Little at Large: How a paper napkin changed the course of history

They say journalism is the first draft of history. In the voluntary sector, however, the first draft is actually on paper napkins.

Mathew Little
Mathew Little

When NCVO's Stuart Etherington met Nicholas Deakin over a cup of tea at the National Liberal Club in 1996 to discuss an action plan based on the Deakin Report, the great man jotted down the seminal points on a serviette. A few days later, it became clear he'd lost it.

Fortunately, they managed to piece the Deakin agenda together again, and the rest is indeed history. Maybe he'll find it in the attic one day.

- You wait two decades for a voluntary sector research centre, then two come along at once.

First, there's the research centre funded by the Office of the Third Sector and the Economic and Social Research Council. And then, pulling around the corner, is the other research centre funded by the Office of the Third Sector and the Economic and Social Research Council.

Of the two, the research centre announced in the Third Sector Review to build the evidence base of the sector is definitely the double decker: it has £10m of match funding. The Charitable Giving and Philanthropy Research Centre, by contrast, has a mere £2.2m and is something of a bendy bus, taking in not only giving but also how philanthropy can advance social justice. But some are wondering if the first piece of work for both of these bodies will concentrate on unnecessary duplication?

- News that Charity Bank is considering a bid to run Futurebuilders gives a hint of the shape-shifting identity flux that is contestability. Can Futurebuilders bid to run Charity Bank? Can the Directory of Social Change bid to run the Office of the Third Sector? Can Avram Grant manage Chelsea? Are there any rules any more?

- Mathew Little is a freelance writer. mathew.little@haymarket.com 

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