Trustees’ Meeting 25th May 2010

To all trustees:

Seeking a Safe Haven

To continue the maritime analogy is helpful; coming after my message (13/05/10) about being in stormy weather I approach next Tuesday’s Trustees Meeting ‘seeking a safe haven.’

Let me unpack this analogy as meaning (remember all the time I had spent sunk in the history of the early colonists in the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia in particular) that the Initiative has to find a safe place, a breathing space, in which we can regroup and if necessary redesign the ship, salvage the cargo and rest, or replace the crew.  Only then could we continue with the voyage holding our message up on high (and if necessary with a still smaller but better designed boat and an even smaller cargo).

In other words how can we survive long enough to collect our wits and regroup and if necessary find a new younger crew.  However small we have to become I just cannot swim on my own.  There has to be a boat.  And at this stage I do need space to regain my strength and my energy.

I have had several meetings with Richard and Johanne and together we have produced the enclosed Strategic Issues and Action Plan paper.  Continuing with the maritime analogy this Paper sketches out what we have to do whilst holding ground in a safe haven for long enough to repair or redesign the vessel.  We can’t set out again until we have done this.  We won’t find appropriate further sponsors until they see us with a design that is fit for purpose.

As I can’t exist without at least a significant part of my earlier salary we have to move out of that safe haven within little more than six months, or we would rot at our moorings.

Immediately, at Tuesday’s meeting, this requires the trustees to decide whether or not to proceed with Actions 1, 2 and 3.  If there is a willingness to do this then I would suggest that three new trustees be appointed – Richard Hornbrook, Johanne Grosvold and Pete Mountstephen – and that a similar number of the present trustees should feel able to stand down.  I would ask that one member of the present Board of Trustees be asked to act as Interim Chairman of the new Board for up to six months to enable a natural Chairman to emerge as the new trustees start to pull together.

It would then be necessary to instruct me to work with the new Board of Trustees (and any other individuals that could provide invaluable assistance) in formulating a new strategic plan (Action 4) and a funding plan (Action 6).  This will involve considerable work by all of us (at least half a day together if not a whole day) but without that we just cannot move forward.  I would then need to come to an agreement in principle with the Chairman as the date of my retirement (Action 5).  This would all need to be completed by June 30th.

I would ask that all present trustees should meet with the new Board of Trustees shortly after June 30th to mark their approval of the continuing work of the Initiative.

P.S.  What troubles me is knowing how large a ‘tent’ I would need to build while in such a metaphorical safe haven so that we don’t lose momentum.  As of the last 48 hours here are four issues relating to that momentum:

  • While dealing with all the complexity of a possible new school in Larkhall, and all the conflicting political opinions, two nights ago the Director of Children’s Services spent an hour and a half with me and said “Thanks for the therapy, you are my counsellor.”  I probably know more about what is happening, what could happen, and what are the pitfalls than almost anyone, which is an enormous responsibility/challenge (remember this is highly confidential).
  • I have just had an email from Dominic Cummings saying that he is no longer Special Advisor to Michael Gove and has returned to private life but would very much like to meet with me shortly to advise me on how I should proceed.
  • For what it is worth the new Director General of the I.E.A. has asked to come and see me here in Bath on the 31st May.
  • Neil Richards, having invited me to give the lead speech at a 3-day conference at Atlantic College in September has now taken my advice and is also asking Jeff Hopkins (my opposite number in British Columbia) to come over as part of the entire conference.  The possibilities for linking our work more closely with BC would be enormous.

As you will appreciate I am in real need of knowing how to prioritise all this, not exhausting myself and ensure that we don’t miss the main chance.

John Abbott
20th May 2010