Friday, 28 September 2012

Of Markets & Values

Well it’s been a busy week, and a bit tense.

The tenseness comes from the strategic picture. I am sure there will be another round of serious cuts in 2013, even if as seems to be the case, the CSR 2013 is being shelved, as the Lib Dems won’t countenance another overt package of cuts. But they’ll still happen.  For example, I hear that East Sussex CC are making -15% cuts next year, including to front-line services.  Our working assumption is that Surrey CC will maintain its current grant to us in 2013/14 but thereafter…

The “old model” is one of grants and even contracts. I do strongly think that the commissioning/contracting model has run its course. More commentators are challenging the limits to markets and experience (think G4S at Olympics) So for example, see article in: . The Archbishop of Canterbury’s book on Faith in the Public Square has perceptive and trenchant comments, and as you know Michael Sandel is vey sharp about the limitations. (I see he’s appearing at the Labour conference) My suggested alternative is making strategic alliances with quality (tested) suppliers of services. I have been briefed by the Consortium this week about their experiences of Surrey CC contracts….

I have also been hearing this week about changes in the charity sector at national level – NAVCA and Community Matters merging, NCVO merging with Volunteering England , and so on.

So, we have to respond to a significant, and enduring change in context.

Surrey Youth Focus is building links to businesses and corporates all the time now- so for example we had another "4x4 project" session on Tuesday evening, and will be launching a new initiative in this area shortly. The strategic point is that if/as local authorities are under the cosh (always remembering its taxpayers money that funds them ..our money) then the voluntary sector needs to local to other sources. The only options are trading/selling services (ie social enterprises) links to businesses, and increasing size through partnerships/mergers. The era of markets and global reach means that this is the era of MARKETING. 

BUT this involves different skills and values from those traditionally held in the sector. I’m not sure how this will play out…I guess it just evolves.

On a positive note, my colleagues in uniformed organisations have been hugely supportive in helping me put together a substantial (£90K ) Armed Forces Community Covenant bid forward. Fingers crossed!


Friday, 21 September 2012

Happy Days

Well I’m back from nearly two weeks in Provence to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.

As regular readers know I have very counter-cultural tastes, so whilst I enjoyed the best beach/swimming in the Med I have ever experienced, the best visit was to a beautiful Cistercian monastery at Thoronet to attend a Gregorian Mass. The Abbey is famous for its singing because of the superb acoustics in a very beautiful, plain, stone built monastic church. So it was a time of relaxing, beaches, wine, food and a few visits out. I was very struck by the generosity and kindness of the hosts of the small hotel where we stayed and at the very smart (and expensive) hotel and Michelin starred restaurant where we spent our anniversary, which was the same Sunday as the Gregorian Mass.

I also read a lot, including two books by Michael Sandel (Harvard, and last year’s Reith lecturer) about the limits to markets and competition. I see and read a lot more than in the recent past about “the common good” as opposed to personal gain. The symbol of the latter was seeing Roman Abromovitch’s “yacht” moored between Port Grimaud and St Tropez…moored there because it’s so huge (and looks like a naval destroyer) that it doesn’t  fit into any local harbour. By contrast Bill Gates makes shedloads of money, but gives it away philanthropically. Sandel’s books are about the ethics of markets and libertarianism and he questions where does justice lie in a society, particularly in the USA, where some have huge riches and others are born into being marginalised.

Ah…Well the good news is that we have just been given  a very helpful grant from a Trust towards our Surrey Youth Enterprise support service, and have now also got our Lottery bid in for the balance of the funding. Fingers crossed…..especially as youth unemployment in Surrey has begun creeping up again. Next Tuesday evening we have our next "4x4 Meeting" , and I have several interesting meetings including with the Chief Constable, Lynne Owens, and to sign off the Woking social enterprise start up. We are also making good progress in sorting out our rather slow and ancient IT, and I hope we van have a new system in by the beginning of next year.

Went to a meeting yesterday about the new website for Surrey's young people called Surge (or “Wearesurge”). You need to know about this - it launches in November.

So all positive stuff, and Manchester United and Wasps are winning.

Happy days!