Well it’s been a busy week at ACEVO and in Downing Street. I had a good conversation with our new Minister for Civil Society on Wednesday. He has a strong record on finance and in charity – having founded his own charity in 2010. He is particularly interested in the power of social finance, and he will be speaking at an ACEVO fringe event on this topic at the Conservative Party Conference. At ACEVO we are keen to see progress on the role of civil society in public service delivery and I look forward to working with him on this in future.
But that said, it is sad to see Nick Hurd leave the post. He leaves OCS as the longest-serving Minister for Civil Society, and with an excellent record behind him on National Citizen Service, the Community First Fund and much more. He was widely respected on all sides of the sector as you can see from the plaudits that have come in this week.
I was interested to read Nick’s full resignation letter to the Prime Minister which conveys the range of his achievements and of his continued interest in the power of Britain’s civil society.
The comprehensive letter – which reads more like a handover note – points particularly to the importance in the next few years of making it easier for charities and social enterprises to properly participate in public service delivery. Nick recognises the crucial importance of access to social finance – which government still must improve on. He also points to the massive untapped potential of social value-based commissioning:
“There is of course much more that can be done to make it easier for social entrepreneurs and socially responsible businesses to create social value. The Social Value Act was a useful start but cannot be the end of our efforts to encourage intelligent commissioning from a diverse market of suppliers, including charities, public sector mutuals and social enterprises. We have yet to unlock the full value that they can add in helping us tackle some of the most stubborn social challenges that undermine the country. It is hard to see us meeting the challenge of delivering ‘better with less’ without our social economy fully engaged.”
So here is some useful advice for our sector and for Brooks as he steps in to post. Lots to develop on social value and on financing our sector’s social ambitions. And let’s not forget the importance too of protecting our right to speak out. We have just two months now before the Lobbying Act kicks in. The chilling effect is already being felt. A good letter in the Times this week by our friends at Bond put the urgency of the matter in clear terms. Its words should speak for us all.
“We and many others call for the act to be replaced by one which regulates party-political lobbying while safeguarding civil society’s right to speak out. As it is, the Lobbying Act is a threat to a healthy democracy.”
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