).

We need to develop strong links with GPs now they will have a stronger commissioning role. So with a group of my health members and a bunch of their leading GPs we talked about how to maximise links, enthuse GPs about our sector's potential for delivery and patient advocacy.

But this over lunching takes it toll. I was somewhat tired this morning. Hope my Chair is not too harsh on me at my supervision meeting this afternoon !

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