One of the third sector’s unsung success-stories of the last couple of years is the charity Help for Heroes (H4H).
Set up in October 2007 by former Royal Greenjack Bryn Parry and his wife, it started as a sponsored bike ride. Today, only two years on, it has now raised many millions to directly help wounded servicemen and their families and is a household name.
There's a few things I like rather a lot about H4H. One is that it clearly provides something nobody else, particularly the Government, is delivering very well right now: direct, practical, timely help for wounded men. Help that the wounded themselves praise to high-heaven.
Especially when compared to the bureaucracy and insensitivity they often face from the Government. Indeed the contrast between HM Government and the no-nonsense, low-overhead, empathic approach of H4H could not be more stark.
Another is that H4H have drawn public attention to a forgotten group. While 200 service personnel have now died in Afhganistan, there are now estimated to be up to 4000 very seriously wounded men (and they are almost all men) who will need care-for-life, often with brain injuries as well as physical ones.
Little provision has been made in the public finances for them long-term. H4H, while scrupulously apolitical, has skillfully guided public and media attention, onto the issue.
A final thing I really like about H4H is that it has come in from left-field within the existing charity world leaving certain other forces charities feeling red-faced.
Good. That is what new organisations are supposed to do. Filling gaps and shaking up sectors that clearly hadn't been quite on the ball. All sectors benefit from competition and vigorous new entrants. It raises everyone’s game.
Or, in the case of H4H, actually changes the game. For H4H has, in quite an extraordinary way, caught the public mood, which was previously lacking means of expression, and turned it into something incredibly positive and powerful.
For me, H4H is primary evidence of the UK’s strong civil society and the openness of our system to motivated individuals to make good new things happen.
Wouldn’t it be great, therefore, to see Parry and his team headlining this Autumn’s conference platforms, rather than the predictable parade of top CEOs, think-tankers and quango-heads?
Fat chance I suspect. Because the chattering classes of the third sector tend to avoid discussing the our military heroes very openly (it is deeply unfashionable, I sense). But the truth is that we should all actually be garlanding Parry and H4H for their impact – and showing us all how it is done.
Because H4H represents the very best of the third sector and, yes, I will say it, the very best of Britain