Even the young, though, are not immune from trouble – as my younger son Matt was knocked-out in a rugby match a week ago!
This residence has been the stuff of legend for years and it was very exciting to finally see Diego’s pile on top of a Piedmont hillside – it was even more fun to meet so many Italian colleagues past and present, most of whom were involved in the kind of creative entrepreneurial activities which characterised their time in the firm. Also present were Bill Green, Sir Vernon Ellis and Karl Heinz Floether amongst others to recognise Diego’s remarkable career at Accenture and his impact on the global firm. Sandy and I were entertained by our great friend Gianfranco Casati and his wife Maurizia in their beautiful home in Casteggi, near Pavia in northern Italy.
We took advantage of being in Italy to enjoy the end of summer on Lake Como and we have just returned from a great half term break in the surf of Devon with my 87-year-old father. Other retirement parties I attended this month (is there a pattern here?) were Royce Bell, held on the deck above the National Theatre, and that of Sir Christopher Bland who is stepping down as Chair of the RSC in Stratford-upon-Avon. I also participated in the AGM of the RSC in Stratford, where I was delighted to be confirmed for a further three years on the Board myself and enjoyed a fantastic performance of the Taming of the Shrew by the Young Persons Shakespeare group. Perhaps the performance highlight of the month though, was seeing Snow Patrol live at the intimate venue of the HMV Forum with Alex last week. Standing just five or six rows back from the stage we heard them play a lot of old favourites (including Chasing Cars), as well as songs from the new album Fallen Empires due to for release in a couple of weeks – it sounds great!
The ideas we discussed were also very resonant with a separate session that I had in Paris with Pierre Nanterme, the CEO of Accenture and his colleagues from Medef – the French business organisation – which has been charged with preparing the B20 meeting that is taking place alongside this week’s G20 meeting in Cannes. We reviewed a very good paper which has been developed to integrate the perspective of business on solving the economic ills which beset the planet. We talked a lot about how business and government can work better together to create the environment for more sustainable growth, as well as how business can take a more direct role itself.
This month also saw me, in my IBLF role, co-hosting with Gib Bulloch, from Accenture Development Partnerships, and Lord Michael Hastings from KPMG, a convergence seminar in London with business leaders and NGO’s on the changing models for partnership and joint development. Some 50 attendees, drawn from all sectors joined us for great discussions with the CEO’s of Oxfam and Plan International as well as business perspectives from Barclays, Vodafone, Unilever and BG Group. Many of the new models which are coming to the fore include co-investment in businesses small and large in the developing world as opposed to reliance on aid. This is something I have been pushing in the Commission too. Interestingly, the Under Secretary of State for Development Stephen O’Brien also addressed the group and referred several times to the importance of the new Commission (ICAI) as part of the new landscape of the aid and the government focus on effectiveness. I have therefore found all my various hats connecting in different but related spaces. Maybe I will be able to make some sense of it myself sometime!
My other big activity has been working with several of the parents and Trustees of Peaslake School, the village school which I have chaired for the past 18 years, on a consultation document concerning the potential to apply for Free School status. Government policy in the UK has evolved to encourage state schools to become more independent and be run by local groups of parents and communities. Ironically our village has been doing this, providing free education for 3-7 years olds, with no government support, for nearly two decades. We do now see a potential opportunity to take advantage of the new policy to return back into the “system” and gain access to the funding available to allow us to develop the school over the next twenty years. There are though risks to such a model and after creating a unique community spirit around the school over the years we are wary of the impact of becoming overly dependent on the state again. So over the coming few months we will be conducting a consultation with the 400 households in the village and our supporters over which direction to take.
Meanwhile this month’s news has been dominated by the ongoing travails in the Eurozone. As I write this there has been the latest of countless attempts to draw a line under the crisis surrounding the euro and the markets have bounced back somewhat. And yet we all know that the current plan is no more than a plan at this stage and that, substantial though the sums involved appear to be, they will be sorely tested by any moderate further shock to a key European economy. The lack of leadership which has been evident in Europe and the continuing weakness of the growth signals in the US do not bode well for the emergence of a robust industrial direction and investment strategy which could stimulate job creation in local, regional and global markets. The demonstrations in Wall St and St Paul’s London, among others are ill-focused efforts to create a dialogue around “real” growth and the lowering of inequality – and yet they are onto something. As the Libyan crisis comes to its initial denouement and we see Tunisia hold their first truly democratic elections we should not forget that it is the lack of jobs and opportunity, especially for youth, which is the most dangerous of forces. Political and business leaders will need to turn their minds from debates over improbable sums of phantom money to real actions to build economies soon.