Friday, 24 June 2011


Hi everyone,

I have just finished proof reading the next edition of Surrey Youth News (our 50th edition) and am stunned by the amazing amount of fund raising that is being done by our members.

Woking YMCA has just opened a new £2.6 mill 24 bed residential facility for vulnerable young people; Redhill Y have just raised £1 mill for their centre for disabled people, but also Halow, Disability Challengers , Matrix…the list is endless…and the energy, enterprise  and courage of the walkers, cyclists, runners, abseilers is remarkable. Very inspiring.

I was at the Joint Cadets meeting on Monday evening, and am struck by the fact that there are some 2,000 Services cadets in the county, and by the dedication of the retired officers supporting them. Tuesday was the Surrey Community Action Annual Conference, at which I was running a workshop on Social Finance. This was closely followed by an 8.00 am breakfast event at Brooklands by Surrey SATRO and the Surrey Chamber for young people about opportunities in science and technology. That same evening was the Chairman of the County Council’s formal local government dinner…lots of interesting discussions.

SO….I have done a lot of listening and talking (“networking”) over the last few days, and I am clear that there are two forces at work pulling in different directions: we have the Big Society, the Localism Bill, the Giving White Paper and the forthcoming Civil Service White paper- all pushing in the direction of empowering individuals, families and communities. And yet we also have a political and managerial psychology that says “people can’t be trusted”, “the vol sector will mess it up – keep it in house”, and that control and cost saving is preferred to empowerment and local diversity…so for example Academies report directly to the Secretary of State for Education. The net result is that at present we are stuck in the “don’t  know whether to centralize (save costs/ commission/ procure/ control) mode”, or let go…and decentralise. Some are reluctant to innovate and indeed to lead, and so there is a risk of organizational paralysis, risk aversion, and adherence to familiar (bureaucratic) processes. 

Which brings me in a roundabout way to the increasing complexity of the current four youth service contracts, and, separately to the difficulty we’re having in getting Surrey CC to engage about its residential care costs for young adults with disabilities, which we think can be substantially reduced by one of our member organizations enabling those young people to be enabled to live independently in the county. A long arranged and key meeting was cancelled at nil notice. The contrast with my meeting last week with the social entrepreneurs prepared to invest in this project is just stunning. I wonder which of these countervailing forces will win out in the long run, both nationally and locally ?

I will ruminate further whilst spending the next four days (Sat- Tues)  walking the South Downs Way with one of my sons (nearly 80 miles – Buriton, nr Petersfield to Beachy Head ). On Wednesday my wife and I are at a famous garden party in London ,  and then having dinner at another son’s restaurant (Magdalen, Tooley St.).  Fashion, food, and gardening tips to follow next week!

Plenty of sun cream this week- end – have fun.

Friday, 17 June 2011


A  reflection on the state of play in the week that has seen the rethink on the NHS…… I have had conversations with people from Common Purpose in London, Guildford Diocese, Community Foundation Surrey, Children England, a couple of social philanthropists, Surrey University, and others….I fear that at central and local government there are two tendencies at present: first an ambiguity about localism, decentralization and the Big Society when confronted with the realities of politics and the (apparent) need to retain control at the centre.

Second, in consequence, a fearful instinct to focus inwardly on an agenda of cuts, reorganization, and retaining control in the face of current expenditure cuts and, courtesy of the probability of Greece defaulting and contagion spreading to UK Gov and banks, a serious risk of more local cuts additional to those we already know about. Where are the leaders through this?

I am pleased to say that in Surrey, my Chairman and the Chair of Surrey Community Action have put forward a proposal to other leading Chairs in the sector to develop ways forward for the voluntary sector.

Encouragingly, I had a great meeting with one of our member organizations, Halow, and two social philanthropists about taking forward a particular proposal and I am convinced we can make this work. We had an Open Forum meeting on Tuesday evening at the BFree cafĂ© in Leatherhead (a former church) when the key speaker was Wendy Varcoe from the Community Foundation, Surrey. The CF already gives some £600,000 in grants to voluntary organizations, and is a very significant local funder.

I am running a workshop at next Tuesday’s Surrey Community Action annual conference about social finance, and lest you should think I’m daft – did you see the headline this week? – “Social impact bonds will be worth tens of billions of pounds” Sir Ronald Cohen tells MPs”. Sir Ronald pretty much invented venture capital , and now is pushing social finance.. I rest my case!

The Department of Education officials writing the forthcoming White Paper on Youth are coming down to see us in September, as an example of an organisation doing interesting things, in conjunction with Surrey CC – we will be hosting the event. Good example of our advocacy and representation for the sector.

Personal: Off on Sunday to middle son’s flat in London for Sunday lunch (Father’s day ? Don’t recognize it – just a commercial contrivance) BUT as he is a professional chef/ patron of a successful restaurant in London, we will get a serious lunch…..after I have taken Matins for Trinity Sunday in a beautiful village church in West Sussex.

Enjoy the weekend,

Friday, 10 June 2011


Another really enjoyable and interesting week…and I get paid for doing this!

On Tuesday I was in London at an excellent NCVYS Youth Strategy Group at which there were presentations by senior people at the DfE about their forthcoming policy paper on Youth. I must confess I was not aware this was in progress, but a lot of work has been done already and published. Details are at:  The second discussion subject was work on Social Finance by the Michael Young Foundation, indicating the scale of opportunity an interest in SF. The point is that whilst contractual arrangements will continue between the sector and local authorities (the binary arrangement) there also needs to be a triangulation with the SF sector. NCVYS to their great credit are setting up a retail fund derived from the Big Society Bank to enable youth projects to be financed. NCVYS are showing great leadership in the sector nationally.

I then went to a Community Foundation Surrey business planning awayday which was again fascinating and reinforced the messages from the Young Foundation. The Community Foundation already give £600,000 pa in grants to the sector in Surrey and have a target of getting to £1 mill grants in 2015, so I am delighted that we have their Chief Executive , Wendy Varcoe coming to  our Open Forum next Tuesday evening (see website for details).

Yesterday morning I met with folks from Bourne CYI, a member organisation doing great work in the Farnham area, and we had a discussion about how they might come together with others to form a more consolidated offer to external social financiers. They are based at the very fine St Thomas Church in Farnham – an uplifting morning….

….Which continued with a detailed discussion with the County Council’s Garath Symonds about aspects of the current tender that are out. It presents opportunities and challenges for the Surrey Youth Consortium

We realized that Surrey Youth Focus, and Surrey CC are doing innovative work, so I am inviting the DfE civil servants down to a joint briefing session about our work.

Personal disclosure: Off to a Readers (lay preachers)  Conference on Saturday, so my spiritual uplift will continue!

Enjoy whatever you do this week-end.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Strength in Numbers

This has been a good week for Surrey Youth Focus.

I have said previously that we have set a deficit budget for this year drawing on our reserves, which is ok for now, but that we face challenges for 2012/13, for which we have a PLAN of action, this is now beginning to achieve results:

Cutting costs:  we have cut costs by giving up one office, and consolidating in just one room, but the bonus is that our room is being redecorated…for a modest £25 investment in paint and the work of Surrey Community Action’s Future Job Fund trainee office handyman, who is great. Our very own Future Jobs Fund trainee, Sophie, has not only completed her one month’s training to become a Special Constable with the met Police, but she has also got herself a full time job as an office administrator for a company near where she lives. I think we can all take pride in her achievement and regret the demise of the Future Jobs Fund.

Fund-raising: largely through the efforts of our Chairman we have been given a generous grant this week by a Grant Making Trust fund that is a welcome contribution to our income for both this year and next, but we still need to do more, and have several irons in the fire.

Strengthening Trustee Board: we are delighted to have a new Trustee, who has a huge amount of experience in business, and has close links to corporates in Surrey and to Surrey University . I am constantly making the point that the old binary relationship between central/local government and the voluntary sector needs to be re- shaped into a triangulation with the business and social philanthropy sector, and this Trustee will help us do that.

Collaborative working: The Memorandum of Understanding between ourselves and Surrey Community Action was approved by their Trustees this week, and will go to our Trustees on 19 July. This effectively establishes a collaborative partnership between us as independent organizations, and again is the pattern for the future of umbrella (infrastructure bodies).

So it’s been a good week , and the sun is shining for the week-end!

Have fun!