Having been in the US last week, I am struck by the lessons we can learn from the other side of the pond. I gave a talk in Washington DC at the Independent Sector, a coalition of corporations, foundations and private voluntary organisations, and hooked up with Diane Aviv, its feisty chief executive.
Diane is defending the charity sector in the US Senate in the face of scandals concerning excessive compensation and benefits to trustees. During my stay, The Washington Post laid into the Smithsonian Institution museum over trustee benefits. Do we really want to go down this road?
Tuesday: Good news. Gordon Brown's proposed constitutional reforms, which he announced in Parliament, include a pledge to consider the recommendations of the recent Helena Kennedy QC campaigning report. When the news breaks, I exchange a flurry of excited emails with People & Planet, the Shelia McKechnie Foundation and the NCVO. We need to keep up the pressure - but what a fantastic start.
Wednesday: I am gobsmacked by the bravery of human rights journalists, celebrated at the amazing Amnesty Media Awards at the Cafe Royal in London. With a cracked voice and huge dignity, the father of Alan Johnston, the BBC's Gaza correspondent recently released from captivity, accepts an award for Alan's radio journalism.
An award is also given to an undercover report into the death of a 16-year-old girl in Iran who was executed for crimes against chastity. It hits me that I take my sexual freedoms for granted, and I leave the awards with torn emotions. I am aghast at the persecution women can face, but I also feel heart-stopping relief for all the hard won freedoms to be celibate/lesbian/bi/straight/a serial monogamist.
Thursday: At the invitation of Lord Rothschild, I am in the grand surroundings of Spencer House in honour of distinguished American Professor Joel Fleishman's new book on philanthropy. Joel underlines the importance of grant makers working on a long-term basis with a small number of projects, allowing them to flourish without constantly worrying about core costs. Nice work, if you can get it. It seems a long way from the reality of likely cuts in statutory funding and more bitter Compact disputes.
In that respect, I am so glad that Richard Corden is the new interim Compact chief executive. Beneath his quintessential civil service persona lies a passion and dedication to the sector. I fear that 'miracle worker' should have been in his job description.
- Rosamund McCarthy writes in a personal capacity and is a partner in law firm Bates, Wells & Braithwaite.