Sir Stephen Bubb officially launched the Charity Futures Programme at an event at the Houses of Parliament yesterday.
Earlier this year Bubb stood down as chief executive of Acevo to focus on the new project. The programme has been funded by Woodford Investment Management.
Speaking during the event, Jonathan Smith, head of corporate social responsibility at Woodford Investment Management, said he was inspired by comments made by Bubb to John Humphrys on Radio 4’s Today programme, that the sector needed a greater focus on governance and leadership – as well as donors who think further than “the next sexy programme”.
Smith said: “At that point, Welsh Valleys boy that I am, I thought good lord, there’s someone who knows what he is talking about and he is saying the same as us – so he must be onto something. And I put a call in to Stephen. And the rest, as they say, is history.”
The focus of the group will be on the “business of charity” and “doing the unsexy stuff”, Smith said.
“We believe that this is very important work. We believe in the timescale that we are indicating – which is decades, not years.
“We said to Stephen, let’s have a look at this over two years, but this is a 50-year play. This is not a five-minute wham-bam event. And I think the sort of change that we will be looking for is small-scale, incremental, continuous, meaningful, because if ever we needed it, we need it now. And we have got our man. And I hope we can give him the freedom to act without fear and to deliver on that trust, passion and professionalism.”
The Charity Futures programme was set up with the aim of redefining the charity sector and assessing how that will be done, an Acevo spokesman told Civil Society News.
The event featured tributes to Bubb and his 15-year career as chief executive of Acevo. But he was keen to stress that he was “not retiring”.
"I am giving up the heavy duty of the chief executive to take on this role leading Charity Futures,” he said.
“One point I want to make, we’ve all seen what happened in Nice and the effects of terrorist actions… It’s not enough to say we declare war on terror. We have to do something in our societies to build communities to integrate people different from ourselves. And that is absolutely what our sector is about.
“It is about that passion and professionalism. But the reality is that there is no point with having grand ideas. And the pioneers have always known that you need to put foundations under what you do. And that’s about professional leadership and governance. I now have the opportunity to lead a programme that will help drive that professionalism that we need that enables us to deliver.”
Chief executive of the Charities Aid Foundation, John Low, offered a tongue-in-cheek tribute to his “loyal friend” Stephen.
“They say that change comes through the unreasonable man. And you, Stephen have achieved much change,” he said.
“But knowing Stephen, it’s plainly obvious that this is not the end. It’s only an excuse for a party and the beginning of something new. The Charity Futures programme is the new ship that is setting sail.”
Bubb was also praised by minister for civil society Rob Wilson who said he admired Bubb's record of "speaking truth to so many people in power".
Bubb in return said he was “pleased” to see Wilson would continue as minister for civil society and that the sector would continue to be represented in Parliament.