Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Collaboration collaboration collaboration

The more that I think about the problems that we face, big or small, the more that I believe that collaboration is the answer. Get, say, five very different people in a room and you get not only five different brains, but also the different perspectives, knowledge, connections, energy and resources that they all have access to. 

An example for me is the issue of protecting our environment in Surrey whilst providing reasonably priced homes for our young people. I am very keen to see both achieved and believe that the focus should be on “win-win.” This can only be done by getting a range of people together to look at these issues. I am therefore very pleased to have been invited to represent young people in Surrey on the Surrey Nature Partnership Board (SyNP) and I attended my first meeting last week. SyNP has a strategic remit for “sustainable land management use, supporting the economy and promoting health and wellbeing” and works in conjunction with the Local Economic Partnerships. It is very much seeking to work with different groups, including developers, to achieve win-win outcomes for the environment and the economy.

Collaboration was the key solution listed for another social problem this week – ensuring all children learn to read well by age 11. Thanks to Beccy Bowden at Satro for passing me an interesting report entitled “Reading England’s future: Mapping how well the poorest children read.” This is available on the Save the Children Website. 

In some areas, many children have already fallen behind with the groundwork needed for literacy by the time they go to school. In other areas, they enter school with a reasonable level, but then fall behind. Surprisingly to me, children from low-income families in smaller towns and rural areas are particularly likely to fall behind in reading. Cities are doing okay – in fact London is top performer in the country. London’s success was previously thought to be due to improvements at secondary school level, but this study has shown that it is London’s primary schools that are making the difference.

The conclusion of the report was that we need local action - “schools, parents, early years services and the wider community to unite and to own the goal of all children reading well.”  There couldn’t be a more perfect cue for me to mention again that Communilab will be our online forum enabling online collaboration to solve issues facing young people in Surrey. We will be launching in the new year. I am very excited, we have a lot of people and organisations interested in the project from a wide variety of areas – businesses, Surrey County Council, universities, third sector organisations, schools and colleges, health organisations, local councils. Our main Sponsor is Barclays and we also have Community Champions including Penningtons Manches, Surrey County Council, Pfizer and Exxon Mobil. I believe that it will make a significant difference to young people in Surrey. If you want to be kept informed click here.  

Monday, 8 December 2014

Honesty, dishonesty and too much disclosure?

The subject of honesty has come up in several different guises of late. Most people would, if asked, say that they are not dishonest. However, with the British stiff upper lip and “mustn’t grumble” approach we often hide feelings and thoughts, especially in the workplace. At a recent workshop on leadership, we were encouraged to be more honest in our dealings with partner organisations. As money gets tight, the “elephant in the room” with a group of statutory bodies and/or third sector organisations can often be money, where all organisations play a defensive game to protect their own staff. One leader of a public sector organisation said that she wanted to be more honest in meetings with partners.  

It is well known that many young people are now choosing to reveal large portions of their lives in great detail for the world to read. Is this too much disclosure? Many feel that it is. However, some may give a very censored view of the world – talking about all the great parties that they have been to, the friends they have made, but not the anguish they are feeling. When some young people look at the social media of others, they believe that everyone else is having a good time but them.

I have chosen not to regularly use Facebook or other social media to share my private life. Instead, to keep up with various friends around the world, I prefer the very outmoded Christmas Letter. Various people have expressed different opinions on how to write a letter. One person didn’t want to put in that his mother had dementia – people want to hear good news at Christmas, he believes. Another acquaintance said the opposite - he didn’t like letters full of happy events only - news about expensive holidays, house extensions and achieving children – since it left him feeling inadequate. 

When it comes to children, people often write about all the positive things about their children, sounding like they are bragging, but on the other hand, if one of your children is having difficulties, it may not be a good service to the child to tell the world about their problems, especially given that the child may read it themselves.

Overall, I think the world could do with more honesty, more honesty about thoughts and feelings, both concerns and also positive feelings when things go right. This is particularly true in face to face meetings, which are, perhaps, different from our broadcast communication from the world. I have had two "honest" conversations recently where I considered which route to take and chose in the end to be direct. The scenarios are still working themselves through, so I cannot say whether my path has worked yet, but I certainly felt better afterwards for having been honest with the person rather than hiding my opinions and feelings. 

So, my challenge to you this week is to reflect on your own honesty. Are you putting up a front with someone, when underneath your thoughts and feelings are very different? Would honesty be the best policy? How do you want to shape the moral compass of young people in your life when it comes to honesty?

Monday, 1 December 2014

Mental Health

What a difference a week makes. If you read my blog last week you will have seen that I was feeling rather delicate following the sudden illness of a close family member. I am so relieved to say that he has progressed as well as can be expected and we are starting to wonder when he may be ready to come out of hospital.

You will also have read last week that I gave myself permission not to be at peak performance, to work a little slower, to prioritise the most important tasks and to give time to those in my life who needed it. I now feel back on form, ready for the brain to engage and solve issues, ready for the fingers to fly over the keyboard. However, hopefully by giving myself permission last week not to be at peak performance, I will have given myself time to process difficult emotions, to deal with the situation and to maintain my mental health going forward.

Mental health issues are frequently in the news these days. I was particularly sad to hear the story of the 16 year old girl in the West Country who had been sectioned but was held in a police cell for two days whilst the police tried to find a more suitable place for her.  Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) are due to be recommissioned soon in Surrey. I very much hope that we can find a way to give support to every young person who needs it in Surrey. I believe that the third sector can play an important role in this and am talking to people involved to encourage collaboration between all the appropriate parties.

My question to you this week is this: when times get tough emotionally do you give yourself permission to stop, to rest, to reflect and deal with the issue? Or do you carry on life at your normal pace, determined to push on and get things done, regardless of your own emotions and those of people around you?  Similarly, are you teaching the young people in your life how to pause and take the time to look after their mental health when life gets tough?

Monday, 24 November 2014


I am feeling a little delicate today as a close family member was taken ill and underwent emergency surgery at the weekend. He is making good progress but not out of the woods yet. It is times like this, though, that remind me to focus on the important things in life. I am giving myself permission to not be at peak performance, to work a little slower, to prioritise the most important tasks and to give time to those in my life who need it today. So this blog will be short and sweet.

On the positive side we are making great progress on Communilab, the online forum that will bring together third sector organisations, universities, colleges, schools, local authorities, other statutory bodies and businesses to share perspectives and generate action both to help solve issues affecting young people and to create new opportunities for young people in Surrey. We have some exciting announcements to make soon about new funding partners and we hope to have the forum ready in Q1 2015.  

Monday, 17 November 2014

Self-harming and trolling

I was very disturbed to hear the opinions of a GP this week who said how common self-harming is these days. Among some young people it is like a badge, proving that you really are upset. If you haven’t self-harmed, your issues really aren’t that significant. In other words, if you want to get attention from your friends for something going on in your life, best that you get find yourself a knife and start cutting.  

I was also disturbed to read more about internet trolling. It is, of course, devastating to the lives of those on the receiving end and we all want to help them. However, it is also worrying how it can have a bad effect on the trolls themselves. Why should they get our sympathy, I hear you ask? Well the problem is that it is just too easy for anybody to get on the internet and start making comments. 

Isabella Sorley, age 24, is a case in point. According to the BBC Website, Isabella was convicted of trolling feminist Caroline Criado-Perez, sending tweets including "go kill yourself" - after a heavy night of drinking. Isabella has now talked about the incident, warning pupils not to do the same - she said that she had never done anything like this before and will never do it again. However, she knows that she will permanently be labelled as a troll. Isabella may not fit your stereotypical idea of a troll – she has a degree and 13 GCSEs.

There is often, of course, a link between the issues of being trolled and self-harm, with one sometimes leading to the other. As the mother of a son aged nine and a daughter aged three, I wonder what I need to be doing now and in the future to prepare my children to have the self-esteem and emotional strength to cope with being bullied or trolled and to resist the idea of self-harming. Also, what will I need to do to make sure that my children do not make the mistakes of Isabella and become trolls themselves?

I expect that you can guess my challenge to you this week: What are you doing to help guide the young people in your life through the difficulties of trolling/being trolled and self-harm?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Life’s journeys

Long-term readers of this blog will undoubtedly be interested to hear that my predecessor, Mike Abbott, has completed his 500 mile pilgrimage from St Jean Pieds des Ports in France, over the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostella in Spain. The trip took Mike 36 days (including three rest days), carrying his gear every step of the way. Mike said that he met people of all ages along the trip, from 82 down to 16 and that it was a very life-affirming experience among other things he observed  the inherent decency and kindness of ordinary people

Journeys are often seen as a metaphor for life. For those young people in Surrey who start their life’s journey surrounded by people who are violent, angry, taking drugs or even just working so hard that they have no time for the kids, how hard for these kids to get off on the right foot, to have any self-esteem, to believe that they are worth something.  And once they get used to having these types of people around them, how extra hard to make the necessary journey through life to surrounding themselves with people who will care and nurture and love them.

With respect to my own life journey, one of my strengths and weaknesses has always been wanting to get things sorted out now, today, this minute. If someone has an emotional problem, I want to help them solve it now. If I need to make a change at work, I want to make it now. On the positive side, this provides me with lots of energy to achieve things. On the negative side, some things just take longer to achieve. Over time I have had to learn to leave some issues alone, with a view to dealing with them later. Or maybe waiting and seeing when solutions or opportunities turn up – maybe next week, next month or next year.  I have learnt to involve other people’s brains and resources in solving the problems. Going forward at Surrey Youth Focus, we very much intend to try to solve  issues and create opportunities for young people in Surrey by collaborating with others as much as possible.

My challenge to you this week is this: If you have a problem or ambition, don’t go on the journey alone. Who can you find to help you solve it? Who will be life-affirming in supporting you? 

Cate Newnes-Smith

Monday, 3 November 2014

One door closes, another opens?

It’s easy to look at the charity sector and get depressed. Grant funding being cut left, right and centre. Big corporations being awarded contracts which charities feel they could deliver with much better results for the beneficiaries.  It’s becoming harder and harder to get core costs covered through traditional means. New regulations such as auto-enrolment on pensions increasing the costs.

However, on the other hand, there are always new opportunities coming along and for charities willing to be open-minded, flexible and ready to change their business models and ways of working, there are opportunities for them to reinvent themselves whilst still delivering services to their core beneficiaries.

Whilst local authorities have less money, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Local Enterprise Partnerships , the Big Lottery and other organisations have more money.

Many charities are successfully making the transition from grants to trading – selling their services, whether it be to statutory organisations, the private sector or private individuals. As mentioned in this blog a few weeks ago, the blurring of the sectors between businesses and charities is leading to various “shades of grey” business models which enable beneficiaries to be served from a more solid financial model. The newly launched All Saints CafĂ© in Leatherhead is a great example of an organisation helping young people into employment, funded by its' food sales to businesses and individuals in the local area.

Social media, gaming apps, big data, online forum - technology provides new ways of attracting supporters, spreading the word, gaining insights and communicating with the wider world. The rise of Social Investment - borrowing money to finance new projects - is another interesting development for the sector. 

Businesses have been increasing their Corporate Social Responsibility activities over the years. There has been scepticism about “greenwash” and cynical motives, but I strongly believe that I am meeting more and more businesses who genuinely want to make a difference and who can be a real help to the charity sector.

However, the brave new world requires vision, courage and a willingness to take bold steps. This needs to be true not only for the chief executive, but also for the board of trustees and other stakeholders. It is not for the faint-hearted.

My challenge to you this week is this: if you are involved in running a charity, do you have a bold vision for the future and are you ready to go for it? If not, why not? 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Another Inspiring Young Person

Last week I spoke of the inspirational young people in Surrey, some of whom were at our Celebration of Youth. I want to tell you today about another inspirational young man from the Netherlands - Boyan Slat. While diving in Greece at age 16 Boyan became frustrated by coming across more plastic bags than fish. Whilst many of us might just have said “ain’t it awful” and gone home to watch TV, he took a different path. 

Boyan researched plastic pollution and the problems associated with cleaning it up. Over the next few years he developed the passive clean up concept and subsequently got a team of 100 people to work on the Ocean Clean up project. The feasibility 530-page feasibility study report (authored by 70 scientists and engineers), indicated the concept is indeed a feasible method to clean almost half the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just 10 years. To date $2.1M has been raised to support the project and Boyan Slat (now aged just 20) has led the charge to solve a major problem which the governments, environmental organisations, corporations and others had all failed to tackle.

I believe that there are lots of young people around Surrey also spotting problems and taking initiatives to make the world a better place. If you are a young person doing a project like this, or know of a young person who is, please do email us and tell us what is being done and why. We would like to create a collection of stories about young people doing fabulous initiatives in Surrey.

Here are Surrey Youth Focus we are thinking about how can we create the conditions in Surrey where we have thousands of Boyan Slats, working on inspirational projects to make a difference to the world. My challenge to you this week is:  How can you nurture the young people in your life to spot problems in society and go out and solve them?

Monday, 20 October 2014

Inspiring Young People

We held our wonderful Celebration of Youth event at Leatherhead Leisure Centre on Saturday. We celebrated young people’s achievements as well as the leaders, projects and businesses who have helped them.

The themes that came through for me were safety, belief and trust. Every one of us needs at least one person we can feel safe with, one person who believes in us and trusts us. A person we can turn to when the chips are down. A person who will hold us and tell us all is okay when life seems rotten. This is never more true than with young people who have experienced more than their share of difficulties from a young age. Some young people have been badly treated by those who are most supposed to nurture them. Others -  young carers - have had to spend much of their lives nurturing rather than being nurtured.

My challenge to you this week is: how can you nurture the young people in your life to achieve their full potential?

A huge thanks to all involved in the Celebration of Youth including our award presenters - The Lord Lieutenant of Surrey Dame Sarah Goad, the High Sheriff Mr Peter Lee, Surrey County Council Chairman Mr David Munro and Mole Valley Chairman Councillor Emile Aboud; Sylvie Blackmore from BBC Surrey for hosting; Leatherhead Leisure Centre for the venue; All saints Leatherhead for the refreshments; all the exhibitors and talented young performers; the Lord- Lieutenant’s cadets for their valued assistance; Unity Insurance UK & Councillor Tim Hall for their hugely appreciated  financial contributions; the Mayors of Elmbridge, Guildford, Reigate & Banstead, Spelthorne, Waverley, Woking and the chairman of Tandridge; the SYF trustees; the parents, family and friends of our young people. Phew, what a list. We couldn't have done it without you.

Finally thanks to my team members - Su, Kate, Alex and Karen - who have proved yet again the old adage that if you want something done, give it to a busy person.

Monday, 13 October 2014


Once upon a time there were charities, businesses and public sector organisations. And then the world started to change. My predecessor, Mike Abbott, has talked and written about the blending of the sectors in the past. Charities are changing their business models to become “Social Enterprises”. Local authorities are spinning off operations to form Local Area Trading Companies or  Social Enterprises.

I saw the blending of the sectors from a different direction last week. We went to see Eagle Radio, based in Guildford. Eagle is part of UKRD group, a privately owned for profit company. However, their focus is on a lot more than just profit. They do a large range of activities to support and enhance the local community, including their “Big Community” – helping voluntary organisations to find volunteers with the right skills. And by the way for the last four years UKRD have topped the Sunday Times best companies to work for. Can anyone doubt the motivating effect that true Corporate Social Responsibility can have on employees?

Eagle's approach reminded me of an event that I attended the previous week where the question arose “What is a Social Enterprise?” I didn’t ask Eagle Radio whether they would classify themselves as a Social Enterprise, probably not as they never said so. But the issue as to what is or isn’t a Social Enterprise seems to bother people a lot. One of the reasons that this debate arises is because contrary to popular belief a “Social Enterprise” is not a legal form of organisation, it is a just a label. Companies limited by guarantee, Community Interest Companies, Charitable Incorporated Organisation – these are all legal structures. So why does it matter? It matters for two reasons. 

Firstly, communication. If two different people understand two different things by the same word or phrase, it often causes confusion. Secondly, it is important to have a legal structure that is fit for purpose for what you are trying to achieve with your organisation. Charities have more constraints on them than other forms. On the other hand, they also have advantages such as being able to access grants that businesses cannot.

If you are involved in any way in setting up an organisation or changing its structure then getting the legal structure right from the start is very important. If you don't have it, it is very important to get good legal advice. If you need professional help on this maybe you could try posting an advert on Eagle Radio’s Big Community. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Variety is the spice of life?

I am thoroughly enjoying all of the different types of things that I get involved with in this job, I have always been someone who loves to get involved with all sorts of things. However, with that comes a challenge - figuring out how to best use my time to greatest effect. I could easily fill my diary three times over every week. So, to put it another way, I need to figure out what to say no to. A friend laughed when I said that I need to be able to say no in this job. She knows me (and my sister) well. “Good luck” was all she said, but the meaning was clear – not one of my strengths!

In the last week my activities have included – recommissioning of youth services event run by Surrey County Council, meeting with a group of other Infrastructure CEOs as well as meeting individually with three different charity chief executives, various not so fun admin issues, internal meetings on Communilab and our Youth Social Action conference. The week finished with an event on Social Inclusion organised by the Enterprise M3, the Local Economic Partnership covering the M3 corridor.

Fitted in between the activities I am  writing our three year strategy. The purpose of a strategy is, of course, to help guide the organisation to make choices over what it will and won’t do over the forthcoming months and years. Will that help bring me clarity about my priorities? Hopefully, if it makes sense.

My challenge to you this week is this: Are you clear about what you are trying to achieve in work or life? Are you saying “yes” to the things that will help get you there and “no” to the things that won’t? Of course there will always be grey areas – activities which could possibly bear fruit - but clarity about where you are trying to get will definitely help. 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Overcoming adversity

It was our AGM this week and we had a good turnout. Thanks in particular to our president Lord Baden Powell and our patrons The High Sheriff and The Bishop of Dorking for making time in their busy schedules to attend.

As well as the business part of the meeting, we had great talks from two young people who have both had very challenging life histories and have come through shining, a inspiration to us all. We were very grateful to them talking at our AGM. Here is a bit about their histories.

Shannon had a difficult start from a young age – her mother had a mental breakdown and was absent from home for months on end. Her father could not cope with parenting Shannon and her younger brother. Shannon was expelled from school and joined a gang at the age of 14, getting into lots of trouble with police and authorities. Later, she got a new boyfriend who was not in the gang and initially seemed nice, but later became violent after she got pregnant.  Then 3 months after giving birth, Shannon’s brother died in a car crash. Shannon developed extreme depression; however, after calling the police 13 times, she eventually found the strength to send her partner to prison.

Shannon found out about the charity called Straight Talking and applied for a job as a peer educator.  She was really nervous to start with, but they encouraged her to develop confidence and she has since developed many skills not only for work but for life as well.  She has been promoted twice. Her life has improved massively and she is a much better and stronger person - she knows her worth and believes that she can achieve almost anything she wants to in life.

Our other speaker, Dan Eley, had a very different set of personal challenges. He worked as a charity worker with impoverished children in Latin America for two years before a diving accident in the Colombian Amazon left him paralysed from the chest down two years ago. Dan spent a year in hospital, fighting for his life and facing up to the enormous emotional and physical challenges of being severely paralysed. During these difficult times he had the opportunity to meet other people with similar disabilities who had overcome extreme adversity to go on and achieve great things in life. This inspired him to pursue his dream of starting the Dan Eley Foundation to deliver apprenticeship-style training schemes for children living in poverty in Colombia and Latin America.

Since its inception in 2012 the Foundation has funded and implemented three six-month apprenticeship training courses in conjunction with a partner charity in Colombia and is currently in the process of funding its fourth. Despite being in a wheelchair, Dan travels to Colombia twice a year to interview candidates for the course, visit graduates in the work place and help run clinics in the slums. The foundation also runs schemes for young people in Surrey.

Both Shannon and Dan have dug deep and found incredible inner strength to overcome their challenges. They have shown amazing bravery in the face of adversity. And again they have shown bravery in sharing their challenges with the world, talking openly about their difficulties as well as their triumphs.  They are an example to us all not to put up with the status quo. My challenge to you this week is a little different. Imagine that you have the same levels of bravery as Shannon and Dan. Imagine that you have the confidence to speak out about something that you normally keep quiet about or make a major change in your life to become happier. What would it be? 

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Age Divide

The issue of affordable housing and the greenbelt came up several times this week. Too many people, houses too expensive, no space left to develop. As a society we are building up to a crunch point. For those on the minimum wage, how can they afford to live in Surrey? How can young shop workers, cleaners and postmen get a decent place to live. Even for new graduates, with a an average starting salary of £22-25k, it’s a number of years before many of them can get close to a mortgage, and even then for the smallest of properties.

How much longer is it going to be before the richest 1%, mostly bankers and people with inherited wealth, are the only people who can afford more than a one-bedroom flat in Surrey? How are we going to survive when newly qualified nurses, teachers and even doctors can’t afford to live within reasonable commuting distance of Surrey towns?

In my neck of the wood, Waverley is consulting on its’ draft local plan. No one wants green belt to be built on, few people are delighted at the prospect of development in their own vicinity and we all want to continue to receive the public and private sector services that we always have. We want to buy our home ourselves, or for those of us lucky enough to be on the property ladder, we want our children and grandchildren to be able to buy a comfortable home in Surrey.

The good news is that innovation is more often spawned from difficult situations than when everything is going smoothly. As I learnt when helping my son to research the Victorian era for his history homework, the great Victorian Era sewers which are still in use today were developed in response to the Great Stink of 1858.

Solving the housing problem may require innovation in social systems, in housing design, in economic policy. We need as a society to think bigger, to think laterally, to make sure we are addressing the right problem. For example, asking the question “how can we do more with existing sites?” opens up a wider range of thinking than “where can we find land to build new houses?” Recently I heard someone suggest that a piece of land with a public toilet in Farncombe could be redeveloped to include some flats as well as public conveniences.

As a society, we need to shift our thinking. My challenge to you this week is a big one: how can you make a contribution to help young people be able to live in comfortable housing at affordable cost in Surrey? Can you think of some different questions to ask? Can you think of some new ideas? Are you ready to embrace Victorian ambition? 

Friday, 12 September 2014

Sporting Challenge

I have always loved doing sport and now enjoy supporting my kids to do likewise. As a family we love cycling and walking together and despite having qualified for Vets teams for a long time I still get my hockey stick out once a week for a casual game of five-aside with a group of friends. So as the theme of sports and activities came up several times this week it seemed an appropriate subject for my second blog.

Sport can have so many benefits in a young person’s life – building friendships, keeping them fit and healthy, encouraging them away from anti-social behaviour and building resilience, self worth and self-belief.

In case you missed it, an excellent report from Sport England on The Challenge of Growing Youth Participation in Sport was highlighted in a newsletter by our colleagues in Active Surrey.  A must read if you would like to help increase young peoples’ participation rates in sports. One of the findings is that the supply of sport tends to reach those already engaged.

An organisation trying to address this is StreetGames, who I met with this week. They support a network of projects across the UK including Surrey designed to help build capacity for sports close to home in deprived areas, through a programme called Doorstep, and they are looking to do more in Surrey. If you are involved in sports events in deprived areas, then StreetGames may be able to help you with a package of training, free resources, fundraising advice and more.

In Surrey it is easy to think that everybody can afford to do sports but this is not always the case. We had a phone call from a lady looking for monetary assistance for a talented teenager who has been selected to train with an elite sports team 50 miles from her home, but her parents were struggling to pay the travel expenses. This is doubly hard when the vast majority of your peers in school or sports clubs don’t experience the same financial issues.

Another group who often find it harder to access sporting activities are disabled children and young people. Luckily for many across Surrey and Hampshire they have access to the wonderful schemes and play centre run by Challengers. I first heard of this organisation a few years ago from a friend who raved about their services. So it was with a personal and professional interest that I visited their purpose built facility in Stoke Park, Guildford. I wasn't disappointed - beautifully designed to provide a fun, safe environment for kids to be active in - with happy children playing inside and out - I can see how the staff and environment combine to significantly enhance the lives of children and young people with disabilities and their families.

I dream of a Surrey where all young people are active and involved in sport regularly. I have a challenge to you. Can you personally do more to help encourage young people to be active or participate in sports? Whether it is running a project in your professional life, encouraging a child to walk to school or volunteering at your local football team, it all helps towards a more active generation of youth in Surrey.


Friday, 5 September 2014


It is an honour and a privilege to have taken over from Mike Abbott as CEO of Surrey Youth Focus this week. It is of course, my job to extoll all of SYFs good points. It is particularly easy for me to do it now, when all of the credit goes to others. There are so many good things about Surrey Youth Focus that is hard to know where to start.

The staff team are extremely talented and hard working. It is hard to believe that all of the work that you see (and don’t see) is done by a team of 3.75 Full-Time Equivalents.

The number of high quality relationships that the organisation has is huge – across all sectors of Surrey statutory, voluntary and private organisations, with the support of a president, vice president and patrons of the highest order.  We have an excellent, talented board with a wide range of skills for good governance.

We have an exciting range of services on offer that enable our members to keep informed, meet new people, learn new skills and celebrate the achievements of young people.  Furthermore, new exciting services are in development including our first Youth Social Action conference and Communilab, our network to enable cross-sector collaboration to address youth issues in Surrey. 
Part of our role that may sometimes be less visible is to help address issues affecting young people, such as mental health, by representing the youth voluntary sector on various committees around the county.

The website is extremely well laid out and is updated regularly and we have a good social media presence. And behind the scenes we have all the policies and procedures in place that are needed for a high quality organisation, as has been endorsed by the Charities Evaluation Service which has recently recommended us for Pqasso level 1.

All of this is a huge testament to the work of Mike Abbott who retired last week. I owe a big debt of gratitude to Mike, not only for leading the organisation to where it is today, but also for working tirelessly over the last few months to “draw a line” under as many initiatives as possible (such as our Pqasso assessment), so that I was not left to pick up pieces. Although I officially started on 21st August, Mike and I have been working over the last few months to affect a smooth handover. Despite this, the last week with Mike felt like coming up to exam time… cramming to get all of the knowledge that I could into my head. Mike promised me no skeletons in the cupboard and I have found none, not even a few bones.

Mike is a hard act to follow, I hope that I can build on all the excellent work to continue scaling new heights. To this end, I am seeking to understand “from the horse’s mouth” the value that organisations get from working with us. I would be grateful to get feedback on Mike’s blog, to ensure that I continue to include the bits that you find useful whilst creating it in my own style.  What value do you get from it? Why is that important? What difference has it made?

The purpose of all this is, of course, to serve the young people of Surrey. To this subject I will turn next week.

Have a lovely weekend,

Friday, 29 August 2014

After 44 years, NOW it's my turn!

As you know, I finish work today after a wonderful week of celebration and great kindness and generosity from everyone for which I am extremely grateful.

The week started well because on Tuesday the Pqasso assessor made her inspection of us, and after a series of interviews with staff and Trustees has recommended Surrey Youth Focus for the Level 1 Pqasso Award, which is great news. We had a “clear round” with no referrals back at all.

Pqasso is the only QA award recognised by the Charity Commission and, assuming the recommendation is confirmed,  we should therefore receive a double award from both the Charity Commission and the Charities Evaluation Service.

On Wednesday my wonderful team organised a (home–made) cakes and coffee open house session for SYF Member s and colleagues, and yesterday there was a formal lunch at County Hall hosted by the Chairman of the County Council, David Munro, who is a Patron of ours. Each occasion was really lovely and I enjoyed them both completely.

I have received generous gifts of a teak garden bench with a commemorative plaque on it, and an inscribed decanter from the Chairman of the County Council. The Team have given me a Book of Memories, being an album of photographs and kind words from colleagues.  Thank you all.

Julian of Norwich is one of my favourite spiritual writers and, for the pub quiz addicts, the first ever female author to be published – “Revelations of Divine Love”, 1395 ish.

Her famous saying, borne out of a deeply rooted confidence, was that “All shall be well”…..I share that confidence in the future of Surrey Youth Focus, and wish you all every success. 

Friday, 22 August 2014

526th & Last Payslip - Beer & Skittles Soon!

Well I have received my 526th and last monthly payslip, and that must be significant, along with the fact that my successor Cate Newnes – Smith has now started here as part of our pre-arranged handover arrangements. Last Blog next week. 
Very few people in future will work for big organisations as an employee for 44 years (hence the number of payslips) and it’s interesting to see the contemporary growth in self-employment. I see constant articles about how young people today (in teens and early 20s ) aspire to becoming entrepreneurs, and I think this is just brilliant.

I had lunch in a Lebanese restaurant in Woking this with week with the entrepreneur behind Surrey Youth Enterprise, the social enterprise we set up, and of which I will continue to be a director, but will be entirely detached from SYF in future.  The CiC has stalled a bit,  but there are good prospects, and it’s a very interesting project.

We concluded our work for Healthwatch about the health needs and priorities of young people and have submitted the draft report to our client who is very pleased with it. The report will be published in the next couple of weeks, and will be quite challenging to education and health/social care services. Watch this space.

We also have concluded our first year’s report on our CommUniLAB project which we are sending to our principal sponsor and project champions, Barclays Bank, and hope to sustain our relationship with them.

Next week is my last after 44 years of working and there is just one more hurdle, namely to present Surrey Youth Focus to our external assessor for the PQASSO (quality assurance)  assessment on Tuesday. After that it’s beer and skittles jollies – my lovely team have arranged a coffee and cake bash next Wednesday here at Astolat ..thinly  disguised as a Team Meeting, and then the Chairman of the County Council is very kindly hosting a  lunch for me on Thursday. Then at 12.01 next Friday, I’m gone!

I hope it’s self-evident that I greatly enjoy working for Surrey Youth Focus, and indeed for the three local authorities before that, including Surrey County Council. I have been fortunate…blessed in my career.  The work, particularly over the last 7 years,  has enabled me to learn so much  - about the fantastic work of the voluntary sector, social enterprise, governance, consortia, CommUniLAB, and young people. Working for SYF also enabled me to have the opportunity to obtain my MA Theology; it cost a domestically controversial £4,000, so I had to keep my nose the grindstone!

SO there I was last Sunday walking a difficult 23 miles on the South Downs with my full “Spanish rucksack”…. into a strong wind, miles from anywhere…musing with nature…at one with the world...composing sermons in my head…when round a corner on his mountain bike comes Ian Burks (CEO of Redhill YMCA) on a 100 mile sponsored cycle ride for his YMCA…cycling the whole of the South Downs (Winchester to Eastbourne) in one day! He and friends had started at 5.00 am in Winchester, and when we met he was well on the way. Yet another example of great commitment to the cause of fundraising to help young people.(But he did have the wind behind him!)

Best wishes to all BLOG readers…last one next week!!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Carpe Diem

This has been a week dominated by concerns about the health and well being of young people. We are undertaking research for Healthwatch (NHS consumer champions) into the experiences of young people with the NHS. I am writing up the report now following 210 responses to a quite detailed questionnaire, and having run two focus groups with young people. It is clear that generally the NHS provides a good service to young people, and in the main they are treated respectfully as would an adult be. The big deficit is in provision of mental health services. Young people said there is a chain of causation from the widespread bullying in school (including cyberbullying) leading to…not going out…loneliness..depression..self-harming…A&E. Hopefully the report will have some impact in securing change.

This has been A level week for many young people: congratulations to those who have done well, and those who are disappointed should always remember there are other paths to take, but whatever the result “seize the day!”

Interesting IPPR report this week on youth unemployment pointing to mismatches between what young people are training for and what employers want. The argument is a familiar one – and it is about how we undervalue vocational education in this country. The report says that there is a striking mismatch between what young people are training for and the types of jobs available. For example, it says, 94,000 people were trained in beauty and hair for just 18,000 jobs, while only 123,000 were trained in the construction and engineering sectors for an advertised 275,000 jobs. The IPPR says youth unemployment is lower in countries where the vocational route into employment through formal education and training is as clear as the academic route. Here is the link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28765465

So I am delighted that we have a leader in promoting vocational education, the Vice-Principal of Guildford FE College, as one of our Trustees and I had a great meeting/induction session with her this week.

The Carpe Diem is of course a reference back to Robin Williams who sadly died this week and to his brilliant films, such as Dead Poets Society,  and to his superb acting/characterisations, though troubled by personal mental health issues throughout his life.

For my part I’m off to walk 44 miles in 2 days this weekend on the South Downs, being my training track and with an overnight in a pub. This is my last full test of myself and my kit before going off to France initially to walk the Camino Santiago, some 500 miles from St Jean des Pieds to Santiago de Compostela in Spain….making my life extraordinary too.   So this means that I must be retiring…soon.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Of bondage and birth!

No, silly, not that sort of bondage…the Peterborough Prison social impact bond (sib) first results were reported this week, showing that the efforts of the charities working with the first cohort of 1,000 prisoners before leaving gaol has resulted in an 8% reduction in re-offending.

This does not seem like much for 2 years work, and whilst the ever growing social finance market is claiming this as a success, the fact is that the investors won’t be repaid yet as re-offending rates were supposed to drop by 10% to trigger payments to investors by the Ministry of Justice. All depends on achieving a higher rate of reductions by 2016  to hit the 10% average target.

Meanwhile Worcestershire CC  have embarked on a bond to enable working with older people. See:  https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-unveils-major-boost-to-social-investment-sector

It has been a great week with interesting meetings seeing the “re-birth” and birth of new ideas.

The “re-birth” was with Surrey CC Property re-opening discussions about the possibility of us taking over the running of the Woking Youth Arts Centre and was a very positive discussion..what a pity we hadn’t had this type of “what are we trying to achieve here?” discussion at the start. Live and learn.

The second was again with Surrey CC colleagues and hugely promising about whether we could collaborate together to link our exciting CommUniLAB project with SCC’s intentions to commission a time bank and youth social action projects. We have already been working on a Youth Social Action conference on Sat. 15 November with a main speaker from the Demos think tank. We have agreed to meet again, or rather for my successor to do so. A great opportunity to make a difference.

We held our first Healthwatch focus group with young people this week about their experience of the NHS and preferred priorities. The experiences of GP and A&E services were generally positive, but with criticism of orthodontic services, delays in A&E and some GO receptionist - much better in dentist services which were praised. Bullying, in its many forms came up yet again. There is something about resilience that is important here.
And finally, in the week when Alistair Darling and Alex Salmond have been debating Scotland’s independence, another Anglo – Scottish event was taking place in London that has resulted in the birth yesterday of our fourth grandchild..a boy. He doesn’t yet have a name as there are delicate discussions going on between very English son and very Scottish daughter-in–law, and both are lawyers….so it may take some time yet. But you can guess where my wife and I will be this week-end !

Mike (PS Loving the cricket by the way)

Friday, 1 August 2014

On Philanthropy

I am constantly delighted by how many ordinary people commit themselves to good works, so this week in a private capacity I had an evening meeting with two people wanting to set up a social enterprise to nurture and develop the ability of young people to determine career pathways and to present themselves effectively at interview. Then I had a brilliant meeting yesterday afternoon (on leave) with a Christian Aid organiser who was inspirational in his life story and his vision…building links to business through linked projects in the UK and overseas. Today I read the superb Surrey Interfaith News produced by Guildford Diocese that describes so many positive activities. The word “Philanthropy” comes from the Greek – Philos Anthropos..lover of humanity, and at a time of so much troubling news internationally it is good to see and hear such positive stories.

We had good news this week that our Pqasso Desktop submission has passed its review stage and so the external assessor is indeed coming along on 26 August to make her site visit, which is encouraging.

Much of the week has been take up with preparing comments on Surrey CC’s RE-commissioning paperCreating opportunities for young people”. There has been a highly commendable, open and inclusive process of developing this paper and the associated commissions.

However, we have reservations about the focus on Employability as the strategic aim of the commissions – do parents say their hope for their children is that they should be “employable”? Do young people say that? Or do they say they want to be happy and healthy ..have positive relationships with a partner, with friends and in community? There is no denying the importance of employability but there are surely a host of personal attitudes, behaviours and skills that take precedence? The potential to be employable follows on from the acquisition of various personal characteristics.

So the young teenagers I met years ago in Stanwell who said they had nothing to do, but would not go to Staines (too far) and had never been to Central London had a self-limiting horizon that had to be addressed before thinking about skills and training.   I know that other organisations have made similar points. Our comments will be up on the website next week for all to see.

August is my “get fit/lose weight month”; I need only lose another 2lbs (1 kilo  for modernists) before hitting my target weight, so that should be OK. Little 4 hour speed walk on the South Downs tomorrow ..in the rain I think and with the weight of full “Spanish rucksack”. I’m now applying  surgical spirit on my feet everyday now to dry them out and harden them..hmm..maybe too much information! Enjoy! 

Monday, 28 July 2014


I was on holiday last week in Wales – Solva on the Pembrokeshire coast. A pretty fishing village where  Welsh TV were filming Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood”. I went for a superb 14 mile walk along the coast on a beautiful day when the Atlantic sea looked like the Med. (but not the same temperature!) Visited St David’s Cathedral and Bishop’s Palace..the whole area is rich in references to Celtic Christianity. Very fine.

And straight back in on Monday morning at 9.15 am  to a meeting of our sub group of Trustees and then a full Trustee meeting on Tuesday evening with a long  agenda. The Board appointed and welcomed two brilliant new Trustees and we are fortunate in having a very strong, experienced and capable Board. The Board approved last year’s Report and Accounts, and also  a new methodology for assessing the Outcomes of what we do…a notoriously difficult but necessary task. Intended outcomes  have to be accompanied by performance measures or else the term “outcome” (ie. what difference is made) is just being used for motherhood and apple pie effect. The Board agreed to my proposals though urged caution in not spending too much time on measuring performance rather than delivering…remembering we are a small team of 3.7 FTE

We had a presentation from Surrey CC about their commissioning of services for young people - £32 mill. worth, and the Board also approved  the first increase in membership fees for 4 years, and other changes so that we can take on businesses as Associate (non-voting)  members so that they can access our CommUniLAB project.

Since it was my last Trustees meeting I was surprised by the appearance of chocolate cake (favourite) and fizz. And kind words.

The rest of the week saw the finalising and updating of the submission papers for Pqasso (qa system), and work by colleagues in arranging our Youth Social Action conference on Saturday 15 November. I was at a Surrey Connects Enterprise Working Group this morning when amongst other points we were updated on the exciting plans for  a University Technical College in Guildford near Kings Manor School. Back to the Future -  I could not help feel that if we as a country stopped messing around with education we’d serve our young people better…did you say what’s wrong with technical colleges and polytechnics?  
Friends for dinner this evening; sermon to write on Saturday (about Wisdom and discernment). My parting shot is about holiday reading : I highly recommend Charles Leadbetter’s new book “The Frugal Innovator” which is about why we need to reduce and re-balance global consumption, and use good enough technology and encourage low key (frugal) innovation not just high tec. Also read “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell; in support of the small guy/organisation- similar theme to Leadbetter.   I’m currently reading Business Start Up Handbook on recommendation from my eldest (MBA) son, and my “Third career” plans are well on the way. Now at the stage of putting surgical spirit on my feet every day (to dry them out and toughen up against  blisters) and doing “serious” walks every week-end now. Feels like the endgame is upon me. Enjoy your holidays!


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Social Finance - Jury Out?

I go on holiday shortly so, as ever, one has to work twice as hard to get away, particularly when there is a forthcoming Trustees meting with a long agenda to get out. 
However, I was asked to brief some colleagues from a charity in Surrey that is considering expansion of its work by means of social finance, which made me revisit my various papers on this.

I wrote the first paper on Social Impact Bonds in Nov 2010, and with a member organisation pitched a really brilliant SIB proposition to Surrey CC, which was declined.

There are now some 22 SIBs underway in local authorities, and the momentum seems to be gathering….slowly. There is a Cabinet Office team working on social finance generally, and SIBs in particular. There are number of funding sources.  There are a stack of organisations working in this field : Big Society Capital, Social Finance, CAF Venturesome, Triados bank  and so on. Moreover the development of social finance fits exactly with my contention that the three sectors (public/private/charity ) are blending together.

Yet progress is still quite slow and the Peterborough Prison SIB has not been extended, which is telling. The advantage of SIBs is that the risk is off-loaded by the commissioner to the 3rd party funder – could be bond market or just a market loan, and innovation is supported, so there are real advantages, but on balance the jury is out as they seem to be overly complex.  

My holiday reading includes “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell of “Outliers” and nudging fame; “The Frugal Innovator” by Charles Leadbetter; a book on business start ups and Karl Barth’s “Dogmatics in Outline” – no, not the 14 volumes that costs £600 but the simple version! One of these is an outlier…..for otherwise there is a theme about start – ups…I wonder why ? Career no.3. calls! I will report on the reading soon…there are some novels too….compulsory! 

Friday, 4 July 2014

Time present & Time Past

If you can’t beat them join them, so having run another business planning session at 40Degreez in Farnham I have come home rather than battling the Guildford traffic on a hot day…much nicer! Here we go:-

"Time present and time past are both perhaps present in time future, and time future contained in time past."

The T.S. Eliot quote (from Burnt Norton) reflects the fact that I have been with one of our Member organisations this morning – 40 Degreez in Farnham, assisting them in long term thinking about their next five year strategy. I remember that before I started work with Surrey Council for Voluntary Services as we were then called, and during my handover period from my predecessor, David Cox, I went to our AGM at 40 Degreez. This would have been in about Sept. 2007. I didn’t have a clue about what was happening during the AGM but I guess I have learnt since! Anyway, it was good to be helping a charity working directly with young people and facing familiar issues relating to volunteers, and funding, but also being brave enough to address the “what business are we in?”  question.  It was also good to be congratulated on my work (when Head of Community Development for Surrey CC in the late 1990s) in starting the original work on the Sandy Hill estate in Farnham and hearing that very positive changes have happened there over the years, with the work still continuing in that high need estate. So in my beginning was my end. 

Otherwise, this has been a week for producing reports for my last Trustees meeting, and in particular proposing how we demonstrate our impact as a support services (membership) organisation. This is a notoriously difficult area, for outcomes are of little value unless accompanied by performance  measures. The experts on this are New Philanthropy Capital, The Young Foundation, and the Charities Evaluation Service, the promoters of Pqasso. NPC’s work in particular is very impressive. To be practical we have just agreed the terms of the funding Agreement with SCC for a grant to us …and the outcomes we will achieve. No escape..so go with the flow….  

Two other important matters to report this week; first that Surrey CC Services for Young People has published its draft commissioning document for services for young people…some £32million services. I think this is a really impressive piece of work by the Council and represents opportunities for the sector.  

Secondly, a big "thank you" to Allianz’s Routes to Success team for their pro bono work with us in uprating our marketing database and advising on outcomes/impact. The team reported back to their bosses on the finished work which has been a great help to us, and their “going the extra mile” help to me in wrestling through the Impact work is much appreciated. What was particularly heartening was to hear how the team had enjoyed working with us (mostly Kate Peters and Su Freeman) and learnt about the voluntary youth sector. This is exactly what must happen in future – business citizens developing  through a collaboration between the sectors, the boundaries of which are becoming  more blurred in a positive way.  

Preparing a Powerpoint this weekend to give to our Deanery Synod on Wednesday (ie some 22 churches) about the disconnect between the values of the church hierarchy, people in the pews, and the wider, secular world (eg on women bishops, homosexuality, end of life issues). That apart I have to buy my holiday reading, via Amazon of course, so I’ll tell you what it I’ve bought next week before we go off for R&R in Pembrokeshire. Enjoy the sun!


Friday, 27 June 2014

Mobilising communities to find solutions for themselves (aka CommUniLAB)

On Wednesday Surrey Connects held an annual conference with three outstanding speakers, and it was inspirational  to hear them.  

Mathew Taylor is CEO of the Royal Society of Arts and he gave a discourse in political philosophy the like of which I have not heard since my days at the LSE. His theme was about how we can all be empowered to be creative because the technology of the internet and digital/information economy enables this. He cited the way in which young people are embracing becoming entrepreneurs/sole traders; how folk could reach out to global markets and so on. The barriers to this world are own culture (what Erich Fromm called “The Fear of Freedom”), traditional institutions holding on to power, and related to this a lack of fairness and creativity especially in relation to having capital which he saw as an important enabling resource. He commended the work of Charles Leadbetter and his phrase about the (political ) future resting with “Creative communities with a cause”, and of roles in “mobilising communities to find solutions for themselves”.

As someone who wrote an MPhil research degree (1996-2000) about organisations as networks, not hierarchies, this was music to my ears.

Neil McInroy is CEO of the Centre for Local Economic Strategies. He spoke of the inter-dependence between the social (charity)economy – public economy  - private economy, and the need for people in business to see themselves in a wider(community ) context – what he called “business citizens”.

In short these two speakers put forward  a superb rationale for our CommUniLAB project, which enables these linkages and networks to be made in relation to community causes.

The third speaker was Sue Riddlestone, CEO of Bioregional talking in practical terms about “One planet earth” – we consume three times what planet earth can sustain.

On Tuesday, I gave a talk at a breakfast meeting at Foxhills about “Managing across the digital generations”, making the point that I have also stated in “Young Surrey : Strategic Review” that as people work longer, so larger organisations will have employees from across 4 generations - Baby boomers like me, then Generations X, Y and Z- the latter being today’s teenagers of current university students. They all have different values, life experiences,  skills and expectations, so how do you manage across the generations? Secondly how can Generation Z also called the citizen Generation be enabled to enter the world of working?

One of my concerns is that if today’s young people don’t vote at the forthcoming elections they will continue to be disempowered; this speaks to Mathew Taylor’s point. Consider for example the Arab Spring – enabled by Twitter, Blackberry etc as a community movement, but now traditional forces/institutions have re- asserted power.

We are making progress on organising a conference in November, probably at Royal Holloway College on what the Government calls Youth Social Action, and this will include inputs on what citizenship means.

On Wednesday, I had lunch with my fellow directors of Surrey Youth Enterprise, and with one of our Trustees about the future of the enterprise  which was very encouraging.

For the rest I have been working on preparing our papers for Pqasso external assessment, and am grateful to colleagues from Allianz (walking the walk as business citizens already) for their help in this.

Under attack from my wife again for lacking emotional intelligence (humph!!) brought about by too much theology (impossible) and World Cup football(possible) , and so have been blitzing novels by Anita Shreeve, and watching Wallender – brilliant study of the impact of Alzheimers. I’ll be playing squash and going to the gym this week-end, and don’t forget folks Nanny (state) says “drink water!” – a revelation!”


Friday, 20 June 2014

CommUniLAB Launched!

We are delighted to have launched our CommUniLAB website which can be found at: www.communilab.org  CommuniLAB is a virtual network that enables people in communities, universities and colleges, the public sector and business to voice problems that they would like to see addressed. For once we take off our “work “ hat we discover that as parents or as partners we face similar concerns and issues.  This  might be about the prevalence of bullying - a matter that came up at the Child and Adolescent Mental Health (CAMHS) Strategy Board I was at yesterday - or the provision of childcare,  or how to secure volunteering or work experience opportunities for one’s teenagers, or as a business how to offer such opportunities, or how to contribute to the lessening of disadvantage in a particular.
All Surrey Youth Focus are automatically members of CommUniLAB; if you are interested and want to join this exciting new network contact Linda Cairns, project manager linda.cairns@surreyyouthfocus.org.uk.   Our thanks to Barclays Bank as our principal sponsors and project champions.
One of the points I make in “Young Surrey : Strategic Review” is that the ever –reducing Government funding makes it imperative that the resources across the charity - local government  – business sectors are pooled, or “mined”,  to address shared issues. I am off this afternoon to witness a perfect example of this – Elmbridge BC/ Surrey CC/Walton Charities combining over their “Streets Apart” project.
The Management and Finance sub-committee of Trustees signed off on the Annual Report and Accounts for last year which now goes on to the main Board. Also reviewed the Risk Register and approved the processes for project planning and evaluation. This includes addressing the Inputs - Outputs – Outcomes trilogy, and is necessary as part of the preparation for our Pqasso (qa) review – very grateful to Allianz (insurance ) for all their help to us. The same methodology is being applied to our Agreement with Surrey CC for our core grant.
Even busier next week with two early morning talks – one of which is me talking to Surrey Chamber of Commerce about “Managing across generations” – Foxhills 7.30 am – nearly 40 people have booked in apparently!
World Cup expectations met! I have booked my flight to Biarritz on 13 Sept and hence on to St Jean des Pied to start my walk on the following Monday early – as dawn rises.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Red Kites, Blue butterflies and Yellow buttercups

I have been walking part of the South Downs Way these last 4 days…56 miles of training walk with my “Spanish” rucksack ie checking on my kit and weight for my long walk in Spain later.

So I was pleased to be walking in the heat with a full rucksack and have decided to jettison one bit of kit as a result. Lots of stories to tell of course, but mainly about how incredibly kind and engaging  people are when out in the countryside and away from it all. I walked from Bury hill to Beachy Head/Eastbourne centre to catch a train home, and learnt a lot. The countryside was incredibly beautiful especially between Ditchling and Alfriston.

I returned to work today to lots of emails and catch up..ugh…hot in office.

But the sporting scene this week-end  is good : Holland v Spain in the World Cup tonight, and England v. the All Blacks 2nd Test tomorrow. And we’re going to the 40th wedding anniversary celebrations of some friends on Saturday – should be an enjoyable week-end.


Friday, 6 June 2014

Cabinet Office supports development of eight youth mutuals

A very  important headline announcement has appeared in the charity press to the effect that Surrey CC Youth Support Service is working with the Cabinet Office to prepare for outsourcing as a mutual. This was exactly the possibility that is referred to in “Young Surrey : Strategic Review 2014-15” in which I wrote about the blending of the sectors, and referred to LB Kensington and Chelsea’s setting up of their youth service as EPIC, which is also a mutual.

The press article can be found here: article (my thanks to Chris at Eikon for spotting this)

It is too early to say what the impact will be, but IF this happens it will be significant, and is a parallel move to Surrey CC transferring all its adult social care into a LATC (local authority trading company).

I have a Surrey Charity Chief executives Group meeting this afternoon, and so we will have an interesting discussion. The bottom line is that what I call the “blended sector” is here to stay, so we might as well work on how to make it work.

I have been working on our Annual Report which is now substantially completed and on very interesting work about the health needs of young people. We have been commissioned by Healthwatch (the consumer champions) to research into the experiences, issues and priorities of young people about heir health and well being. We are doing so by survey monkey and focus groups. The report is due out at the end of August.

I’m on leave most of next week walking 55 miles on the South Downs Way (from Bury to Beachy Head) as a training exercise for an altogether longer walk later. I’ll report next Friday on the fauna and flora and my recommendations about pubs!