Thursday, 26 May 2011


Last Friday saw the launch of an important report- “Surrey’s Bigger Society” – on behalf of  the Community Foundation, Surrey. The event was held at the Lightbox (civic museum) in Woking, and was by invitation. It was chaired by Mathew Bowcock in his capacity as a Chairman of the Community Foundation Network nationally.

The launch was preceded by a totally brilliant performance by young people from Peer Productions of an extract from their latest play about Alcohol. It took the form of a musical contrasting the perspective of doctors and nurses in dealing with the drunk and damaged, and those who started off wanting a “good night out”. The production, acting and singing were all terrific.

This then led into the launch of Helen’s report (following her previous “Hidden Surrey”). The new report emphasises the relevance of social finance and social enterprises. I was asked to give a short talk about our work on social finance projects with Surrey CC.  Other speakers suggested that Surrey, of all places, is extremely well placed to take a lead in promoting social finance as there are so many people living in Surrey with the top level and financial skills, and indeed investment capacity. Lord Nat Wei was present, and I was able to have a chat with him, and others. The Chairman of the County Council, Lavinia Sealey was clearly impressed by all she had heard, and there was a collective sense of the need for a continuing dialogue between social philanthropists, the voluntary sector, and local authorities. It was an exciting time.

The sense of significant change has continued this week with a meeting of my chairman and that of Surrey Community Action to agree a Memorandum of Understanding about remaining independent but collaborating together, so, in effect forming a loose network together. I absolutely think this is the way forward for smaller organizations (and “organizations as networks” was the subject of my M.Phil. from back in 2000). This collaboration is leading to further thoughts about the leadership of the sector, about which more later….Exciting times!!

Personal disclosure: Yippee grandson for the week – end, such fun!! Manchester United to win on Saturday…hopefully!


Friday, 20 May 2011

Black Spot

This has been a quiet week by my standards with the focus being on our funding campaign.

This has now commenced with letters and a Supporting Statement being sent out to various key people, and the start of preparation of the grant bids to go forward over the next few weeks. This is crucial to sustaining our capability in 2012/13. I am very conscious of the deadline of a Trustees meeting in January 2012 by when I need to have brought in funding, or risk being “passed the black spot”- note the oblique reference to “Pirates of the Caribbean ”!!  We have a very clear funding strategy and it’s now just a matter of bashing on until we’re successful.

The Surrey Sports Strategy was launched at the Surrey Sports Board Conference at Kempton Park on Tuesday. I am a member of the Board. The Strategy is quite high level, but short, and the detail will be fleshed out by working groups. A copy is on our website. The London 2012 (Olympic) Games was much mentioned – there may be half a million spectators watching the cycling race through Surrey next year – a great marketing opportunity – 2,000 volunteers are needed on the day. It’s a great opportunity for uniformed organizations.

Delighted that Nick Wilson has been made Surrey CC’s Director of Children, Schools and Families Services.

I am off to Woking this afternoon for the launch of Dr. Helen Bowcock’s “Surrey's Bigger Society” report for the Community Foundation, Surrey . It is an important report – more on this next week.

Personal disclosure: A very quiet gardening weekend in prospect, but I have booked up the accommodation for my 80 miles in 4 days walk in late June on the (original) South Downs Way from Buriton, Nr Petersfield to Eastbourne, so the die is cast (not literally I hope!)

Enjoy what seems likely to be a sunny week-end!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Green shoots

Hi everyone,

Back to blogging after Bank Holiday leave and various events.

My Big Picture overview remains that there are two contradictory forces at work:the attrition in the voluntary sector caused by Government cuts, and yet the opportunities to be  entrepreneurial in pursuit of “The Big Society”.  At present I suggest that the former – attrition -  is the more dominant force. To be explicit one sees it evident in the spate of closures and mergers nationally, and I try to persuade myself this Darwinian struggle is positive, and will result in a more self reliant, independent and robust sector (and nation). Interesting Cabinet leak to the effect that Francis Maude is cutting back on outsourcing to the private sector,  and wants to give greater prominence to the vol sector. (See our e-bulletin)

Surrey Youth Focus is not immune from the changes- our costs are fixed (zero % pay rises for a 3rd year) but our income from grants and projects has fallen, so we have set a deficit budget for this year, like many others, and have to deploy our strong reserves – which his what they are for. However, we have now begun our funding campaign for 2012/13. We have also agreed at Chairman level, subject to Trustee approval, to have a formal collaborative agreement with Surrey Community Action.

There are other green shoots – I am delighted to be instrumental in setting up a social enterprise to provide employment for unemployed young people. The Community interest Company (CiC) is being formed now, and will start to trade in Quarter 4 this year - more later. We are progressing various social finance projects, and I do think that the way forward rests with social enterprises, and social finance as supplementary sources to the major contracts that are awarded. A time to tough it out!

I presented at a Surrey CC workshop at Denbies for our members given by Garath Symonds (Assistant Director Services for Young people). Cuts of £5 mill from a £16 mill budget must have some adverse consequences, BUT I do think that Garath has done well to mitigate the worst effects and to offer a reshaped service in which the voluntary sector has a considerable opportunity – to deliver wider services from the youth centres that are being opened up to the sector, and to be “on the menu” of the local prevention framework.  Elsewhere we are having discussions with Surrey CC about how to increase volunteering, and I am talking to the Chamber of Commerce about other links. I attended a Surrey CC 14-19 Partnership Group yesterday, about the FE sector, which is badly affected by grant cuts and the loss of EMA to young people, and yet the performance of young people is still doing well.    

Personal disclosure: completed year 2 assignments of MA Theology (just dissertation left for next academic year) and have read my first novel for a year, as opposed to a theology book. Am singing in Chichester Cathedral on Saturday – massed church choirs! FA Cup Final week –end too. Need to get fitter for speed walk with son  in late June on the South Downs Way (80 miles for us).

Have fun,