Friday, 25 November 2011

Mixed Economies

Interesting week.

I see that in an opinion poll the charity sector was the 3rd most trusted institution (after the Army, and the NHS). In the same posting (from Third Sector) Kevin Curley of NCVO warns against charities getting too close to corporates (and social finance).

I sense that we’re getting to a dividing point in the sector soon. Some charities will continue to rely on local support/funding, and/or be part of a national body (like Scouts/Guides) and avoid any form of contracting, or social enterprise. Others will set out to win contracts within a commissioning process and/or to become social enterprises. In short there will be a sharper "mixed economy" within the sector in future in my view. However commissioners (mainly local authorities)  will have to be careful that they don’t find winning contractors that are strange bedfellows - I make this point in relation to the new commissioning process that Surrey CC is engaging in for support service bodies (from 2013).

 These thoughts were prompted in particular by three events this week.

First, our national body – NCVYS (National Council for Voluntary Youth Services) held a regional consultation meeting here, and said that views in the south-east (favouring social enterprise/finance links to corporates etc) were very different from other regions - who preferred a more traditional relationship with central/local government (only).

Second, we are putting in a Lottery bid with the Community Foundation for Surrey, and Surrey Community Action to create an Innovation and Replication hub for Surrey,  brokering projects for social finance, and social enterprise…so it’s pretty clear where I stand on the issue above!  I also met with a youth worker who has already set up a community interest company (CiC),  and is EXACTLY the sort of organisation that our Lottery bid would aim to assist.

Third, I met with a housing association that hopefully will be building a new hostel for homeless and needy young people in Epsom, and it was interesting to hear of their different experiences of bidding for contracts elsewhere around the country.  

Off shortly to our second public meeting about “Young people and society “ at NESCOT FE college in Epsom. This morning’s breaking news is about a new Government initiative to address youth unemployment….whatever happened to the Future Jobs Fund? Ah yes… I remember!

And finally met, in a private capacity, the Appointments Secretaries of the Prime Minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury -  being consulted, with many others,  about a new Bishop for Chichester – now that’s different! Family lunch on Sunday to celebrate: eldest son’s new granddaughter and a new breakthrough job (his, not hers!), youngest son getting engaged at last! Any excuse for serious food.

Enjoy the week-end…and start of Advent.

Friday, 18 November 2011


This has been a frustrating week, blighted by the loss of internet access and the ability to receive incoming emails during the day, but only overnight en bloc. However, as of Thursday we were back up and running properly, but do not mention the words "BT Broadband" for several weeks please!! So a rather thin week I’m afraid.

I had a “realistic” discussion with my Management and Finance trustees on Tuesday about our “planned crisis” for next financial year, and then, having had a “difficult session with my MA tutor that same evening, just as I was slipping into the slough of despond (ish)…..up pops the wonderful Lottery!

The SE Regional Manager of the Lottery very kindly sent me details of the new £6 mill fund in England to promote social finance brokers such as us, and we will be bidding, but also to kick start projects that are in gestation. We have four of these that have languished somewhat and could benefit from the acceleration that a Lottery grant could fund. See details on our website.

So I end the week on a high with the prospect of working hard to bang in at least two bids by the due date (14 Dec).

We have our next public debate about young people and society on Friday 25 Nov at NESCOT in Epsom, and I am looking forward to that. The news about youth unemployment is not good – now 1million …there will be real adverse consequences…. and in Surrey it is increasing slowly – to 3,410 at September. I showed our “Every piece matters” film about needy young people again at a Surrey CC Equalities group, chaired by County Councillor Kay Hammond (Cabinet member)  where I had the floor to talk about the 135,000 young people (10-19) who constitute a significant segment of Surrey ’s population. The film had a considerable impact.

I also had a great discussion yesterday with the CEO of one of our organizations working with disabled children (Disability Challengers), who supply some 40,000 play sessions to 1,200 children, whose parents bring them to Guildford from London and Portsmouth, which alone speaks volumes.  So I end the week reflecting admiringly on what our member organisations do!”


Friday, 11 November 2011


A frustrating and stressful week because of the failure of BT Broadband to sort out technical problems at their end. Very unimpressive, but having vented my spleen at a corporate giant, let me move on…

We had our AGM and Open Forum on Tuesday evening attended by some 42 people, which was impressive for a small organisation like us. Grateful to the Lord Lieutenant, the High Sheriff, the Chairman of the County Council and our new President, Lord Robert Baden-Powell for attending.

Vicky Westhorp from Cabinet Office (Office of Civil Society, South-east) was our principal speaker; she gave a detailed account of the impressive extent of the Government’s actions to promote the Big Society. Then Ian Burks (CX, Redhill YMCA) explained how he and his team had raised some £1.2 mill for the new Sovereign Centre – a community centre for children and young people with disabilities. The venue was Woking Sea Rangers superb new hq at the huge, brand new Hoe Community Centre built by Woking BC opposite their new leisure centre. Another great example of local leadership and multi–million investment by Woking’s Chief Exec. Ray Morgan….Big Society in action!

On Thursday morning we had a meeting of voluntary sector infrastructure organizations funded by Surrey CC about cuts in 2012/13, and then, probably more importantly, about their moving to a commissioning process for 2012/13 onwards. I have been really impressed by how SCC officers have approached this tricky task in an open and collaborative way, and how voluntary organizations have accepted (reluctantly) the need for cuts, and are keen to move on. BUT I am not sure to what extent colleagues appreciate it just how different it will feel being a “contractor”.

Hence my Delphic warnings in my powerpoint presentation to the Surrey Compact meeting in the afternoon..that was attended by, I guess, about 120 people.

My powerpoint, and the Cabinet Office report on the riots, are on our website.

Looking forward to the second of our public debates about "Young people and Society" at NESCOT (FE college, Epsom) on Friday 25 November at 1.00pm…just come along.


Friday, 4 November 2011


Interesting week in which I sense that social finance is fast becoming mainstream. On Monday I met with two large Surrey charities to assist in developing a potential social finance project on a large scale, but which will take time to be developed.

I went to the National Council for Voluntary Youth Services annual conference and AGM in London on Tuesday. The theme was “A citizen society?”  Keynote speech by the excellent Tim Loughton, Minister for Children and Young people…..and he really knows his stuff. He was also emphatic that the riots were not “caused by young people” (only a quarter of those prosecuted were youths), and asked us to reflect on the geography of the events, so for example nothing happened in (deprived) Sheffield. Why not?  Point being that it is too simplistic to say that the events happened in deprived areas.  He also mentioned social finance/impact bonds about five times. Other highlights were: Rockcorps – encouraging the habit of volunteering by exchanging tickets for top rock concerts in return for a minimum of 4 hours volunteering, and similarly a new app “DosomeGood” to encourage volunteering. Excellent conference.

(Since then the Government has published The August riots: understanding the involvement of young people.)

Most impressive of all for me was Shaun Bailey, youth worker and Parliamentary candidate who emphasized the importance of young people taking responsibility for their lives, the need for boundaries and the great value of families, and communities as THE effective support mechanism for young people. But also a warning against hypocrisy..banks, FTSE 100 Directors pay increases, older generation ensuring its pensions whilst younger people pay for them through decades of taxes. (Ouch, bit close to home!)  He is now a Big Society Ambassador. 

As one of the panelists at our public debate said at our Guildford "Young people and society" event, “we need a new moral consensus”…Our next public debate about "Young People and Society"  is on Friday 25 Nov. at NESCOT FE College, Epsom, at 1.00pm. Just turn up.

I note that the unemployment of young people under 25 in Surrey is still upwards, up to 3,410 JSA claimants in September.

I was interviewed yesterday as a potential trustee for a big charity for the homeless in Chichester, West Sussex, so it will be interesting to see if I have passed! A bit more volunteering from me.

And today’s trivia….Guy Fawkes worked as a steward at Midhurst Castle for some two years before the 5 Nov. Gunpowder Plot….”not a lot of people know that”..but you now do!

Keep learning and enjoy the fireworks!