Friday, 28 January 2011

Double Devolution

Hi everyone,

Another tough week in terms of busyness, and pressures, but I think everyone I know in the voluntary sector is in the same boat.

I attended an excellent Business Skills course on Monday for Surrey Youth Focus members, run by Proctor and Gamble at their very smart training centre in Weybridge. The presentations were very good, and to my mind two were outstanding. There was lots of good advice and challenges for me to think about. I think another course may be run – covered marketing, communications, and social media.  The key learning point for me was just how customer focused P&G are; whilst we are not selling shampoo, we are also in a people business, and I need to work out how to make the time to get closer to our members.

Talking of which, I ran the second business planning session with one of our member organizations yesterday evening – the Barn Youth Project, Park Barn, Guildford do outstanding work. 

Voluntary sector chief execs met with the Leader of Surrey CC, Andrew Povey on Monday about issues between the sectors; I pitched my favourite subject of social impact bonds and the particular proposal we are putting forward to a meeting with the Council’s Chief Executive David McNulty on 9 Feb.

Interesting to see increasing media questioning of whether “The Big Society” is deliverable – this was even the subject of a Times leader this week. My own view is that it will be a close run thing between the atrophying of the voluntary sector as a result of the cuts – I see for example that Vinvolve are closing down at the end of March – and taking the opportunities under The Big Society. For example Surrey CC’s Assistant Chief Executive explained to the Surrey Community Action meeting on Tuesday evening that the Council are now offering up the 11 least used libraries to be run by local communities.

 It is easy to be cynical about double devolution (from central to local government, and on to the voluntary sector ) but the alternative may be that services are closed altogether. I hope the voluntary, community and faith sector will take up the opportunities offered, and innovate out of the mess UK PLC finds itself in. Crucial in all this will be the willingness of the corporate sector to invest in social projects during these years when government funding is in decline or moribund.

Personal disclosure/ parental pride: One of my sons is running in the London Marathon (and hosting a charity lunch at his restaurant in London) for  a charity called The Railway Children being for destitute children in India who live on the railway tracks as he saw to his shock when he travelled round India for two months a couple of years ago.
Trivial pursuits:
a)       Answer:  Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper are indeed the first husband and wife team in a (Shadow) Cabinet.
b)       Question: Why is Rupert Murdoch so angry this week?

Enjoy the weekend

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