It is common to hear these days how Birmingham has changed but what an understatement. This feels like a city reborn, paying homage to the human being in the way that it formerly seemed only to serve the motor-car. This is a city to walk around, where you are never far from great art and where superb modern architecture is offset by Victoriana and, of course, the sixties stuff which now, in its own way, is becoming `heritage'.
Anyway, VOICE 09. Well, I am happy to say I enjoyed myself a lot more this year than I have in previous times. There was definitely a feelgood factor, particularly on the second day, once everyone had arrived.
Highlights. Liam Byrne was, I have to say, very good indeed. Byrne is Cabinet Office Minister, ex Accenture and the kind of politician I wish we had more of: intelligent, pragmatic, nontribal and strategic.
The contrast with last year's Cabinet headliner, Hazel Blears, could not have been sharper. Byrne really understands the potential of social enterprise not just to deal with sharp-end problems but also to become a larger regenerative force. The guy has a `framework', which I really like, and a strong sense of what Britain needs to do if it is emerge from all of this change as a leading country.
David Egger was probably the best individual speaker. He runs DC Kitchen which he founded in order to push the 25% of food which Americans ordinarily chuck away back out to people who might actually want to eat it.
He spoke with passion about the new era he feels we are entering in which the Baby Boomers are turning to public-service to fill the hole in their soul left by the unfulfilled promise of the consumer-society.
This group, twinned with Generation Y(the 18-30 year olds who want a more balanced, less materially driven existence) have the power to push a real change, a change embodied by Obama. A hopeful message, delivered with American polish and professionalism.
David Cameron. Unlike, Bynre, Cameron produced a stump-speech focusing on training and skills, obviously part of the `grid' of party communication. While Cameron's overall message was consistent (Social Investment bank, Social Enterprise Zones, more involvement in public services) I didn't get any sense that the thinking had moved forward that much and his tone was somehow less clearly enthusiastic than it had once seemed.
Also he failed to connect with the audience. He used an autocue and he felt as distant as he would do were I watching on TV. And I was in the front-row. Given that is our likely future Prime Minister, I hoped for better. I really wish he had the team around him to run the country well but I fear he doesn't. A few stars: Gove, Grayling but, collectively, they don't convince. This, I think, is Labour's best - only - chance: `We may have made mistakes but are this lot really up to it?"
Had a very pleasant dinner (the company not the food) with Patrick Butler of the Guardian, Martin Kinsella of P3, Kate Welch of Acumen Trust and Nick Temple of the newly-minted School for Social Entrepreneurs. Of all the goodies announced by the OTS this week, their 500k was the one thing that made me smile ear-to-ear. The School deserve this. They deliver. They do their own thing and they have a brilliant team. I wish them the very best.