Wednesday 31 October 2012

Phil Collins

No, not the singer. The Deputy Editor of the Times and speech writer extraordinaire. He was talking to a group of my members at a dinner last night at our friends in CCLA.

And what a star Phil is. Of course it helps that I agree with his articles and editorials in the Times; that indicates genius clearly.

He was talking about how to make good speeches and he had the gathered charity CEO audience in thrall. Some important points I relay for general edification.

You need a good speech. Not necessarily a great one. We don't all need to be Barack Obama. But mediocre is not good.

You must remember context of audience and subject. So think about your audience. Don't patronise them; or give them a speech that does not speak to them and their concerns. Context is vital.

Emotion should go into a speech because it is an act of performance. But it is not all emote. You need Logos; the rational bit. Words are important. So a period of thinking before you write is essential.

So with a blank sheet; first thing: think about audience. What do they know? What level of knowledge or interest in subject? Who are they? Are you informing? Are you persuading? Are you inspiring? What is your primary purpose in this speech?

Set expectations correctly. Only a short time to do this. So many speeches fail because you end up trying to do too much and lose the way.

So now ready to put down argument. Has to be done in a sentence. Has to be something people disagree with. Conflict. Do not caricature an opponents argument. You must put an opposite view in terms they understand. It essentially a dialogue you are setting up.

So write down your central argument. Write it in one sentence. Who disagrees with it?

Then take the sentence and build into a paragraph- a vivid way of encapsulating ideas and narrative. Then you can build into a page or two.

A good speech must be authentic.

Avoid jargon (unless it's right for audience). Language not used in the pub is best avoided. Think tabloid.

Be yourself. So watch yourself and listen to yourself beforehand.

Use silence.

Learn the beginning. Learn the end. End with a flourish. Book-ends are crucial.

Now that is a very rough Bubb encapsulation of the talk. But I'd strongly recommend the book he has just published.

"The Art of speeches and presentations".

From Capstone Publishing. Also available as an ebook. So get onto Amazon now! This is a great investment.

Any CEO in our sector has to be able to make effective speeches and presentations; for fundraising, for tender pitches, conferences, with clients and Ministers. It is cote to the job. You must communicate well as a Chief.

And of course Phil had some great anecdotes from his time in No 10; but I'm not repeating them here. You should have come to the dinner to hear them!

Stephen Bubb

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Mental Health and Chugging

Ed Miliband was right to criticise Jeremy Clarkson and Janet Street-Porter on Monday for demeaning people with mental health problems. As he said, we need to see attacking sufferers the same as in the fight against racism, sexism and homophobia.

The Labour leader has also proposed ensuring the NHS constitution will guarantee that mentally ill people have access to therapies in the same way as the physically ill are provided with drugs and treatment.

With the cost of mental illness to the NHS believed to be around £10bn we need reform.

As he said,

"One in four of us will have a mental illness at some point in our lifetime.

There are so many people in Britain today who could be treated but who are intimidated from seeking help. And so many people who need support but believe that no-one will care.

For far too long our leading politicians have been far too silent about mental health, part of a taboo running across our society which infects both our culture and our politics"

ACEVO very much welcomes Miliband's announcement that he has set up a taskforce – led by Stephen O'Brien, the Chairman of Barts Health NHS Trust and Vice-President of Business in the Community – to draw up a strategic plan for mental health in society.

Although the aim is that the next Labour government can begin work immediately on implementing reform, if there are good ideas then we should expect the current Government to implement them. There is a fairly good cross party consensus on mental health. Good ideas, wherever their origin, should be welcomed.

But it is good to have a leading figure highlight the need for change on mental health. It's an area where a third of all services are delivered through the third sector. Many of my members lead mental health orgs and do great work in this field

Mental health services have been hit hard by council cuts, yet demand is rising. One of the more disturbing aspects of benefit and disability changes is the way they have impacted the mentally ill. The behaviour of the ATOS company in doing reviews has been appalling when it comes to understanding mentally ill people's capacity for work.

With another 12 billion to be cut from welfare budgets how much more will this hit the mentally ill?

On the way into the office yesterday I was "accosted", in a very charming way, by a chugger; For Shelter. So I thought after my recent Blog the least I could do is to sign up for a monthly contribution. Shelter does superb work. Brilliantly led by Campbell Robb who has to balance the need to provide services which are in increasing demand with the need to be an ever stronger advocate for the homeless. Government does not always like what he says. But they should. We should all be seeking to help charities like Shelter in whatever way we can. As the winter draws in the plight of those who live on the streets is ever more pressing.

And this shows that chugging works. I've never quite understood why people object to chuggers. They are usually most charming and if you don't want to talk to them they do not persist. I suspect those that whinge about chugging are in fact tight fisted and don't like to be reminded how mean they are by demands for giving. More chugging I say!

Monday 29 October 2012


Last week was full of TUC general Secretaries; well 2 anyway; the current GS Brendan Barber and the GS designate, Frances O'Grady.

Brendan was speaking at the retirement Gig for an old friend, Jonathan Baume, the General Secretary of the FDA, the top civil servants union. Jonathan has been in his role for nearly 13 years and so overlaps myself and we have got to know each other well (he is an Anglican on the Catholic wing too!). ACEVO and the FDA have much in common as a "bosses union". His leaving do at the Atheneum was a joy. Packed to the gunnells with present and past Permanent Secretaries and other doyens of the establishment, we even had Francis Maude MP making a valedictory address; that was after a witty and punchy speech from Brendan. But it was also packed with the Union establishment; my old friend Ray Collins who I knew doing education for the TGWU (now Unite) in Transport House back in the 70s was there. Of course he is very grand now as Lord Collins following his sterling career as the Labour Party GS.

So a networking dream; had a fascinating chat with Sir David Normington who, as the civil service Commissioner is my Boss as one of the independent public appointment assessors. He is about to become Vice Chair of NSPCC and they are recruiting now for a new CEO.

My second TUC event was an ACEVO lunch on Friday with Frances and a group of my members to talk about relations between unions and the sector. As I said, these ought to be better. Anyone who knows the union movement realises the important work they do in both supporting and representing members, in ensuring proper health and safety regulations are adhered to, and in training. They have been a strong force for promoting diversity (despite the rather overwhelmingly macho image of the leadership) and the TUC in particular have a great record on economic analysis and advocacy.

This is often drowned out by the more strident voices and an image that they see the third sector as an inferior place to work compared to the public sector. The rhetoric on "trojan horses" and "marketisation" is hardly helpful to rational debate on the future of public services and can be seen as degrading the mainstream work of many staff in our sector. Its also a curious recruitment strategy and one of the reasons union membership in our sector is weak.

We had a useful debate on these issues; Frances reminded me she had worked in the voluntary sector, just as I had once worked in the TGWU! And Joe Irvin, NAVCA, reminded us he had gone from working in the TGWU to the voluntary sector. He, Ray aka Lord Collins, and I were good friends from those days!

I had to dash from the lunch as I was on the Judging Panel for the Health Services Journal innovation awards (a fascinating experience!)so I missed the news item about Kate Allen. Apparently Unite have demanded her resignation. Unite seem to be specialising in these personal attacks; there is a long list of people who they want to expel or resign.

There may well be issues in Amnesty International which have led to the recent strike but these need to resolved in an appropriate fashion; attacking Kate is disgraceful. Kate is a great Sector leader, her work in Amnesty over the years has been a beacon in highlighting the plight of prisoners of conscience;including many trade unionists locked up for their union activities. Attacking her in this way seems a funny way for a union to act.

But overall a good discussion and Joe and I promised to reflect on how we can move relationships on in a way that reflects what we both have to offer in building a better and more just society.

Friday 26 October 2012

Europe can sometimes help!

Amazing that the EuropeanCommission believe that when most European Governments have to cut their budgets, they can brazenly propose big increases for themselves. It’s behavior like this that makes Europe so unpopular in the UK.

But when the Commission and Parliament do something good, it's worth congratulating them. Indeed there is a danger that because of widespread Euroscepticism we fail to notice important changes. Such changes to funding for our sector were announced this week. These major advances are largely due to the lobbying of the Euclid network, based at ACEVO and led by my Director, Filippo Addarii.

The European Parliament has approved new funding rules that will make it easier for charities to apply for and receive European Union grants.

The decision was the last step needed to introduce the European Financial Regulation, which governs how all EU funding is administered.

This includes the Social Fund and the Regional Development Fund, both of which are likely to have several billion pounds available for charities.

The new regulation has set time limits for the funding process that mean charities should take a maximum of nine months to receive funding. At the moment, the process often takes well over a year.

Under the new regulation, charities can count in-kind payment and volunteering as match funding for lower-value grants, and can include the amount of VAT they pay in their costs when applying for grants.

In my view one of the most important changes is that to the regulation has increased the threshold below which charities can use simpler administrative procedures, and allows charities to build up surpluses and reserves without being penalised. At the moment if you receive a strategic grant you are not allowed to make a surplus!!

The new version of the regulation will comes into force in January 2013. So it's 3 cheers to Euclid! Great lobbying.

PS. Congratulations to Charlie Elphicke MP and his Dog Star. He took home the trophy in the Westminster Dog of the Year contest yesterday. A cute picture in the Times. However not a patch on the wonderful Bubb Hound, who is the most beautiful dog in the UK!

Thursday 25 October 2012

National Citizen Service

Was I being targeted I wondered? 2 visits this week from organisations involved with NCS; a project I have not been entirely uncritical of given its old fashioned social engineering. I've never been sure that funnelling money into summer schools for public school kids to mix with the poor; presumably so that said poor will become better citizens whilst toffs discover poor people aren't feral , was the best use of scarce resources for youth services!

But I must say the experience of the 2 organisations I met have persuaded me there is merit in the scheme, especially as it has been developing away from its crude social mix origins.

Craig Morley runs the Challenge Network, which is one of the main organisations involved in NCS. Next year up to 15,000 young people will take part in The Challenge programme across the country, including all Greater London boroughs. He has asked me to visit the programme next August.

Worth setting out what they do to give you an impression of the scope of the programme.


"Team Challenge week (residential)

During the second week of the programme, young people stay at a residential accommodation within their local area (typically a university hall of residence). The objectives of this week are twofold:

to enable young people to learn soft skills such as teamwork, leadership and communication to provide opportunities for young people to interact with members of their local community that they wouldn't usually mix with. This is achieved through the young people visiting a community organisation over two days where they design and deliver skills workshops for the service users.

Real Challenge week (non-residential)

Young people spend the week planning two social action projects they will deliver over September weekends:

A sponsorship activity that will raise awareness of and funds for a local charity or community organisation A community campaign that focuses on a specific problem or issue within their local area. Past campaigns have focused on improving poor street lighting and methods that encourage people to get to know their neighbours Real Challenge week culminates in the young people taking part in a Dragons Den style funding pitch, where they have to secure the necessary funds for their projects.

What you can visit/active roles you can play A community partner visit Host a professional visit for a team of 12 young people, giving them an insight into your organisation and providing constructive feedback on their funding pitch Act as a dragon on a funding pitch. "

But what I thought was key was that there is strong follow on by the people involved in continuing to stay involved and to volunteer. Frankly unless the 2 weeks led to more engagement and involvement in community and sector organisations. And they have evaluated the projects to prove they do.

Craig is also an impressive CEO. He has scaled up the organisation dramatically. We chatted about how we can promote scalability in our sector. He is a strong believer in a businesslike and professional approach to running a show and has grown his Challenge network to a £22m, 250 staff outfit in 5 years.

I wonder sometimes if we get into a cult of the "small". Of course, we know small charities and community organisations make huge contributions. Some do not need nor want to scale. But others should. There is such a thing as economies of scale! And if our mission is so incredibly strong and right then an ambition to grow big is a laudable one. We should support that. We want to see more big charities capable of taking on the SERCOs of this world.

Then yesterday I met Stephen Greene who runs Rockcorps.

They have the rather natty line of "got2give2Get". So they pull together young people who volunteer in the local community and then they get a ticket to a rock concert for people like Lady Gaga (even I have heard of her). Stephen says again they hve a good record of people coming back to volunteer again. And he is able to appeal to a whole bunch of young kids who probably would not get involved otherwise but are lured in by the promise of tickets. It a rather fine idea! Stephen is also involved in preparations for setting up the company outside Government who will run the scheme. At the moment run form Cabinet Office, so it needs to escape.

It is clear the NCS scheme is evolving and changing. It will need to change more. It will reach a peak and then they will have to be prepared for more innovation and to drop rigid criteria on social mixing, for example, which have stopped bodies like the Princes Trust from getting involved. The aim is to cover all young people so they will need to be flexible.

Overall , this is a scheme that is evolving in a good way and where our sector can lay an expanding role. And let's hope in the future we will be at scale so we can expel the private sector form any provision!! Not that I object to SERCO. I just want it all non profit!

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Bathing and the Treasury.

By the end of Tuesday I was pooped. Due to go to a reception with Dame Tessa Jowell I bailed out and went home. Had a long soak in the bath listening to Dvorak's 9 the live from the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester.

But I needed to gear up for a joust at HMT in the morning. A meeting with the Economic Secretary, Sajid Javid MP…a set of thousands from the sector (I sometimes wonder if Treasury officials do this in the hope we will all be discordant voices, certainly it was am interesting mix of people!). But we were on the same page so that foiled that desire. It was a mix of the macro and micro. I made clear that as far as charity CEOs were concerned the big issue is the spending review. I said whatever view one took on spending cuts if the Government continue to cut but fail to reform the way we deliver services we are courting disaster. Already members are pointing to the damage done to vulnerable people and communities by things like welfare and disability cuts. I said the need for public service refrom is as strong as ever and the Government were not pushing this issue enough. They had taken foot off the pedal, yet by using the sector they could both provide better people focused delivery and in a more cost effective way.

I enjoyed the more radical approach of our friends from SCVO. The very talented Ruchir Shah, Head of Policy in Scotland had a very cogent and articulate argument against current Government economic policies. He was supported by Katherine Trebeck from Oxfam Scotland and the HumanKind Index, who argued for a more radical approach to economic policy. Feisty and pointed; they made a strong case for the importance of our sector even though you could tell the Minister was not exactly agreeing!

Though I must say I came away thinking Sajid is a force to be reckoned with. So, someone who is going far. Good intellect and strong engagement with us. He is going up that greasy pole I predict. Hope he heard what we were saying!

We talked about gift aid, small donations, rate relief and attacked the anal retentive HMRC who regard our sector as a hotbed of fraud and malcontent. I also attacked the Treasury for their failure to understand the economic power of our sector.

And as if to underline my concerns I read the story about Shelter today:

“Shelter has said it is likely to close the eight branches that are under threat as a result of severe cuts to legal aid funding in England.

The homelessness charity recently opened a consultation with staff to examine options for the future in light of the huge funding hole it is facing once the government’s cuts take effect. Shelter employs around 150 people under its legal services contracts and the funding cuts will reduce its legal aid funding for face-to-face advice services by around 50 per cent.”

I saw Campbell Robb , Shelter's dedicated CEO, in Manchester. He was deeply fed up that the work they do to support homeless people is being curtailed even though homelessness is rising. A sign of problems to come. The changes to housing benefit. Introducing universal credit at a time of major cuts , recession and rocketing rents ISA recipe for social injustice and real hardship in communities battered by the longest recession the country has faced for centuries.

As homelessness rises we need to ensure more support and use of our sector, not less !

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Growth not cuts!

That was the strong message of Will Hutton at our ACEVO Learning With Leaders lunch yesterday at CCLA . A fine performance from Will; Principal of Herford, author, economist and polemicist; he poured scorn on the Government's economic policies. He said it was ludicrous not to use public debt as an economic tool to drive growth; particularly when debt is the cheapest it has been for Government for 300 years. He castigated business for its failure to innovate and lamented the UK's failure to provide a climate that drives innovation.

I questioned him why he thought there is such a consensus around the need to cut debt. I must say there does seem to be growing evidence that driving down public spending in a major recession is having seriously damaging effects, particularly on the social fabric. He argued that we should be part of the organisations demanding a change of tack and warning of social upset and disruption in communities. .

A stimulating talk. I like Will. All power to his arm; we need alternative voices.

Then it was a mad dash back to the office before heading to the Commons for dinner in honour of Harriet Baldwin MP , who has been my Vice Chair of the Social Investment Business and who chairs the Futurebuilders Investment Committee with firmness and conviction. She is very proud of the Futurebuiders record- with a failure rate on our loans at 1.5%. That is down to clear decisions on who to make loans too, but also an engaged investor approach which supports and helps change organisations in trouble.

Harriet is now PPS to Mark Hoban MP, the Employment Minister, so we had a chat about the Work Programme! A fine dinner in the Churchill Room in the Commons ; probably a little too fine as I managed to forget my gym bag as I dashed for home!

Indeed I could probably have stopped there as I was back in the Commons at 9am to appear before the majesty of the Commons Public Administration Select Committee who are reviewing the operation of Charity Law and the recommendations of Lord Hodgson. I was appearing with Messrs Irvin and Etherington and Cath Lee of the small charities coalition (who is also one of my trustees!).

A few sparky moments courtesy of Charlie Elphicke MP who clearly decided he would press some of my buttons (so to speak!) on issues like charity campaigning; of which I heartily approve and encourage! I do however have to admit to rather liking the smart and engaging Elphicke who had prepared his ground well by quoting from War on Want! We had a fun exchange on "toffs" ; me on public schools and the Chair on my members! And obviously a feisty exchange on trustee pay where I made a brilliant defence of Hodgson (he says modestly) against more conservative views. I was however in a minority , though with history on my side. Probably.

I was able to draw on ACEVO's survey of its members to make the point that we are not arguing that all trustees should be paid but that those charities that believe there is a case for payment should not be prevented from doing so!

And back to the office finally to recover.

Monday 22 October 2012

Carpet Bombing?

David Nicolson, the CEO of the NHS has been waxing lyrical about the carpet bombing of privatisation. Now as I know David is not opposed to choice and competition in the NHS and the remarks are too easy to take out of context.

But I thought it worth a response so did an article for HSJ which I repeat here:

I’ve heard much apocalyptic language used about competition in public services, but Sir David Nicholson’s graphic description of ‘carpet bombing’ the NHS is certainly a new one. It’s clear that Nicholson is not actually suggesting we drop any extension of choice and competition in the NHS. Unfortunately, the danger of such language is that it is used to drown out sensible debate.

It is now almost impossible to have a discussion on the role of choice and competition in health without it descending into name-calling. It has become a fact-free zone, a playground for ideologues and politicians. This risks entrenching an already overly risk-averse service, and marginalising those who argue for new approaches and innovation. It pushes charities and social enterprises to the sidelines, when we ought to be central to new ways of working. Nicholson’s comments could add to an atmosphere which risks freezing out the innovators we need, although I'm sure that is not his intention.

The NHS is, in fact, in no danger of ‘carpet bombing’. The independent sector amounts to a mere 5% of total provision. There is no bomber command of big multinationals waiting to demolish our NHS. There is, however, an army of third sector bodies who want the chance to show that they can provide services that are more cost effective, and better suited to the needs of patients, citizens and communities. Why not use them?

There is a real danger is that the shortage of rational debate will lead the health service to sleep-walk to financial disaster. The NHS must not only meet the “£20 Billion Challenge” but respond to the continuing need to rein in public spending over the next decade. The NHS cannot be isolated from the spending realities that other public services have to face up to, nor can it avoid the challenge posed by demographic and lifestyle change. It must embrace new ways of working, and that means making the most of new providers with ideas for doing things differently.

The frustrating thing is that we know there are new approaches on offer, if only the NHS would commission them. When demographic change means bigger numbers of the elderly needing health and social care, why do we not commission third sector organisations that prevent unnecessary admissions to hospital ? When we know that the vast proportion of the health budget is spent on long term conditions why do we not commission the very organisations ( Diabetes UK for example) that provide the support and advice needed to manage conditions outside hospital? Why do people die in a hospital bed when they want to die at home or in a hospice? Why do we not spend more on preventing ill-health? Our society has changed enormously since 1948, but our approach to healthcare delivery has not. We continue to deliver a service dominated by hospitals and the professionals who run them.

For a simple example of why we need to involve a diversity of providers in health care, look at care for the elderly. The British Red Cross provides wonderful support to help older people re-adjust to life at home after a spell in hospital. For instance, after a hospital admission resulting from a fall, volunteers transport the patient home, settle them in, advise neighbours or relatives of their return, help prepare a meal and make a further home visit the next day to ensure they are safe and well. Simple steps such as this not only make a huge difference to the quality of the patient’s experience of care- they also have a very significant impact on rates of readmission, leading to real financial savings. This is the kind of approach that NHS commissioners all over the country should be embracing.

Research by the Nuffield Trust and LSE has shown how strengthening choice and competition can improve quality. Clearly the process must be carefully managed and regulated, but to ignore the contribution that new providers can make is both short-sighted and damaging.

We need to move the debate from whether or not competition works, to how best to maximise the benefits whilst minimising the risks. The country's charities and social enterprises are ready and waiting to provide innovative, cost-effective, patient-centred services. Let's commission them. Otherwise we risk jeopardising the very future of the NHS.

Friday 19 October 2012

Its friday...

Well, one of those weeks, culminating in my annual Board dinner and away day; and this year coupled with our official office opening!

But good amidst all this to meet up with a member who demonstrates the value and importance of volunteering and the need for that to be managed! Paul Boissier, the CEO of RNLI leads an organiation of 35,000 dedicated lifesavers with an organised staff of 1000. Two points to make here. Volunteering to be on a lifeboat requires significant dedication and skill. That requires training and support. Government continually forget the costs and logistics of running a volunteer organisation. The work of RNLI requires a sophisticated fundraising team as they get no money from Government (nor do they seek it) and a strong full time staff team who handle the training and support and the administration of a great British institution.

Wednesday I spoke at a major Health Conference talking about the importance of commissioning the third sector to deliver services and to articulate service users needs and demands.

I referenced the interesting work of the neurological commissioning coalition which is offering to analyse the needs of people with such conditions for the CCGs so that they can ensure both a proper servcie for them and to ensure cost efficiencies. One example the fine representative of Parkinsons gave was in Oxfordshire where poor management of the conditions of 2 people led to emergency admissions to hospital at a cost of £1m whereas effective and active management would cost £12,000 a year.

I was, however, somewhat worried to hear from the DH that the new commissioning support units that will help the new CCGs will be employing....10,000 staff. Surely too many? What will they all do , apart from looking over the shoulders of the CCGs? Don't we want to see local decision making? GPs in charge ?

Still, I was off to a late lunch with an old friend James Purnell ( the great former SoS for work and pensions under Tony Blair ). He is working as a consultant to the magnificent Boston Consulting Group; with Adrian Brown who was also with us. An interesting discussion on the fate of the Work Programme! And I vented my opinions about the need for Labour to get a grip on their policy on health, and the role of the third sector as this appears to be disappearing back into the dark ages.

Our annual Board dinner was at CCLA , by appointment, purveyors of financial services to our sector. Our old friend Andrew Robinson had kindly laid on a fine repaste. He knows too well the refined tastes of the ACEVO Board ( not to mention its CEO ) and we were well fed and watered. And so my Board were in fine form for their away day session at KPMG. Direction and discussion about our plans for the next 3 years.

Then finally to the new ACEVO office, and our opening and plaque unveiling which was done by our Chair, Baroness Hayter and Theirry Weisphaut (the President of Euclid). Diane Hayter was one of our founding members 25 years ago. Indeed another Baroness , Jill Pitkeathly, who was also one of our founders, was also present. I think any gathering of celebration is enhanced by the presence of Baronesses! We were also joined by distinguished guests from the sector; great to see Steve Wyler of Locality and Joe Irvin of NAVCA who were there to fly the umbrella flag! And most notable guest of all? The Hound; making her first visit to the office. She was on fine form exploring the deep recesses of the rooms and begging for canapes!

So now I'm relaxing. Friday. Paperwork. Emails. Phone calls. Life is never dull in ACEVO!

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Food, glorious food...

Food, glorious food...

We are all fond of it! And these days I'm in for quality not quantity! A fascinating "Newsnight" yesterday about the battle being waged in the States with the big food companies for misleading labelling and the disgraceful sugar and salt etc additives in food. Should be compulsory viewing for all in DH. Jeremy- catch it on iplayer!

Apparently one wicked manufacturer doesn't put " sugar " on its ingredients but processed cane material. The valiant band of lawyers who fought the wretched cigarette manufacturers in ther States and won are now having a go with food giants. Good luck to them.

Pity we don't have such actions here. Frankly the supermarkets and food companies do the minimum to advertise sugar and salt and other additive content. The government should be forcing a common traffic light standard on all companies, and back that with a major promotion of what it all means. The same approach that worked so well back in the AIDS education days.

Government needs to be more muscular. Use legislation not persuasion; as these guys will do all they can to wriggle away. As consumers we need to be able to choose better. Good wholesome food is what we need. So often we get processed gunk in pretty packaging.

And hospitals and other institutions need to stop selling this gunk. Hard to get into St Thomas' hospital these days without walking past the shops selling sweets and chocolate and the coffee stores selling muffins. Even the restaurant has sweets near the counter. If the DH and hospitals can't take the healthy food agenda seriously where are we?

With diabetes the fastest growing long term condition its time for action. It's not hippy to want well baked wholemeal bread. Cereals without additives and packaging that tell us it's " healthy"! Ready meals that don't contain major chemical additions.

Acevo has a task force on the prevention agenda for health.

Time we got serious about it. End of rant!

Monday 15 October 2012

Harvest Festival and Aldershot

Harvest Festival and Aldershot

"We plough the fields and scatter,

The good seed on the ground,

And it is fed and watered,

By God's Almighty hand"

I remember the harvest hymn from childhood in a Kent village and good to hear it again in Charlbury at the weekend. It was Harvest Festival in a village where there are still farmers ploughing and scattering seed, so the Church was decorated with sheaves of corn. Difficult to have a harvest festival in Brixton I feel. Or indeed Aldershot where I was on Friday.

I was meeting the Surrey charity CEO group. A good meeting which demonstrated to me the grit and determination of our sector's Leaders in the face of much trouble. Arranged by old friend Jonathan Powell of Queen Elizabeth’s Foundation for Disabled People. I talked about the graph of doom facing local councils but the opportunity that might give to sector leaders to argue for different approaches to delivery.

I was struck by a notable absence of whinging from the Surrey CEOs, even though they have much to whinge about. We talked about the importance of delivery but also challenging those in Councils and speaking truth to power. It was a shame to hear that some councils in Surrey have a rather backward view on the role of the sector: if you deliver our services don't you dare criticise us. I heard that one backward procurement officer in Surrey CC had been threatening on "keeping quiet" if you want the contract.

I have always believed our strength comes from our power to speak up for our beneficiaries. We get involved in delivering services because we do it better; not because we aim to turn a penny. So Councils who don't understand that fundamental role should be ashamed of themselves. Our ability to speak out is what differentiates us from the A4Es and Capitas of this world.

Its always cheering to hear from CEOs at the front line; getting on with the job because they are driven by the mission of their organisations and determined, whatever the challenges, they will overcome. They will carry on ploughing their fields despite the stones thrown their way!

And finally some photo from Charlbury on a glorious autumnal harvest walk to the Pub with the Hound for my usual Sunday lunch!

Stephen Bubb

Friday 12 October 2012

Leadership; where going?

We know leadership development matters. And it matters crucially for CEOs. That's why Acevo has from the very start offered development opportunities for our members.

The Cabinet Office has appointed Dame Mary Marsh to oversee a review into leadership and skills in the voluntary sector. Mary was an Acevo member when she ran the NSPCC.

I am delighted I will be joining Mary on the working group in looking at leadership issues as they affect those right at the top of organisations- their CEOs and Chairs.

Worryingly, there are strong signs that leadership developement among CEOs is in real decline. Perhaps not surprising when finances are tight and time has to be spent protecting the mission and th role of thr organisation against less money and more demand.

Many CEOs are telling us that they no longer put aside money for leadership development. So how do we meet the challenge of doing this with less resource? I've noticed that the need for one to one support has not diminished. Our helpline advisory services and our mentoring and support offers are still in demand. Perhaps this means looking more closely at how to support CEOs through mentoring?

In times of trouble leadership development becomes more important not less, yet all development providers report a fall in demand. So what do we do? In these times I doubt more courses or residentails will work. We need to look at other ways to support our members. New technology perhaps? Better materials. Shorter seminar type events( we do a lot of these in acevo). But of course there is now less government funding for umbrella bodies in the sector to offer this kind of subsidised/free support. And frankly fundraising to support CEO development is practically non existent.

One thing is for sure- the days when it was assumed all the leadership skills were located in the private sector is long gone. We do not need patronising. Indeed , a pity the likes of Bob Diamond was not been mentored by a third sector CEO!

  Stephen Bubb

Thursday 11 October 2012

Loans are good..

I'm not good early. I hate breakfast meetings. So why was I pitching up at my third breakfast this week I asked myself as I battled the Tube crowds to het to Schroders for an Acevo breakfast meeting with Nick O'Donohue of Big Society Capital.

But a croissant and bacon sarni later I cheered up amd got into the very interesting discussion of how to expand the role of social finance. Discussion on the power of loans is becoming more prevalent in our sector and there are some interesting innovations. We have seen the SCOPE bond to support their expansion of charity shops.

Now Oxfam has joined up with investment experts to launch a fund worth up to $100m that will make "impact investments" in small and medium-sized companies in the developing world.

The Small Enterprise Impact Investing Fund, an initiative of Oxfam, the City of London Corporation and Symbiotics, an investment company specialising in microfinance and impact investment, today announced its first investment – a $1m (£625,000) loan to Xac Leasing, a machinery leasing company in Ulan Bator, the capital city of Mongolia.

Oxfam hopes the fund, which has attracted capital from private and institutional investors, will make investments that offer both a financial and a social return for small and medium-sized enterprises in the developing world. Oxfam’s role within the fund will be to measure the impact the investments have.

We have yet to fully explore the potential for social finance to help transform and remodel health and social care services. But given the financial challenges I suspect enterprising CCGs will soon BE looking at how they can use new models to help drive the change we need.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Hunt and the Old.

Well, good to bump into my old friend Simon Walker who runs the Institute of Directors. And doubly good because he invited me to the Spectator party (sponsored by Pol Roger - they don't do thing by half at the Tories!). So got the chance for a long discussion about health priorities with Jeremy Hunt. He is clear the NHS needs to get better at care for the elderly. As he also said in his speech NHS health care for the old is simply not good enough.

I spoke at 2 fringe meetings yesterday on health and talked about how we need to redirect resources when the majority of patients in hospital beds are over 60. Many should not be in hospital but end up there through inadequate help and support at home. Local councils have been slashing social care budgets (no choice because of the cuts imposed on them by Government) so we see the consequences in hospital admissions.

Let's remember that the number of over 65s will rise from 18% now to 30% in 2060. People over 80 will triple in next half century.

So the challenge for health and social care is stark. Hunt knows action is needed. And part of this, as we were discussing , is to get culture change. Charities should be at the fore front of health and care provision. The work of organisations like Age UK must be supported. The new CCGs should look at how they increase their commissioning of services from our sector. The health professionals and the managers need to think more radically about who provides services and how. CCGs could be beacons of good practise by using charities and social enterprises more.

But it is not just service provision where we are needed . Our role is also to act as champions and advocates and in this role we should increasingly play a part in design of services for the elderly. We also have a huge repository of experience and wisdom about what older people actually want from their health and social care systems. Age UK is just one of a range of superb charities who work to imporve the livrs of older people. And Age UK in particular are involved in a range of innovative projects, including impact bonds. I said at one of thre fringes we should be radical and ask CCGs to think of handling the commissioning of services to organisations like Age UK who can then commission health and social care on behalf of the older person. A people centred approach which can also ensure more cost effective use of resources.

After one of the fringes I was talking to Simon Gillespie, the inspirational CEO of the MS charity. He and colleagues have been approaching CCGs to offer them their advice about how they handle neurological conditions and what they can do to change and improve- including how they can both provide a better tailored service but also a more cost efficient one.

Exactly the same point was made to me by another active acevo member Simon Antrobus who runs Addaction. He told me they are having an external evaluation of one of their services to show a council the actual cost savings they achieve for them through their approach to addiction problems in problem families. Their " break the cycle" services are a shining example of a people centred, holistic approach which achieves better outcomes at a better cost than unjoined up and uncoordinated public service interventions.

And by the time I had done the rounds of the Spectator; having spread pearls of third sector wisdom to, amongst others, Chris Grayling and Eric Pickles, I was fair knackered and work feeling distinctly ropey. I was glad I did not have yet another breakfast speaking engagement!

But I have to admit to one lamentable networking failure. Whilst I was standing chatting to Simon I noticed a chap opposite I was sure I recognised but could not place. On his own, looking lonely but then he was in somewhat untory like garb- long shirt not tucked in a long coat and long fuzzy hair. And in the paper this morning I spot who it was. Brian May of The Queen. What a plonker I am. And what a missed opportunity for a magnificent photo of me+him on the Blog! Never mind Hunt. Me and May!

Stephen Bubb

Tuesday 9 October 2012

Birmingham, Boris and health.

Well, here I am in the Hall waiting to hear from Boris!

It was another early start. A fringe meeting with the Foundation Trust Network and the NHS confederation independent sector's David Workset talking about putting patients first. My role was to promote our sector and what we do by putting patients and citizens in charge of their care. And after Boris I'm at another health fringe on what we can do with the doctors.

Doctors should now be central to the commissioning of health care. Charities need to be beating a path to the CCG door. Making our pitch. Selling our wares, so to speak. Showing how we can deliver integrated care and support. How we can be a link between councils and CCGs on behalf of citizens.

And to cap off the day I'm at our Acevo fringe event on open public services.

Birmingham is a strange city. A living testament to the evils of the City fathers and town planners who, in the sixties did more to destroy a vibrant Victorian metropolis than the Luftwaffe. Difficult to walk far without being confronted by concrete monstrosities. By ring roads. By unpleasant tower blocks.

I played hooky yesterday and went to visit the Pugin RC Cathedral of St Chads to pay respects at the Blessed John Newman shrine. I had to navigate the 6 lane highway to reach it and in the cathedral is a stained glass window which has a depiction of the Pugin Bishop's house torn down by the 60s goths of Birmingham city in their drive to modernise and rip out all that victorian stuff that stood in the way of the progress of The Motor Car.

What a lesson for the likes of Nick Boles, our planning Minister who will join me tonight at out Fringe. What a shame there was not a more dynamic civil society in birmingham at the time to oppose the planners and save the great Birmingham Victorian heritage.

Both Birmingham cathedrals are rather fine. The Anglican has superb Burne Jones stained glass. One window the last he did - and he lived just down the road I was told.

The RCs have St Chad, Pugin and Newman. Here is newman's shrine.

Last night was a round of networking which started merrily with the Irish Ambassador's reception. I was busy complaining to a member about the trialks of all these conferences until he said, "oh come off it Stephen, you love it" and it is true that the chance to meet with lots of my members , to engage in debate, to beard Ministers,to promote what the sector does and our ambitions, and yes to also have fun is a great one. But it will be nice to see my own bed and The Hound tomorrow!

Stephen Bubb

Monday 8 October 2012

Hubbing and Bubbing...

Good to be in Oxford on friday, on the very day 70 years ago that Oxfam was founded - in the Old Library in the High St. And just 5 years later Jo Mitty, Oxfam's first employee administrator set up the world's first charity shop (still there today). Of course these days we would describe these as social enterprises , which just goes to show there is nothing new in our sector, as I remind fresh faced youths who think social enterprise and innovation is their invention! Indeed as I said at the social investment business fringe in Manchester they were making loans to social entrepreneurs in the 17th century!

I was visiting the Oxford Hub, set up by pioneering Adam O'Boyle who saw the need to encourage students to get engaged with the charity sector and to get involved in social action. So they have leased a splendid georgian building in central Oxford (formerly the Taj Mahal restaurant) and converted into an excellent meeting place, restaurant and social sector offices. They have expanded into the house next door and more recently into a small guest house. Its a traditional social enterprise model, where the profits from the business activities go into supporting the wider charitable aims of encouraging students to volunteer etc.

A great place and Adam is the type of enterprising guy you want to back! He has plans for other Hubs on this model and in negotiation for a Cambridge Hub. He wants to cover the country!

We had lunch at the Perch, a gorgeous Oxford pub of ancient lineage and set in the Port meadow; a place of walking and boating. The Hound found it most agreeable and I'm glad to say enlightened pub landlords allow dogs inside. These day there is a growing dog fascism where dogs are prohibited from inside shops,pubs, buildings etc. I'd ban the dog haters not the dogs if I had my way!

But now I'm in Birmingham. The Tory conference. I arrived yesterday. A social action reception in a ghastly airless room. I stayed for a while and then decamped with Seb Elsworth for a decent dinner ....

Up early to do a Social Investment Business fringe where I banged the table for action on more loans to the sector. Then had a private word with Nick Hurd MP afterwards. I'm now off for a lunch with City UK. And more fringes. And tomorrow another wretched breakfast fringe. Up early. Soggy croissants. Bad coffee. Why do I do this ?

Stephen Bubb

Friday 5 October 2012

At work...

Back in the office; rather pleasant to have a normal day at work! First up a session with the CEO of the Local Government association to talk on the project we are doing with them to engage with a number of local councils on their role with the sector.

Then off for a delightful lunch with Amanda Witherall, the CEO of the NHS charities association. I'm speaking at their next annual conference.

We had a most entertaining chat when we were trying to work out if she ever appeared before me when I sat of the Bench in the London Youth Courts. I was a JP for 20 years and a fascinating experience it was too. I had to step down when I took on the Acevo job but I always felt the principle of a magistracy drawn from commited citizens was a good one and one to be supported. She was a prosecuting lawyer at that time. She also has a fascinating experience running a charity which she had to wind down but in a way that preserved assets.

NHS Charities perform a great role- though some better than others it must be said. The best work with their local communities and with patients. The worst are just adjuncts of the hospital consultants. Their governance is "interesting" and the DH are reviewing it now. However they could be beacons of innovation and change when the NHS faces such big challenges.

Then onto a session with my Chair preparing for our Board awayday and our 3 year priorities discussion. Our sector faces towards the next Election with 3 parties that have yet to understand the potential of charities and social enterprises to promote growth and social justice.

Must say I was impressed with the " One Nation" speech by Ed. But I'm beginning to get tired of hearing its endless repetition. Its becoming like a hare krishna chant. As the Conservatives discovered with " Big Society" you need policies that underpin the spin. And we need to know from Labour how they see the role of the third sector.

Though did you notice that in interviews Ed kept talking about " non profits". If "third sector" was New Labour , is "non profit" One Nation Labour?

Still he talked about our sector which was more than Andy Burnham did in his speech. Strange in a health and social care service that will demand a bigger role for our sector if it is to meet the financial challenges and changing patterns of health care.

But then Labour are not alone in not having developed a well thought through policy on the sector. Ill be in Birmingham next week and shall be listening intently to the PM speech and what he has to say on us. Many members are feeling that we are sidelined or ignored.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Old times....

Well , I'm back on the train to good old London. Somewhat tired after a good night of "networking". The Midland hotel was jammed full with putative Ministers, hacks of all sorts, think tankers and advisors. Bit late leaving though but these days I have learnt to moderate the intake of noxious substances that impede one's mind. Still , I left my talented Director of Policy engaged in meaningful discussion with a bunch of labour councillors! That will be good for his soul.

The one advantage of these annual events is you get to see people you have not met in ages, so it was very excellent to bump into Stephen Benn. He is an exact contemporary of mine amd the eldest son of Tony Benn. When I lived in Notting Hill, I got to know the Benns well. I was a Governor on Holland Park Comprehensive when Caroline Benn , Tony's wife was Chair.

And here he is , with that other excellent character Brendan Barber, General Secretary of the TUC. Both rather larger than life....or am I shrinking?

Tuesday 2 October 2012

Ed & David, dancing and demand for loans

Who was it organised a breakfast fringe on the day after the Acevo - community party?  It was fun. We were delighted that Ed Miliband made his only trip to fringe events last night to speak at our event. He paid tribute to the work Acevo does and, in particular, to our campaign on the charity tax.

It has become the must do party now!  And people flock in to see the Leader of the third sector lead off the dancing!  Last year it was me and Anne McQuire MP first on the floor. And Anne was back at the party last night but when I announced we would be repeating our dancing triumphs Anne had strangely disappeared.

But I was not deterred and grabbed the estimable Carina McKeown,  formerly acevo now Beat Bullying. We set the trend and it was much commented upon; Richard Hawkes, Acevo member and SCOPE Chief said to me "Stephen, do the third sector a favour, carry on dancing "  or it may have been "stop "but it was very noisy). 

One of the keynote events of Conference  was our Acevo - City+Guilds Fringe on youth unemployment with David Miliband, who chaired the Acevo Commission on this. He was on superb form. Commanding, on top of the brief and engaging with the questioners.

He argued that we need local action on youth unemployment. There is "Small beer from national governent on all this."

He argued that there is not yet a sense of national crisis about this. So little political pressure. Our job to raise awareness and acevo one of key players in this.

At the Conference Liam Byrne MP announced 10 local commissions are being set up . Local coalitions to work on solutions . Councils can pioneer job guarantees. And they can lead partnerships for job creation and better training opportunities. 

Already Acevo has been working on job Summits- 2 further ones are organised for N London and Manchester. We are working with Birmingham City Council to back a major Council initiative on youth jobs.

And then it was off to the Acevo event with the Labout team in the Lords. Worked up by Peter Kyle and Lord Bassam last year - the aim was to talk with third sector attendees at the conference on how to use the Lords for campaigning. It was so successful last year we repeated it. And it was standing room only. We now need to do similar events at the Tories and Lib-Dems Conferences.

And this morning it was the Social Investment Business fringe with the New Statesman. I was talking about the letter I have just sent to Francis Maude MP on the need for loans now.

Worth repeating the letter here; 

" Last week we heard of plans for a new state bank and much talk of stimulating industry, in particular SMEs, to encourage a growing economy.

As you know, our sector is now major source of employment and a key deliverer of crucial services, yet there appears to be no plans to encourage or stimulate our sector to play its part in a growth strategy.

The Social Investment Business (SIB) is currently surveying third sector organisations including its investees and potential investees. Of the 188 current respondents, 169 have financing needs in order to grow. Their total demand for finance is £343m. Most of these cannot access finance yet more than 70% would take a loan or another form of repayable finance.

Access to simple debt finance for our sector needs a step-change if the sector is to achieve its potential of supporting economic recovery. Big Society Capital is providing a welcome injection of capital into the market but is not structured to provide simple loans into the sector quickly and at scale. The banks who were risk averse to our sector even before the financial crash are now even more difficult to access. That means the lenders who are willing make straightforward loans are few and far between.

It’s time the Government acted. We need access to loans so that we can step up to the challenges we all face. As the CBI report last Monday indicated, there are still many savings that could be made if we diversified more of our public services. Many of the business surveyed by SIB want to expand in this area. We should support them.

I believe that one solution to this would be for the new state bank to dedicate a ring fenced fund to provide new growth generating loans into the sector quickly and at scale. I would be happy to discuss this issue, but I believe action is required now as currently we risk failing to capitalise on the sector's potential contribution to growth."

Glad to say the FT covered this prominently this morning!

Stephen Bubb

Monday 1 October 2012


Well , I have swapped the delights of the Hanseatic state of Hamburg for the rainy pleasures of Manchester. The Labour Party Conference. We have our fringe event at lunchtime; David Miliband talking on  youth unemployment and the acevo Commission he chaired. And then to show ACEVO is strictly non party political I will be welcoming Ed Miliband to the ACEVO- community evening gig.

Our party with the progressive union Community has become one of the highlights of the Conference season. Last year saw me take to the floor for a twirl to the bootleg Beatles. Who knows what we shall see tonight but I'm sure it will be videoed.....

Labour need to work on their strategy for the third sector.  So far it has simply been to attack "Big Society". And fair enough , they are the opposition. But with the coalition hardly mentioning this any more , they need to spell out a more realistic view , especially on public service reform.

A knee jerk , " public sector is best" approach will not hack it. That can be seen in their response on health. Andy Burnham has yet to outline how he would meet the challenge of shifting resources into community support , prevention and social care. we know the problems of the work programme but Labour needs to spell out how it will tackle the next round of tendering after the 5 year contracts come up. On crime will we see a shift to a full scale rehabilitation revolution?

The Government seem to be downplaying the role of the sector. It ought to be centre stage , as an engine for growth , for job creation and a fairer more just society. How telling that when the Government announced the new bill on pound funded State Bank to encourage SMEs no mentions made of the third sector. Yet we know we can deliver jobs.

When I was in Devon at the CVS summit I heard from a member that her organisation had created 118 new jobs for youth under the Future Jobs Scheme. And she says that 85% are still in a job now.
We have a dearth of imagination from the Coalition about our sector .  So this is the time for a strikingly fresh approach from Labour. A third sector action plan.

To his great credit Ed has outlined the need for radical action on youth unemployment. And his record as the very first third sector Minister means we have high hopes....