Three pieces of charitable advice worth heeding

ship in a storm

“There is a perfect organisational structure out there, it’s just that since 1948 [NHS] we have not found it; perhaps we are just one more organisational change away!”    Professor Jon Glasby

I am often asked by charities to work alongside their boards and senior teams to help develop their strategy. Reflecting on this here are 3 pithy pieces of advice.

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Retain your sovereignty
The radical cuts to statutory services and the resultant effect on their purse strings, has meant that charities are invited to compete for ever diminishing resources. Too often I have witnessed charities putting together detailed bids for contracts which they should have walked away from on first analysis. The results of gaining an undesirable contract are significant; service failure, financial pain, reputational damage, being pulled out of shape to name but a few – advice:
Question if the contract is desirable
Avoid colluding with a race to the bottom
If it does not stack up don’t be afraid to walk away
Your charity is not a statutory sector dept, put aside any notion that they will look after your interests – retain your sovereignty it is a valuable asset

Take the initiative
Don’t be passive recipients, instead be well informed about the issues.
Engineer creative solutions
Seek to avoid best value bureaucratic processes, instead run pilot schemes, make them work and become irreplaceable

Value your memory
The statutory sector is a political football and as a result it suffers from persistent upheaval as it is charged with implementing untested ideas often without evidence base. This results in continual disorientation of services and those who work within them. Managers come and go at an alarming rate, their job titles change as do their priorities and the organogram pinned to the notice board no longer represents who they should be reporting to.
These large scale changes has served to fracture their understanding of the community they serve and the history of what has gone before. Rather like a ship trying to plot the coastline whilst caught up in a force 8 gale.
Charities have been much more stable entities and as such they have become the holders of the communal memory – advice:
Recognise & value this, don’t be shy to share your insights, do it assertively & become the conduit that joins together statutory sector thinking.



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Carers live in a land called Upstream


“Treat the future well; it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children”    Adapted from a north American Indian saying

Any sensible review of care; how we provide it and the cost of providing it, will recognise that we need to intervene upstream. This blog takes a view on the lack of support for carers, those 6.5million unpaid friends and family members who day after day provide the care without which our health and social care system would be overrun.

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So what do we mean by upstream?
Looking for the causes of long term health e.g. educating and encouraging healthy eating and exercise helps prevent type 2 diabetes, cardiac disease and a 101 other ailments. Providing early intervention with mental health problems helps to prevent hospital admissions, sex education helps reduce unplanned pregnancies etc.

As Public Health notes, investing upstream in prevention rather than downstream in intervention is often wiser and more effective, or as grandma said “a stitch in time…”

Simple then, so why do we sell off playing fields whilst increasing a focus on the 3 R’s and then act surprised when surrounded by childhood obesity? Why when faced with savage local authority cuts is our attention immediately drawn from prevention to the pressing symptoms and expensive reactive interventions?

So in this extended period of austerity let’s talk about carers,  if carers stopped today the swamped system which would collapse tomorrow – simple. Nothing can be clearer than the upstream contribution carers make to the system.

You may say “well it was always thus” however the UK demographic is changing strikingly, some facts to ponder:

• One in five people aged 50-64 in the UK are carers to an older family member, yet the same number have no children of their own to fulfill this role for them, already one million over 65’s fit into this category and this is forecasted to double by 2030.

• Carers aged 75 and over have increased by 35% since 2001

• There are now more older people in need of care than there are adult children able to provide it.

The 2014 Care Act did provide recognition and provided some rights e.g. to have a carers assessment, but the harsh reality in these times of de-growth is that cash strapped local authorities fail to ‘advertise’ this, have created waiting lists and have then restricted the resources allocated post assessment.

Surely if we cannot get our act together to do anything else upstream, we should be providing much more meaningful resource to the unpaid workforce that lives there, because if they crumble its game over.400dpiLogoCropped

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A cruel irony


“Do not make important what you can measure, measure what is important”

The CQC are officially part of the drive that causes the outcome they are not going to measure – read on!

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The CQC have just released a report – ‘The State of Mental Health Care’ & Michael Brown in his Mental Health Cop (highly recommended) blog notes from the report:

“There is national concern about the difficulty of finding a bed when a young person requires inpatient care. When a bed is found, it is often a long way from the young person’s home. We do not always detect this unmet need because our assessment focuses on the quality of the care provided to patients who are already on the ward, and not to those that require or are awaiting admission. However, we have received reports of the impact of the unavailability of inpatient care. This includes a letter from an assistant chief constable about a 17-year old who was kept in a police cell for 78 hours because no bed was available. The assistant chief constable commented that “the majority of this time in police custody was unlawful and it amounts to a human rights violation, given that Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights prevents detention by the state except in accordance with processes outlined by domestic law”.

He goes on to note that police forces have threatened and started action against the NHS over this issue. If this is not a clear indication of how bad things have got and how community mental health need is being mopped up by the police then I do not know what is!

But can we take this analysis one step further, namely that the source of the problem is the powerful Transforming Care Delivery Board’s (TCDB) overtly stated intention to sharply reduce inpatient beds (in which they are succeeding) it is this that has lead directly to this kind of suffering.

Now the idea that better designed services in the community will be forthcoming is wishful thinking. The scale of the cuts to local authority budgets over the last few years has meant that far from services moving up stream the only thing that has gone up is the threshold criteria to receive services.

However let us just consider a further irony in the system; the CQC are extremely unlikely to drill down on this issue because they formally signed away their neutrality when they signed up as a core member to the TCDB – they are officially part of the drive that causes the outcome they are not going to measure!


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Wimbledon without rain


“Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you are a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player”  Bill Gates

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Can you imagine a Wimbledon without strawberries & cream, the tournament without rain, the players without coaches?

It has been done……but very rarely indeed.

Players hire coaches to be the best they can, their performance is important to them, they desire to excel & to that end line up the best support they can find.

Business is fast catching on, taking decisive action & getting results “Recent studies show executive coaching to be the most effective means for achieving sustainable growth, change and development in the individual, group and organisation.” HR Monthly


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Theory & truth in the labyrinth


“No theory can be right because no theory can have all the answers & hold a monopoly on the truth”

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Earlier this year in Marrakech I was hunted down through a labyrinth of streets by a trader who had shut up shop to catch up with me. When he eventually did so he grabbed my arm & various scenarios flashed through my mind, none of which came close to the truth of what was about to transpire.

He duly informed me that I had mistakenly given him the equivalent of £100 too much & counted out the notes methodically before me! Needless to say we parted as friends.

I admit it did leave me a bit perplexed, not what I would have expected in theory & it took a while to adjust to this new truth.

I think it is rare that our experiences are this cut & dried & so the reality check an experience has the potential to provide us can get overlooked in favour of previously embraced theories. In many ways coaching should provide a space to challenge ourselves and our theories and test them in a safe space, to ensure that practice informs theory as well as the other way around.


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Coming alive


“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive”   Harold Whitman

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In many ways this goes to the heart of coaching; getting in touch or reconnecting with our core self & ensuring our actions are congruent with this, enables a kind of coming alive or reawakening.

Skilled facilitation can help to remove the tarnish & rust from our best self, helping us to set aside our mind-forged manacles, towards improved vision & performance.


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By their fruits


“The real test of a leader lies not in the personality or behaviour of the leader, but in the performance of the groups they lead. By their fruits we will know them”    Rosemary Stewart

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