Friday, April 3, 2009


My last day before heading off the south coast to spend Easter getting to know Katy and the kids again after a few weeks of frenetic activity. First week off since Christmas and, I sense, just in time. We are house-swopping for the first time. The website is full of nice houses owned by people who don't have loads of spare cash for proper holidays. I feel both excited, and slightly nervous!

Had a good run-in this week: Rattled off my Guardian and Third Sector pieces without too much pain, had excellent meetings with Jonathan Lewis, CEO of Futurebuilders and Peter Holbrook of Sunlight, which is probably my favourite social business of all time. Another keynote yesterday, this time at the Big Lottery Fund. Essentially about what to do now that Lottery money isn't really there any more. Didn't dare charge for that one, given how much we've had off the Lottery down the years

And between times lots of lovely work work inside Speaking Up. I don't talk about that stuff much here, but I have to say, we have such good people in our organisation. The people really make the place what it is. And I can't praise my senior team enough. They really are what every CEO dreams about. How else do you think I manage to spend so much time doing what I think a CEO should do: build profile, plan for the future, make the right connections.

Something has bothered me a lot recently though. Not to with us but to do with one of our major contracts with a state organisation which shall remain unnamed here. Working with most of our government partners, whether local or national, is, most of the time, fine. The monitoring can be onerous at times, but seldom excessive.

Last week, however, I learned that a body paid by the state wanted to know not only who I had met in recent times but also wanted copies of my calendar and email correspondence to prove that I was not making things up. This was part of an audit which, bizarrely, has now to be audited by somebody else, not from the monitoring body, to check their audit wasn't phoney.

Civil liberties issues aside, this captures perfectly where I think things have gone a bit wrong in government this last few years. People are being paid to watch the people who are watching us watch ourselves. It does not indicate trust. It sends a very bad message. It doesn't help anyone, least of all the people we are all seeking to serve. Yes it is public money. And that's exactly my point. If the public actually knew about this waste - which of course they never will, it is never actually calculated - they would be scandalised.

As you will know now, I am not a Tory but Cameron stuck a very strong note with me recently when he said (I think at Voice 09) that the relationship between the state and its people (including the third sector) needs to start from a position of trust. I don't feel particularly trusted right now, knowing someone somewhere is poring over my diary, possibly ringing people to check we met, what we talked about etc.

Time for a new approach. Time a holdiday. Back online 14th April.

No comments: