Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Week Ahead

Had a brilliant hour up with my Mum (who is visiting) and my two little kids, Wilf (5 months) and Ruby (just two) up in the verdant West Stow Country Park, just outside Bury St Edmunds where I live. Its all managed by the Forestry Commission and, like most things in East Anglia, incredibly under-used. We saw two people in the whole hour. Until that is we went to the kiddies playground! There I watched over the infant while my Mum braved the slides and sandpits.

Snatching an hour while my children have their afternoon nap.... Monday I have an interview for a Non Exec role with Futurebuilders which I need to think about. Meeting Stephen Bubb and his CEO Jonathan Lewis who I have met once and rather liked for his straightforwardness. Its one of the things I like about the best people from business - they make everything simple. I remember seeing Allen Leighton speak once and it was the same. Arresting, amusing, challenging. Noble exceptions aside, most third sector CEOs send me to sleep inside five minutes. Not least because they either play it incredibly safe or think that by being `intellectual' they are also being interesting.

Am hoping I get the Futurebuilders role. By now I have a pretty good nose for what is real and otherwise in the third sector. I also look forward to the possibility of being part of some kind of breakthrough in the financing of high potential organisations. We are due a sea-change in this country. Impetus and others have been showing what is possible when you stop pretending all charities are the same and get behind the really good ones. Let's now take that wider....

In fact let us all be OFSTED'd or something! That would really sort out a few of the laggards - and there are many. One of the shabby things about our sector is how the worst organisations often somehow survive and the best fall away through lack of support at key times. Speaking Up very nearly - not for Impetus - would have been one of them. If Futurebuilders is about backing the very best, I want to be there.

Its a heck of a week actually. I have to present at the Professional Fundrasing Conference (How trading saved my charity from closure) and do a head-to-head with Debra Alcock Tyler from DSC on whether social enterprise is a sham or not. She seems to think it is. DSC, though I love em, I think are behind the curve on this. They seem to think social enterprise is a big new threat to the small voluntary sector while not actually realising that social entrepreneurship actually defines most of these organisations!! What bugs me a lot is that the whole discussion tends to be boiled down to one about your legal structure and how much you get from grants or contracts. What matters a lot more is about how you think, how creatively you approach social problems and whether you are willing to take personal action or not. In short, are you (socially) entrepreneurial or not? The real division in this country is between organisations that are not entrepreneurial and ones that are. It is the latter which offer the best hope for social progress, just as it is only entrepreneurial companies that will save UKplc from its long-term decline as an economic power.

Managed an hour with the paper in the park while Wilf (kindly) went to sleep. All the talk was (again) of Brown and what-if-he-loses-Crewe). Personally I think he will lose Crewe, the question is by how much. The Tories haven't won a by-election against Labour in 30 years so it will be a key staging post to inevitable victory for them. So far they have benefited from `protest votes' but I suspect that once they unveil some half-decent policies (they have the excellent Policy Exchange doing their thinking for them) that will be enough to `seal the deal'. Like most people I feel a bit done-over by Labour. I earn just over 60k, I have two young kids and my wife doesn't work. I can get tax credits but, like many people with busy lives, I can't be arsed. Especially now some people are getting nasty letters demanding repayments. I just want to pay a bit less tax. Were we living in a country with the reformed public services - the liberated schools and hospitals dreamed about by Blair but blocked by Brown - I may feel differently. But I don't. I like in country whose public sector is largely unchanged, saddled with 1m more mainly unionised staff (all with lucractive pensions), who don't like what organisations like Speaking Up - with our aspirations to public service delivery - offer. Well, my answer to that is Screw You. You've broken my trust, you've ripped us all off and you've blown your chance to create a better society. Let the Tories have a go. It can't be any worse, surely.

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