Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Make or Break

It is that sort of week in some respects. Two major `pitches' to potential social investors will determine how much of a success 2008 will be for me as CEO. Sometimes things really are that simple. Get the money and and we can develop Speaking Up to double what it is now in the next four years. Fail and I could be losing certain posts by the end of the financial year.

One of the tricksy things about having a bit of `success' and the accompanying PR is that the world assumes you're in clover when you're actually just as near the stinging nettles as everyone else. Nearer in fact because when you're growing you are exposed to a lot more risk and `unknowns'.

Also, funders and investors can occasionally pass over you, assuming you don't really need them any more. This happened sort-of recently, from the most unlikely source. Truth was never has our need been greater. But unfortunately I couldn't get physically in front of people to tell them this.

The Tories have launched an excellent policy paper on the `Civil Society' sector as they are calling it. It is crisp, well-argued and perhaps most surprisingly quite centrist in tone with references to strange fruit such as `Conservative Co-operatives'. Can't quite imagine what Sir Keith Joseph would have made of it. But I think that's the idea. Its about them convincing the sector that it is viewed as a serious player, that the Conservatives have a social vision and heart and that we do have a future when (and it is when I'm afraid) Labour lose power.

Overall I think the public sector has more to fear than our sector when the new Goverment is elected. The Tories see us as part of the `society-led' solution to social problems in contrast to the statism of Labour which has dragged parts of sector into its own operational style and image. I can identify a bit with this as our own big tranche of Government funding comes with a wodge of paperwork and agreements that match any used in a public agency.

So, yes I am impressed that the party of the Right has bothered to do this. It shows we probably have little to fear from them and that they are serious about tackling social problems. The cynic in me remembers New Labour saying very similar things from Opposition in the middle 1990s when it was building its coalition.

Events. Its been a busy week outside pitch-preparation. Highlights have been a Masterclass delivered for 12 eager people at DSCs Charity Fair. Did a mock up of Dragons Den which people absolutely loved. Especially the judges. Its quite a trip having someone pitch to you, even in make-believe.

Also met my mentee Matt Stevenson-Dodd who is now CEO of Young Enterprise North West having just moved on from Unique social enterprise which he founded. Myself and Matt hold a lot in common and we connected very quickly when we met on the first day of the Ambassador programme last year. He's inherited an organisation in mid-life (it was founded in the 1960s) with all the inherent strengths and weaknesses.

He's got a big change agenda and he's making all the right moves. Half-believe he doesn't really need me that much but he's really satisfying to work with on issues. His style is to be open and very matter of fact with people - but he has an integrity which is what enables him to still take people with him. I have no doubt that Matt will be one of the leading lights in the sector in less than 10-15 years time.

Yesterday saw me leave the house at 7am not to return till 10pm after a work dinner at which one of my senior team gently reminded me that I need to remember to take care what I say about individuals and orgs on my blog (having trashed the business model of one of our large customers last week). Missed the kids both ends of the day. Often this does my head in but, for once, I felt OK about it. Relieved to not be leaving today till 9am. The ritual of getting them up, making their breakfasts and dressing them is part of a Good Day for me and I am looking forward to the cries from next door that will come in exactly 41 minutes time.

We are tossing around whether or not to move to a quieter area while the market is still low and spent part of the weekend looking at houses. Suffolk, unlike most of Essex, Herts and Cambs, still has large areas of rural tranquility only three or four miles from its main towns.

While this is all under threat from the crazy idea that we should cover S England in concrete and `Eco-Towns, it is something I'd like to enjoy while it lasts. Although I am as far from a hippy as it is possible to be, I find trees and greenery incredibly soothing and spirit-enhancing. I want to live in the seasons and walk out of my house onto muddy paths, not an A road.

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