Friday, 24 September 2010

All About Structure

Hi Everyone

Welcome to my Friday Blog No.4/10

Not a lot to report this week, though I am intensely busy on internal matters (Incorporation, Pqasso, Annual report and Accounts and so on). Necessary, but not interesting to readers.

So, a few wider reflections. There was an excellent article in The Times on Thursday about the Big Society, referring to a new book by Robert Putnam (author of the famous “Bowling Alone”) in which he points to the importance of faith organizations in providing a disproportionate number of volunteers and community activists, but wondering how social capital will be built as society becomes increasingly secular. By contrast, there is a really important study commissioned by Guildford Diocese -  “Faith Communities – The Hidden Contribution” – into the economic impact of the work done by faith communities.

I was at NCVYS in London on Thursday at a very useful networking meeting about the Value of Infrastructure Programme, being the title of a programme being developed by NCVO about how to measure the impact of infrastructure organizations. Impressive. We also exchanged thoughts about financial cuts, the Big Society, and new structures. It seems to me that everyone I meet is working really hard against a cumulative background of cuts and increased workload. But I really do think we must have a sense of where we want to be in the voluntary sector AFTER the cuts, and I don’t yet see that vision emerging. My contribution will be to write “think pieces” on social impact bonds, and restructuring.

Big Picture: There are positives. I proof read the next edition of Surrey Youth News this morning – it is full of amazing stories about what young people have done: six Girl Guides swimming across the Channel; a disabled young man doing the DoE expedition training in his “off- road” wheel chair; Vinvolved volunteers working on an intergenerational art project with elderly people, and so on. Then there was an inspirational speech by Dame Stephanie Shirley to the Community Development Foundation, Surrey, on Tuesday about the value, and virtue, of philanthropy. See their website.

Personal disclosure: Delighted that Wasps beat Leicester last Saturday – great match; this week- end by way of contrast I am off on retreat this week- end to the very serene and beautiful Benedictine Abbey at Worth, near Crawley. No phones, tv, computers, indeed complete silence from 9.00pm until 9.00 am. A joy.

Trivial pursuit: I have had complaints (from NCVYS colleagues) that my questions are too obscure, so this is easier:
a)       Last week’s answer: Aphrodite was Greek goddess of Love; Love were a great American West coast group with whom Jimi Hendrix played in his early years!
b)       This week: (Classical music) 2010 is the 400 th anniversary of which famous piece of classical music (and no.2 in my desert island discs )??

Enjoy your weekend!


Friday, 17 September 2010

Meetings, Meetings

Hi Everyone,

Welcome to my Friday Blog No.3/10.

Well the main focus of the week has been preparing for Pqasso, and drafting the Members’ survey…and meetings.

We were visited by a potential  new trustee on Tuesday for an induction session and to meet our small team; she will make a great contribution to our Board.

I had a good meeting with our uniformed organisations on Tuesday evening – Scout numbers up by 4.7%,  and so too Guides. Concerns about grant cuts, and how figures of “contacts” are used by grant funders with the risk of double counting. Discussed possible use of youth centre buildings. Feedback on July ‘s Celebration of Youth and preference for an April Celebration next year.

Meetings on Wednesday of the Surrey Sports Board discussing the melding together of the established Surrey Youth Games with a new (SCC funded -£250,000) Surrey School Games. Also a new structure of sport competitions from Sport England. I might need to convene a meeting of all our sports organisations.

Then equally good meeting of Surrey 14-19 Partnership. Further Education speak / jargon is quite impossible – no one understands it all, BUT there are real opportunities here for some SYF member to get into this arena. We all need to understand the new Qualifications and Credit Framework better.

A second round of Faiths in Action grant (£6,000) has fallen into my lap – manna from……the Community Development Foundation…..about which I am linking up with the Guildford Diocese.

Big Picture:  In London today, Friday, for meeting at our national body, NCVYS,  about project planning the launch of heavily subsidised course for the voluntary youth sector. I was part of (another) consortium bid with CVYS colleagues from East and West Sussex that was successful in its bid. More later. Congratulations to Surrey Youth Consortium for its formal launch today.

Personal Disclosure: Enjoyed DVD last week- end of the first Stieg Larsson book in the “Girl with Dragon Tatoo" trilogy (read on holiday). Great Swedish production; recommended. Off with my three boys (aged 30 ish)  on Saturday to support Wasps v. Leicester and MA Theology lectures start next week. Almost too much fun!   (Yeah I know!)

Trivial Pursuit:
a)      Last week’s Answer: Paul Weller is of course a Patron of Woking YMCA and therefore aways a winner! (Well done Terry Eckersley)
b)      This week’s question: What is the link between:   Aphrodite, and  a great West Coast American Group from the late 1960s,  and Jimmy Hendrix??

Enjoy the weekend!


Friday, 10 September 2010

Is it already Friday?

Hi everyone.

Welcome to my weekly Friday blog.

We welcomed Sophie Webb to join our team this week. She is with us for six months under the sponsorship of the Future Jobs Fund and is a great asset already. She is working on cleaning up our database of Member organizations, so that she and Kate can then undertake a new Members’ Survey. We want to find out your opinions of ours services, and also check out the scale of your activities with young people so that the Voice of Young people can be magnified at what is a tough time. Impact is a key word. So I commend the Future Jobs Fund to you as a source of (free) staff.

We have passed through the first stage of the Pqasso process – the desk review of our submitted documents – stacks of them! Next stage is that the assessor inspects us on 13 Oct.

The main focus this week has been on getting our Annual Report and Accounts together; we are improving its presentation considerably, recognizing its value as a marketing document to funders.

I mentioned Social Impact Bonds last week, and you will have heard about the Peterborough Prison project on the national news today. More later

Heard a very interesting presentation by the Chairman of the National Community Foundation Network about the Big Society…. No one builds a pyramid from the top down….

Great discussion last night at the University for the Creative Arts at Epsom under the auspices of Common Purpose, and a presentation by the Dean and Professor of Creative Arts on the subject of creativity – how do we capture creativity and risk taking rather than saying- no, can’t be done, too risky , failure, redundant? He pointed out that in the USA and India mistakes, are just episodes to learn from.

Big Picture: Collaborative working, and social impact bonds.

Personal disclosure: Had builders in over the last two weeks to renovate our cloakroom….why is it always that builders always muck up something (our central heating) when doing other work? I also got older this week…and wiser?

Trivial Pursuits:

1) Last week’s answer is that Plato’s theory of the cave was about prisoners in a cave seeing only shadows, not ideal forms , unless they climbed out. The Family (Roger Chapman was a great 1960s group with which , later, the lead singer had a hit with “Shadow on the wall”. No one got it, so this week:-

2) Paul Weller missed out on this week’s Mercury Awards, but despite this, why is he always a winner?



Monday, 6 September 2010

Enter the Blogosphere

Friday 3rd September

Hi everyone, welcome to Mike’s Blog through which I want to keep you up to date with what we’ve been doing in Surrey Youth Focus, and my personal opinions on what’s affecting the voluntary community and faith sector – hereafter “THE sector”. There will also be some personal stuff from me, but not of the sort that will make the front page of the News of the World (I hope!).

To be slightly serious I am not intending to name individuals with whom I’ve had contact in the week as I need to continue to work with many colleagues in local authorities and the sector, and I don’t want to be shunned, so…your secrets are safe with me!?!

This last week has been dominated by meetings about the Connexions service, and the future contracts for the voluntary sector. As a result of the last meeting on Thursday evening with the Surrey CC’s Assistant Director for Young People and colleagues from the Surrey Youth Consortium I have an optimistic feeling that good progress can now be made.

The other theme to the week has been sending off Pqasso documents (about 35!) to the external assessor who will be visiting us on 13 October to assess whether we meet the Practical Quality Assurance for Small Organisations Level 1 standard. More on this later.

The prospect of budget cuts to Surrey Youth Focus is a concern, though we have strong reserves. I had a performance review meeting with the Surrey CC providers of our core funding, and I have had intimations that current funding levels may not be sustainable next year, though our value is not doubted.

Talking of which, we have just got another £20,000 grant from the CWDC to put together a standard Induction Programme for new workers/ volunteers into the sector. We’ll be producing and printing workbooks for new staff/ volunteers so that they can record each element of induction training received – Safeguarding, CAF etc.

We welcome Sophie who starts with us on Tuesday to work on a new Members’ Survey; her post is funded by the Future Jobs Fund (and so free to Surrey Youth Focus) and I would encourage colleagues to recruit through this scheme.

Big picture: Importance of social enterprises, social impact fund, and social return on investment – more on all these later.

Personal disclosure: brilliant week – end a few weeks ago camping with my three sons, and grandson (age 2) in Weymouth, Dorset, and seeing Toy Story in 3D. Great!

Trivial Pursuit: What’s the connection between Plato’s Cave, and The Family? (great late1960s Group). Answer next week.