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Monday, 27 September 2010

Releasing potential

It's such a pleasure to help really nice people escape from the confines of their public sector past. The cultural and attitudinal changes demanded by 'Big Society' are huge and not everyone finds it easy to adapt.

Last week, I was able to introduce a state school Head Teacher, let down by the demise of BSF, to someone able to bring together private investors to build the new school she needs.The penny only really dropped when the lead investor explained that although he could fund the whole project himself, he'd prefer to work with others. I don't think she'd met many really wealthy people before.

I don't think the Head Teacher had realised that whilst the public sector agonise and plan for months, even years, about any investment decision, then spend many more months making sure it's 'done correctly', the private sector listen to your pitch and decide on the spot. If it feels right, it must be right and the detail will inevitably fall into place as the principle heads of agreement are reached.

Increasingly I am working as a deal broker in this way, preparing the two sides then bringing them together to share the vision I have helped them imagine. It's rewarding, great fun and surely what 'Big Society' is all about?

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Rules and how to bend them

 I've just suggested to Norwich City Council that they put the rule book to one side and respond to an emergency. There are 300 of their former workers who transferred  out under TUPE and found themselves out of work when Connaught (to whom they had TUPE transferred again) went bust.

The press reported that the Council had the work and the budget but rules forbade them from hiring the workers directly. They hoped that the new contractors they hired through an open tender process would take on some of the now redundant workers.

My suggestion, that the workers form a cooperative and contract with the Council was met with some enthusiasm. But the rules say it can't be done like that I was told. It reminds me of the case recently where a child drowned because the first emergency worker on the scene did not have the right training to wade into a pond to save the child.

Sure breaking rules always carries risk, but at what point to you lay the rule book to one side to deal compassionately and quickly with an emergency. Many of the 300 workers were employed for decades by the Council before all this contracting nonsense took them into the private sector. They are vulnerable people, being pushed around and now punished by a system over which they have no control.

To me, 'Big Society' is all about putting people first. Here's a great opportunity for a city to work together to do what's right for the people. The people who now find themselves out of work; the people whose Council owned homes need repairs and the people who together make Norwich one of the world's nicest cities.

I've even found a man with the perfect combination of skills and experience to make it happen. I've made the introduction and now need to sit back and see what happens. I hope everyone rises to the challenge!