Friday, 22 July 2011

Virtual Hub

A quiet week by my standards with a focus on preparing papers for our Trustees meeting on Tuesday evening which went well, and we were delighted to welcome Nigel Biggs as a new independent Trustee (as opposed to a Member Trustee). His business expertise and links to the company and university sectors will be invaluable.

Met with the management team from NESCOT FE college on Wednesday to discuss close links and also the idea of a virtual hub whereby young people who are NEET can come into the hub to receive training to uplift their self-esteem, and be offered volunteering work and accredited training at a college , leading to a job. We see this Hub as a social enterprise.

I am Chairman of South-East Youth Partnership which as a network of senior local authority heads of youth services and voluntary sector youth organizations like ourselves.  We had a very useful meting on Thursday sharing experiences, from which came concerns about: whether outcomes can be commissioned; variations in transferring buildings to the vol sector..Bucks CC are doing so on a 25 year lease(!) and closely related to this the (im)possibility of running a youth centre as a profitable social enterprise without a much broader level of activity going on; a worry that volunteering may dry up if seen as substitute cheap labour for a service that has been withdrawn, and so on.

Just a reminder that the DfE has its “Positive for Youth “ (embryonic White Paper) on their website with some 12 discussion papers.

My close colleague, Jean Roberts – Jones, Chief Exec. of Surrey Community Action has announced she is leaving to take up an equivalent post with Eastleigh CVS, just 2 miles from where she lives!

And finally…I am now on holiday for two weeks and will be back on the blog on Friday 12 August.  Enjoy the summer! (weather permitting)


Friday, 15 July 2011

Old Models

I went last night to the packed celebration evening at Denbies vineyard for the The Studio – ADHD centre. What was interesting was the view of a psychiatric consultant, and a research psychiatrist at Kings College London that the cause of ADHD is an imbalanced brain at birth, which is slowly changed through maturation during childhood and youth. However, during this process of maturation the young people have “Ferrrari brains”  (top speed, maybe fragile) that is the cause of the high energy, often unsocial and inattentive behaviour. The stories of the achievements of the young people in being coached by Nancy Williams through this phase of their lives were great. We also heard the “other side of the story” from two long suffering but supportive parents of ADHD kids that were particularly moving. Interesting to note that the forthcoming Government Youth policy will include a section on brain development. Well done Nancy !

I led a business planning session on a consultancy basis yesterday morning; one organisation faces the ending of Surrey CC grant and the loss of its youth worker, as indeed we do unless I find replacement income for our youth development worker. The challenges are really severe. I was also at a Trustee Board meeting of a fairly large voluntary sector organisation where we were addressing the issue of how to change it, or close it,  in the face of loss of grant income. “No change” was NOT an option, and we opted for a strategy of significant reorganization that will regrettably involve a loss of staff, and a complete re-engineering of the organisation.

Similarly, but separately, I was again asked about the Surrey CC Youth Service reorganisation on BBC Surrey Radio. This arose because of the prospect of a number of youth workers apparently being likely to lose their jobs. My perspective is simply that there are opportunities for the voluntary sector…

We now all work in what I call a chaotic environment (cuts, redundancies, reorganizations, mergers) where potentially old models of service delivery could be transformed by closer collaborative working between the statutory, voluntary and corporate/social philanthropic sectors. This requires leadership and a style of collaborative working that many organizations will find difficult…I was pleased to attend the first meeting of voluntary sector Chairs in Surrey , brought together by my Chairman and the Chairman of Surrey Community Action. My role was simply to take the notes. It was encouraging that the meeting took place.

It has been a busy week with two evening meetings (and a third church meeting at home), but a kind person with whom it is a joy to work has sent me some holiday reading – a book by Andrew Mawson called “The Social Entrepreneur”…and therein lies the clue for the future,  in the week that the Government’s White paper on “Open Public Services” was published.

Have a thoughtful,  and apparently very wet weekend - (Guilfest, British Open Polo finals at Cowdray Park )


Friday, 8 July 2011

Sunshine & Showers

This has been a functional kind of week, writing reports for Trustees – Risk Register and so on.

But I had an interesting private meeting with a County Councillor to convey my views about how things are going which is…stickily, by which I mean the voluntary sector is under pressure financially and organisationally and the opportunities afforded by Localism, outsourcing and so on seem limited. Nevertheless, a  well-informed colleague from a member organisation was expressing optimistic views to me about the opportunities for the voluntary sector from the current County Council youth work contracts, but I guess it depends if our member organizations do in fact win them - I am sure they’ll win some.

We are about to launch a marketing campaign to new member prospects using our very smart new folders into which to put material about who we are, what we do, our offer and the benefits accruing to members.

On Thursday evening I did some consultancy work with a brilliant member organisation – Guildford CHIPS – an Easter/ Summer play scheme in the high priority ward of Westborough. They have two successive “Outstanding” Oftsted reports.  Interestingly, last year by this stage they had received bookings for over 300 day places from Social Services but to date they had just 2 referrals. Equally, they were finding that whereas last year parents were booking at a week or two at a time for their kids, now it was just one day or two - an interesting reflection on the impact of cuts and the recession. The challenge for CHIPS is that their Lottery funding expires next March…what to do was the issue.

I am walking 12  miles over the Sussex Downs (again) with my former Vicar who is walking the bounds from his current parish in Redhill to all his former parishes, so we’re walking from Midhurst to Chichester ..sunshine and heavy showers forecast  ..which just about sums up where we are …mixed fortunes.

Enjoy what you do this week- end

Friday, 1 July 2011

Tea and Tennis

Hi - This has not been an even remotely normal week….

My week began last Saturday when embarking on a 4 day dash to walk the South Downs Way from Buriton (nr Petersfield) to Beachy Head ( Eastbourne )- it’s about 80 miles. We cheated slightly and started at South Harting – only because of considerations of time and distance. My son and I had a really good first day – getting to Houghton Bridge nr Amberley and staying at a superb B&B.

The following morning we left at 8.30 am on Sunday morning as we had a long day’s walk (25 miles) and knew it was going to be hot. My son decided to leave his walking boots behind to lose weight,  and to opt for walking in his  specialist walking trainers. But the South Downs is very unforgiving chalk and flint…WE had a great day….very scorching hot…and got in at 7.45pm at Ditchling Beacon. We were both very tired (carrying rucksack too) …but Pete’s feet were badly blistered and he was limping badly …he concluded his trainers were too small. SO we couldn’t continue…

BUT on Tuesday I managed to get at returned ticket for the otherwise sold out performance by candlelight in Chichester Cathedral by “The Sixteen” – the choir conducted by Harry Christophers. I had a great aisle seat in the third row, and watched and listened in seventh heaven to the religious music of the Spanish 16th century composer Luis de Victorio, who was born in Avila…..same place as the great Spanish saint and mystic, Teresa of Avila. I had the CD already…big fan both of Victorio and The Sixteen.

Then on Wednesday, we went to the garden party at Buckingham Palace (as you do, but with3,000 others). The weather was perfect – the military bands played …the tea was very superior….the gardens -  parkland and rose gardens -  were beautiful, and in the distance was the Queen. It was a very elegant and enjoyable occasion. As was the dinner afterwards at our son’s restaurant….and was free!!

If I have to talk about work, I am delighted to say  that Dr Beccy Bowden (Surrey Satro)  has agreed to become a Trustee, and so with Beccy and Nigel Biggs in place on the Board we now have very good links to the business sector. 

A quieter week- end is now in prospect. Anyone for tennis?