Friday, 6 August 2010

A Day of Members

One of the advantages of August is that there are significantly less meetings so I always try and use time to meet with members.

Yesterday was a bumper one. First up; Jane Slowey who runs the impressive Foyer Foundation (as well as spare time hobbies like Chairing Skills Third Sector!). She gave me an incredible example of the power of our sector and our imagination. She is working on a "young offenders academy" in East London. No, not a school for better burgling! The idea is a campus which as a range of facilities and interventions from a secure unit, run as a Young Offenders Institution under the Prison service but managed and run by a third sector-private partnership, then hostel and training facilities providing intermediate treatment and support.

The reality of many kids in East London is that when they offend and get a sentence they will be shipped off around the country - the nearest YOI is in Feltham. So their often tenuous connections with local communities are fractured and then they are dumped back with no effective support. And, surprise, surprise, the cycle of re-offending commences...

A brilliant example of the sector coming up with a practical and sensible answer to youth offending. It is a scheme Government must support. We need more such examples. This is Big Society in action. Us determining what it is. Not the State.

Then I met with one of our corporate members, Deloitte. Mary Reilly, a senior partner, who leads on the third sector is a powerhouse! We talked about how we can work together on developing the case for better access to capital in the sector and on Trustee development. Mary was right to highlight the risk averse nature of many Trustees and how they do not use the opportunity of audit to ask wider questions of strategy and direction and fail to use their Annual Report to make the case on impact. We will be doing work with them here.

Then it was off to lunch with Terry Ryall who runs v, the great youth volunteering charity that is supporting initiatives to increase volunteering across the country. And they do this through empowering a multitude of third sector bodies; large and small, local and national. It is embedded in the sector. It delivers through sector organisations. This again is the correct model for Big Society. The state providing the needed finance but letting the sector determine delivery.

Then back to meet an old friend Lola Barret of Grenfell Housing Association. She runs an impressive Housing Association in South London and they have a particularly successful scheme to provide mentoring to young people entering the labour market and sticking with them. They provide excellent training. Lola is an active ACEVO member. She is a real example of the dynamism in local community organisations. She also Chair's Merton CVS. I went to visit her and see her new office (then being developed ) some two years ago. The office is now finished. Not yet opened. I suggested the Queen to do the launch!

Just time to fit in a trip off to the BBC in White City to do an interview for the World Tonight on the national citizen service, where I have been highlighting the need for a more diverse and inclusive approach. It was interesting that they told me it had been difficult to find anyone in the sector prepared to put their head above the parapet on this, though they and I know there is widespread criticism of the scheme. But whilst others talk of "independence" ACEVO will always stand up and defend and promote the CEO voice. Rt Hon Francis Maude MP said to me at our Tory Summit we should hold their feet to the fire. ACEVO will do that. Not in a headbanging, or mindless oppositional fashion, but with constructive criticism and proposals on how to change.

And finally; off to the Proms again. And this time,what an evening! Valery Gergiev conducted a highlight of the Proms celebrations marking the composer's 150th anniversary. He was conducting the World Orchestra for Peace, conceived by Georg Solti as an assembly of first-rate players from around the world to promote peace.

Mahlers 5th symphony is a quite incredible work. I've heard it on disc, and of course the slow movement is the haunting theme music of the film "Death in Venice". That bit in particular was achingly beautiful. You could have heard a feather drop when it was played. A massive audience wrapped up in the music. And a timber rattling finale.

I had taken my niece, Miranda, a great pianist herself. Here she is enjoying it all!

Valery Gergiev takes a bow at conclusion of fabulous Mahler's 5th.


And as I leave I get a text message from one of my Trustees, "Great interview". I hadn't been able to hear my piece on World Tonight as Mahler was in full swing. Good end to a good day!

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