Little at large

Let's all be Robin Hood and make the most of the interns

- "The ecosystem of civil society activity in relation to the financial sector is weak," said a recent report from the Commission of Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society, rather opaquely.But Catherine Howarth, director of Fair Pensions, in an article for the Open Democracy website, says more bluntly that civil society organisations with an effective critique of the finance sector can be counted on two hands.

The neglect by charities of what was going on in the murky world of finance was most starkly exposed by the revelation at the end of 2007 that the major banks were using charitable trusts to pool their mortgage loans and turn them into securities to sell on to larger investors - exactly the kind of practice at the root of the financial crisis. And without, mind, donating a penny to charity.

The excesses of the financial sector are returning, says Howarth. Will the sector be more vigilant now? The flurry of charities joining the Robin Hood tax campaign is probably a belated attempt to play catch-up.

- "Beware the high-street fundraiser", warned The Times earlier this month. According to its story, experts had warned that people should avoid handing their bank details to chuggers. So who were these experts? According to Tris Lumley, head of strategy at New Philanthropy Capital, some quotes were from a report written in 2008 by an intern working at the donor advice website Intelligent Giving, which NPC took over in 2009. And the paper plans to start charging £1 a day for these up-to-the-minute reports?

- TimeBank UK last week tempted audiences at an event with the promise that Red or Dead fashion designer Wayne Hemingway would share his thoughts on what design and volunteering have in common: "I believe that design can be applied to anything to achieve a social impact," he was scheduled to say. "I did it with fashion and housing, and now we should do it with volunteering." We remain in ignorance as to quite how, because at the event he didn't get around to the subject, instead ruminating on how well he understood volunteers because he employed interns. And how, precisely, does fashion have a social impact? I mean, in a good way?

- Jon Scourse left his job as chief executive of the Fundraising Standards Board at the end of 2008 to, as he told Third Sector, "indulge my passion for landscape photography and for singing". The photography seems to be going well - he had an exhibition in aid of the Children's Society earlier this month. No word yet about the singing, though.

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

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