Thursday, 18 February 2010

Surviving the 'era of the cut'

Today I chaired the London meeting of ACEVO's nationwide pre-election consultations, entitled 'The Big Ask'. It was an interesting and well attended event. Lots of passionate and highly articulate points made. One that struck me was from a CEO working in health who had tendered for contracts against statutory providers for whom many of the procurement costs were lost in the machine. It was not, therefore a level playing field. We heard time and again from third sector organisations who offer services with extraordinary success rates, such as working with ex-offenders and achieving re-offending rates of 13% as opposed to the National statistic, which is at around 55%. These services present as extraordinary savings in terms of reducing prison populations and human misery, but as one woman put it, "if the prison authority has to make cuts, the first thing that goes are the auxiliary services."

I had a lovely meeting today with an old friend, Debbie Pippard, at the Big Lottery. We talked about their funding priorities, their enthusiasm for social enterprise and responsibility to only fund services that should not be funded by statutory authorities. It made me think about how you would define what statutory authorities should fund, and particularly how that might change in the 'era of the cut'. Debbie also asked me to draw folks attention to their Awards for All offer. Seems like a good one to go for at the moment.

Yesterday I saw my action learning group for a meeting to decide if we should continue. For those that don't know action learning is a formal, facilitated group of peers that meet regularly and take it in turns to pose professional dilemmas. Instead of offering advice, the group ask questions allowing the subject to work towards their own strategy. Ours has met quarterly for nearly ten years, and are an epic group of gals. In that time we have changed innumerable jobs, had children, got divorced, lost loved ones and remained true to ourselves and mistresses of the universe. We did of course, decide to plough on. As the Americans say, ‘if it ain't broke, don't fix it’.

The family and I are off to Pembrokeshire for a few days for log fires and muddy walks. Can't wait. We have left our lovely au pair to manage the menagerie. In fact this week we adopted another rabbit, Nibbles, whose family have downsized to a flat and can no longer keep him. He seems a super chap and as long as he steers clear of Jemima our clucky, pecking alpha chicken he'll be ok. Still, yet another animal - I can't help but wonder if it’s a step in the right direction. I think I must love agro.

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