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After yesterday’s massive screed of a blog (someone sent me a text saying ‘I read the first half but had to stop when I realised I was losing the will to live’), something shorter and lighter.

I gave a lunchtime talk today to ACEVO (the third sector CEOs’ organisation). When they first asked me they said forty people were coming, then it was nineteen, then twelve and finally eight of us sat down to lamb cutlets or sea bass. Despite the slight collateral damage to the battered Taylor ego (still smarting after being left off the Metro ‘top 6,000 quite intelligent Londoners called Matthew’ list), it was actually quite nice to be in a small group.

I had decided not to make a big speech about 21st century enlightenment but to explore some of the challenges facing the third sector in the long period of austerity ahead. Being in the company of some very impressive leaders I ended up hearing a number of interesting points. One that will stick with me was the charity which sees its major corporate partners not only, or even primarily, as financial donors but as sources of organisational expertise, guidance and support. Rather than seeing the relationship as a way into money, this charity saw the donation as a way into a relationship. This is a thought and indeed an ambition I have had before but it was powerful  to hear of it in practice.  

Another was a point about collaboration to the effect that the best partnerships often start off being disinterested - just organisations wanting to find out more about, and learn from, each other. It is only later that the opportunities for joint projects and funding bids start to emerge. This contrasts with what has generally been my own experience – shotgun marriages of convenience.  It made me think about which third sector organisations and leaders I most admire and whose aims most clearly align with our own, and also realise that I didn’t need to wait for a concrete proposal before suggesting a conversation.

Finally, I also heard about ACEVO’s report on the Big Society, which is being published on Monday. I shan’t break their embargo but from what I was told the report confirms – but this time with proper analysis and evidence – most of the concerns I have been airing on this blog. I hope to write more fully about the report when it is published.

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