Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Two principles and a rider

Is there possibly a formula for post-crunch charitable fundraising?

Around a month ago, I do not remember where, I wrote that, crunch or no crunch, the possibilities for charitable funding for Conductive Education may not yet be entirely exhausted. I also, I think, ventured a couple of general principles for successful charitable funding in even the hardest times:

  • do something really different; and
  • fundraise from the basis of a standing within your community.

I would add the rider that raising charitable money will have, more than ever, to involve the absolute minimum of costs, with no expensive fundraising staff involved, and the minimum of effort, with no extensive organisation or management required. These two points and their rider were drawn from occasional reports appearing on the Internet and things told me by people in the field. Whilst they can hardly be proposed as having lawful force, I was pleased to see two further Internet reports over the Christmas period that do seem to bear them out.

I have no idea how far these two experiences might be generalisable but I offer them here for the consideration of those in Conductive Education whose New Year may be much tied up with reviewing their organisations’ budgets and seriously revisiting their fundraising programmes.

Sorry, no short-term fixes, and I of course have no idea whether experiences of the last quarter of 2008 will in any way carry over into the first quarter of 2009, enough to make a net return substantial enough to stave off retrenchment and even permit a degree of modest expansion.

Both these recent examples hail from the United States.

Example 1. Sixten’s Foundation: the 'Conduct This!’ Auction

Robert and Anna Helm Kurtz’s Sixten’s Foundation was first reported on Conductive World in May. Their goal was an ambitious one, combining the immediate personal needs of themselves and their son, Sixten, with the wider social-policy purpose of creating 'a pivotal pilot program that will serve as the catalyst for similar programs nationwide'.

As a first step they had to elicit the active collaboration of their local school district, St. George’s County in Maryland, and to raise money to pay for for their project.

The first of these depended upon convincing their dynamic schools superintendent, John Deasy. Robert went to see him with a full and comprehensive dossier of testimony on the benefits that others had experienced from Conductive Education. John Deasy took this home to read over the weekend and by the Monday morning was issuing instructions to his officials to collaborate.

John Deasy left for pastures new in September (he is now Deputy Director of Education of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation), but he left behind him an open door for the Kurtzes’ pilot project (Sixten’s Foundation, 2008a). The project commenced in September, so urgent fundraising was required. Some of the ways in which this was begun are detailed on the Foundation’s website, but it is the big one, focussed upon here, that has been something special.

Robert Kurtz is a conductor (he leads an orchestra). Before becoming a conductor, he had worked his way up through the ranks as a bassist. The International Society of Bassists now backed the ‘Conduct This! Musical Instrument Auction’ to support Sixten's Foundation, for which individual fellow musicians and musical instrument companies would donate fine musical instruments for auction on ebay.

On the day that the sale ended, it had raised some thirty thousand dollars. Items that failed to reach their reserve price have been held back for a second sale in February (though reasonable private bids can be considered in the meantime) (Sixten’s Foundation, 2008c).

The pilot conductive program is running now through the 2008-2009 school year, funded by Sixten's Foundation, under conductor Robert Demeter. Costs for this first year will exceed $75,000, so the Foundation is around half-way there.

Overhead costs for the whole fundraising and publicity operation have been kept to a minimum. The auction was held through eBay and the Sixten’s Foundations website is provided through Google Blogger, not least for the flexibility to maintain constant updates on needs and progress And of course, it is free.

Hold on, you might protest. Yes, this is really diferent, and yes, it has kept costs to an absolute minimum, but where’s the community? Surely Conduct That! raised its auction goods and sold them across a very dispersed population.

Quite right, but ‘communities’ are not just neighbourhoods, nor have they been so for a long time. Here the ‘musical community, rallied round a family that was one of its own. The world is criss-crossed by such networks, such communities of interest. Go find your own!

Example 2. Operation Round Up

Just in time to catch the end of the old year comes news of what on the face of it looks a very different kind of fundraising operation, from Gwinnett, Georgia.

The Jackson EMC Foundation is funded by Jackson EMC members' contributions to its Operation Round Up program, that rounds up electric bills of participating members to the next dollar amount and uses the spare change to do charitable work. The Foundation has awarded more than $3 million to date through 264 grants to organizations and 116 grants to individuals.

Four Gwinnett organizations have just been awarded a total of $55,000 in grants by the Foundation, including $15,000 to the local CE center A Step to Independence

The center will use the money to extend its CE program across the whole year. Till now this has been offered only in the summer, but the grant will go towards paying a year-long conductor’s salary.

A round-up program might not be possible everywhere but the goodwill of a local community utility service, linked with corresponding goodwill from local people, provides the novel prospect of a tiny, painless voluntary ‘tax’ that mounts up to substantial sums, capable of making real differences to the work of small voluntary groups.

Innovative, community-based and costing nothing for recipients to set up over and above the day-to-day work of establishing a standing within the community of which it is a part.

CE charity in 2009: inspiration, recognition and parsimony

Financing Conductive Education through charitable giving has always had its limitations. It may well be that that established ways of tackling this will yield diminishing returns in 2009. But originality and a valued place in your community, coupled with minimal fundraising costs may still bridge vital financial gaps for lean and hungry organisations.

Put it another way: reverse the two princioles and their rider presented here. Charitable fundraising involving more of the same, without something commonly shared between donors and recipients, with a substantial proportion of money raised going into raising it, may be a receipe for disaster. Nothing much new here, perhaps, but 2009 will be a year of very tight margins in which inspiration, recognition and parsimony may be a combination critical to ensuring the survival of the fittest.

We shall see…

Notes and references

Sixten’s Foundation

Sixten’s Foundation
http://www.sixtensfoundation.org/

Sixten’s Foundation (2008a) Goodbye, John Deasy and thanks, Sixtenfoundation.org, 30 September
http://sixtensfoundation.blogspot.com/2008/09/good-luck-john-deasy-and-thanks.html

Sixten’s Foundation (2008b) Conduct This! Sixten’s Foundation Fundraising Auction, Sixtenfoundation.org, 9 October
http://sixtensfoundation.blogspot.com/2008/10/conduct-this-sixtens-foundation.html
,
Sixten’s Foundation (2008c) WOW! And THANK YOU Sixtenfoundation.org, 16 December
http://sixtensfoundation.blogspot.com/2008/12/wow-and-thank-you.html

Sutton, A. (2008) ‘Pivotal program’ for United States: family’s ambitious goal, Conductive World, 27 May

A Step to Independence

A Step to Independence
http://www.asteptoindependence.com/

Jackson Electric Membership Corporation Operation Round Up
http://www.jacksonemc.com/Operation-Round-Up.roundup.0.html

--- (2008) Gwinnett Gab: Nonprofits receive grants, Gwinnett Daily Post, 28 December
http://www.gwinnettdailypost.com/main.asp?SectionID=6&SubSectionID=6&ArticleID=54454&TM=410.998

Sunday, 28 December 2008

I’m back

Keep watching out for Conductive World

Conductive World has been closed down over the Christmas period, not for reasons of festive frolics but because of a crashed computer that was finally brought back to life only last night, at 2230 GMT .

So first of all, sincerest thanks for all those unanswered email Xmas greetings, and to the rather worrying enquiries whether I am ’all right’. I most am pleased to reassure (or sorry to disappoint): I most certainly am.

And thanks too to those patient daily ‘dots’ on my map at the head of this page, who have hung on there looking for signs of life, or something. I could see you on my mobile phone but could not respond.

Now, I’m back

My first job is to answer some pressing emails, as a couple of important jobs have be done for the end of the year. Hard as it is for many people in some parts of the world to believe this, everybody is getting on with that tasks of keeping the show on the road. By the time the great annual Xmas narcolepsy is finally done the international circus will be already a fortnight down the road ahead, clattering on its chaotic way to an yet unknowable destination. Some folk may never catch up!

The second job of course is to crank Conductive World back into life. Please accept this short notice as the first turn of the handle. Just in time: there are some interesting developments bubbling away, so look out for the first reports. And there are still things that I want to elaborate on from 2008, for example what I saw, heard and thought when I visited Hong Kong, Chicago and Budapest over 2008.

As ever, then, the old year will end in a desperate rush to get things done, with the consolation that I shall have rather more time do deal with such things in the New Year.

An apology

Sorry, the comment above about some people's stopping entirely over Xmas was of course misguided, or at least overinclusive. Parents and carers and disabled people, wherever they are in the world, whatever their faith (or none), whatever everyone else is doing around them, do not of course stop. Their task is always before them. It is only the privileged ones, the ‘professionals’, the ‘paid help’, who are able to rest from their labours and take a break.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

General call for ‘proof’

NHS proposals may serve to keep CE at bay

UK charities hoping in the long term for service-delivery contracts with the National Health Service may have another barrier to cross from April 2010 when, it is recommended, they will be required to demonstrate the effectiveness of their work by providing information on the quality of their services "in every service line – looking at safety, experience and outcomes".

The proposal is contained in the Department of Health's response to Lord Darzi's Next Stage Review on the future of the NHS.

This will affect all collaborative projects with the NHS, be they according to existing models of providing CE or anyinnovations (for example novel conditions or contexts) that might be envisaged over future years.

April 2010 is only fifteen months away, giving very little time during which to prepare for the bureaucratic demands that this proposal will inevitably create.

As if CE services in the UK will not have enough to do over the next year or so. just to make ends meet!

Reference

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Multiple Sclerosis Society launches second information package

More positive attitude towards Conductive Education?

For the second time this year the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s website has published a video + text information package on Conductive Education, perhaps indicative of the beginnings of significant shift in attitude in the Society over 2008.

This week’s information package

This includes a two-part video introducing issues around the applicability of CE for people with MS, and its availability (in the UK), the tenth in a monthly series called MS Society Awareness Talks

Conductor Mel Brown answers questions and the MS group at the National Institute of Conductive Education in Birmingham, England also features:

It is not clear how long the MS Society will maintain these videos on line but they are also available on YouTube, presumably permanently:

Conductive Education - Part 01
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=CudANWbIvp0

Conductive Education - Part 02
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=eWlPS9QpDwg

The MS Society’s extensive website is not easy to navigate but transcripts of what is said on the two videos are available there if required:

Conductive education film transcript Part 01
http://www.mssociety.org.uk/downloads/CEfilm_Part01.c1d79021.pdf

Conductive education film transcript Part 02
http://www.mssociety.org.uk/downloads/CEfilm_Part021.a70bacbf.pdf

Elsewhere on the site, from 15 to 19 December only, the Society’s highly structured MS Discussion Forum provides a chance to ask questions of Mel Brown direct, in message-board form:

Despite the problems of internal navigation, for those who find all this, these materials taken together may be considered to constitute a package.

The Society’s first information package

The Society’s first video + text information package on Conductive Education was published in April of this year, comprising a report of the pilot project run by the Society’s North-West Region. This is published in altogether another part of the Societ's website, specified as being ‘for professionals’, and was reported in Conductive World at the time that it appeared (Sutton, 2008a):

A video features the views of people who took part in this pilot and describe their experience, and conductor Laszlo Szogeczki also contributes.

There is also a text version to download, in booklet form:

The pilot in the North West is reported amongst a wider range of initiatives by the Society, to encourage genuinely local services:

It is government policy to provide patient-centred services that will enable people with long term neurological conditions to maintain their independence and well being and lead as fulfilling lives as possible. The MS Society fully endorses this approach and a key aim for us is to involve people affected by MS to get involved in the planning and development of their local services. Often the result is to bring about real improvements and lasting change… showing how much can be achieved when enthusiastic people come together to work on a local project.

Attitudes moving on?

Taken together these two information packages demonstrate what can be done to inform would-be users of Conductive Education, and others, by a sympathetic critical-mass organisation.

The two packages constitute the most comprehensive published coverage of Conductive Education to date from adult disability charity’s website in the United Kingdom, or indeed by any charity concerned with disabled children either (or they would do if more obviously linked within the Society's website).

Earlier this year, only a month before publication of the pilot from the North West, the MS Society had sponsored a commissioned special supplement in The Times (of London), on research into multiple sclerosis. At the time Conductive World criticised this supplement for its narrowly biological view of intervention and research (Sutton, 2008b)

Now, within the same year, the Multiple Sclerosis Society has produced the materials reported here. It looks that even by the time that this Supplement appeared the ice had already starting breaking. This just hadn't got through to the 'research' people (paradoxically, with respect to Conductive Education at least, rarely the most up-to-date players in the game!).

Other places, other conditions...

Though these packages are directed towards multiple sclerosis, given the relative dearth of services and information in the field of adult Conductive Education generally they may also prove helpful to people in other countries. And given the degree of this dearth they may also, with obvious qualifications, offer useful pointers for those seeking to understand Conductive Education for adults with other condititions, congenital and acquired.

References

Sutton, A. (2008a) Multiple sclerosis: small steps: local MS Society branch shows the way, Conductive World, 29 April 2008

Sutton, A. (2008b) Multiple sclerosis: Conductive Education not yet on radar, Conductive World, 28 March
http://www.conductive-world.info/2008/03/multiple-sclerosis.html

Monday, 15 December 2008

Already past the Last Ditch Saloon?

Charities get grim practical advice

Hannah Jordan writes:

Charities should now have measures in place to cope with worsening economic conditions, says expert. Charities that are only now beginning to plan for the recession are too late, according to fundraising expert Alan Clayton.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting in London on Friday, Clayton, director of marketing firm The good Agency, told about 100 senior fundraisers that they should already have put strategies in place to protect their fundraising income during and after the recession…

He urged fundraisers to focus on donor development and increase the frequency of communication. Charities should ask their most committed donors to increase their donations and offer others the chance to reduce their regular payments for six months to try to keep attrition rates down, he said…

The advice is of course directed to larger charities, in Britain. It sounds plausible, however, and bears at least consideration by smaller charities and those in other countries.

Reference

Jordan, H. (2008) 'Too late' to plan for recession, Third Sector Online, 15 December
http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/News/DailyBulletin/869202/Too-late-plan-recession/CB5FF7CA78539AF9F30F9D8A87D4FF39/?DCMP=EMC-DailyBulletin

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Congratulations, David Ching

And please tell us the secret of how the Kiwis do it!

There was a time when the old Conductive Chronicle quite often reported public recognition of the enormous personal efforts and widespread human benefits involved in establishing Conductive Education programs/services in local communities.

It has been quite a long time now since such public acknowledgement has been reported, anywhere, so it is gratifying to read the following citation from Christchurch, New Zealand, in an article by Pauline Moore in this morning’s edition of The Press:

DAVID CHING

David Ching has been the driving force behind the success of conductive education, a programme to rehabilitate children with motor disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, and adults who have suffered a stroke or head injury. The former principal of Addington Primary School has set up three education centres in Christchurch. Aside from his tireless work with the schools and conductive education, he still found time to be a longtime administrator for the Canterbury Rugby Union.

Godzone Conductive Education

You don’t know about CE in New Zealand?

Slow and steady, and not of course without its hiccoughs along the way, Conductive Education has made the most remarkable advances in establishing itself in New Zealand.

CE has certainly got it together in NZ. How ‘conductive’. And how uncommon…

Hard times are on their way, but in a (to most of us) distant land, Conductive Education in a particular form, has anchored itself in its new social context and as a consequence has an all the stronger chance of surviving and evolving into the future.

Does New Zealand have something that will travel, or is it too embedded in the New Zealand way?

Reference

Moore, P. (2000) Power List 2008: the heroes in out midst, The Press, 13 December http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/thepress/4791939a6009.html

Friday, 12 December 2008

Are we on the same planet?

Or just the wrong track!

It must by now be abundantly clear that there is a considerable and increasing problem in funding Conductive Education ‘as is’, not just as it is in its ‘traditional’ forms but even perhaps in ad hoc developments adopted to establish footholds in all sorts of ecological niches around the world.

One possible solution: develop it in ways that will not just make it fundable but also advance it once more as an incontrovertably favoured cause in the public imagining.

The conductive movement is not going to achieve this simply by more of the same. That too should be clear by now.

When you’re in a hole, stop digging

If one broadly adopts the analysis proposed in Conductive Education: whatever next? (Sutton, 2008) then the question inevitably arises of what might be done to retrieve the initiative. For Conductive Education to emerge from the recession/down-turn in reasonable shape, within a reasonable time span (so as not to loose unrecorded personal skills for ever), then there is purposeful work to be done.

Any such endeavour would require enormous good will but, with the best will in the world, it would also require a degree of funding.

This would be very different work from the usual activity of existing CE centres, and involve different sources of funding from those that maintain existing conductive services/programs.

Pipe dream? Might such a thing be even conceivable? Could CE do it?

Some can…

I received a circular letter today, from Down Syndrome Education International. Here’s the gist (emphasis in the original):

We are making good progress in improving education for people who have Down syndrome

The Sue Buckley Research Fund is raising vital additional funds for international scientific research to improve education for people who have Down syndrome and to ensure that up-to-date, evidence-based advice and information is widely available to all.

I am delighted to report that during the first year of the appeal, we have secured £950,000 ($1.6 million/€1.2 million) of new funds for practical research and dissemination. We are therefore making good progress towards our goal of securing additional annual funding for research and education of £5.6 million ($9.5 million/€7 million) by 2012.

Our achievements to date include

  • Funding a longitudinal study of early development to explore factors influence individual rates of progress
  • Securing funding for one of the largest controlled trials of an educational intervention for young people who have Down syndrome to date
  • Expanding our UK research team
  • Supporting new research in four Universities

If you would like to read some of the other things that they are involved in, go to:

http://www.sue-buckley.org/progress/?dm_i=463070779

When you get there try the old trick of substituting the words 'Conductive Education' in appropriate places, and try not to weep.

Can comparison to be made?

Of course the two causes are not exactly parallel and of course the above document was written just a little earlier in the present financial crisis. You can tell this from the telling little parentheses: ‘£950,000 ($1.6 million/€1.2 million)’! That must have been at least a fortnight ago! Maybe the Down’s people are already revising their targets and/or timescales...

That does not detract from the central point stated here, that it would be wonderful to have timescales and targets of this sort at all in Conductive Education.

Reference

Sutton, A. (2008) Conductive Education? Whatever next? (Supplement to Conductive World) [online]

http://knol.google.com/k/andrew-sutton/towards-post-recessonal-thinking-notes/2tv7fpph4s1dn/9

Thursday, 11 December 2008

The American way

Innovative fight-back in face of downturn

Further corroboration of the general downturn in charitable giving, if such be needed, comes from a determinedly upbeat article by Jillian Badanes in yesterday’s Washington Times.

Yes, US charities are already being badly hit financially by recession.

But, yes too, they are rising to the occasion and finding new ways of generating income (not least on line).

There are important lessons to be learned here by others, both in the specifics of what is reported here and, probably more important in the long run, the positive spirit and mood behind these.

Unfortunately for Conductive Education in the United States and elsewhere, the success stories cited seem to relate to rather larger charitable operations that the typical charitably supported CE program.

Never mind. It’s great to read a positive story.

There is a great video incorporated into the report (usual video caution: catch this soon, the video might not be there for ever)

Reference

Badanes, J. (2008) Charity donation decline gives rise to innovation: contests, web sites keep money flowing, Washington Times, 10 December
http://washingtontimes.com/news/2008/dec/10/charity-donation-decline-gives-rise-to-innovation
Look out, this is a long report. Don’t forget to see page 2!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Next World Congress: first announcement

Practical waymark for us all

Only two years now to the VII. World Congress on Conductive Education.

This month sees the planned commencement of the programme of formal preparation in Hong Kong, with a preliminary website published:

http://www.ce-congress2010.com/

A fuller website is to be published in January.

Conductive Education as a whole faces a hard slog. In such situations it can be helpful to have a visible landmark in view, somewhere to reach along the hard road that lies ahead, not too close nor yet too far in the distance.

I cannot think of any other such marker in prospect so the World Congress will have to serve this purpose, in which case the world of Conductive Eucation has two full years to get itself sorted and work out where it is going next. Sounds reasonable.

The venue could not be in more appropriate place for forcing the major issues of policy and practice issues to the public stage, whether one attends or not.

Early December 2010. Two years now. Watch this space.

What to do between ‘blocks’ 2

The question taken up elsewhere

The question

Three weeks ago, a fundamental question was posed by parent-blogger Jacolyn Lieck, fundamental that is, for parents with no possibility of a continuous conductive service.

http://lieck3.blogspot.com/2008/11/3-steps-forward.html

If you take your child for a block placement or summer school, she asked, what happens next, during the wait for the next conductive experience? Specifically, what happens when hard-won gains begin to fall away?

Answer came there none…

The problem is important enough to merit much wider and franker discussion. An article in Conductive World widened Jacolyn's enquiry and invited responses. It generated no Comments in response, however, and a similar posting on the Conductive Community Forum has fared no better.

http://www.conductive-world.info/2008/11/this-was-published-last-week-on-jacolyn.html
http://www.conductive-community.com/node/19

Towards an answer

Susie Mallett in her Conductor blog from Germany has, however, taken this issue a little further, putting responsibility on service-providers and their conductors, during the course of the program, to prepare parents for what happens next and then to build in some kind of follow-up or call-back during the time that comes after. She is currently looking for parents to join her in a pilot project to provide ‘in-between time’ help at a distance, through Skype.

http://konduktorin.blogspot.com/2008/11/blogs-cyberspace-and-keeping-ball.html
http://konduktorin.blogspot.com/2008/12/between-times.html

Any other suggestions, not least from all those who provide block placements and summer schools, or work in them?

Monday, 8 December 2008

Here’s Christmas

Ebenezer Scrooge and a Christmas quiz

Bah, humbug!

Hard, cold times for charity. In London, Her Majesty’s Treasury has refused to establish a temporary facility for charities with money frozen in failed Icelandic banks.

No extra money will be available for charities, and the Government has no intention of permitting any funds already allotted to be diverted from its own pet priorities, which are ‘a series of initiatives that have been decided on for strategic reasons, including third-sector capacity-building, volunteering, public service delivery and social enterprise programmes.’

Plummer, J. (2008) No interim help for charities with frozen accounts, Third Sector Online, 8 December
http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/News/DailyBulletin/867832/No-interim-help-charities-frozen-accounts/57B1A5A319B06BAA13A5EDFA8AC58DD5/?DCMP=EMC-DailyBulletin

Hard times for the Cratchit family but, as already remarked on Conductive World, Icelandic banks are not really a matter to bother cash-strapped Conductive Education centres. So what they never had they will hardly miss.

Fiddling while Rome burns

The National Children’s Bureau, for years and years widely known simply by its initials, NCB, has decided to ‘rebrand’.

This is to achieve ‘a contemporary and strong identity", says a spokeswoman.
Henceforth the National Children's Bureau is to be known by the initials NCB.

The ‘deputy chief executive’ of NCB sums up the extraordinary result of this bold move:

We believe our new brand better represents NCB's multi-faceted nature and reflects our established credibility and powerful voice.
One remembers the old National Coal Board, also widely known as the NCB, cetainly a body with a 'multi-faceted nature', though not necessarily of an 'established credibility and powerful voice'.

You can see the (new) NCB's equally imaginative new visual symbol at:

Plummer, J. (2008) National Children’s Bureau rebrands, Third Sector Online, 8 December
http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/channels/Communications/Article/867835/National-Childrens-Bureau-rebrands/

Ah yes, the quiz...
  • Q. 1. How many suits and designers, how many meetings and how much money does it take to ‘rebrand’ an organisation so that it will be known by the self-same initials that it has been known as for years?
  • Q. 2. Is anyone even mildly surprised by such tosh any more?
  • Q. 3. …No, it’s too cruel.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Conductive Education: whatever next?

Towards post-recessonary thinking: notes of a lecture

New knol

Après la guerre finie…?

It seems to have been a week of economics and finance, with events and their news tumbling out on top of each other. I never thought that I would have found economic news so grimly fascinating. It can be, though, maybe because so much of so far mainly affects other people. Yes, it is already affecting me a little financially, but not yet in ways that are personally disastrous. It rather like being a citizen in a country involved in a major overseas conflict, watching the worsening war maps every day but hearing very little yet about casualties amongst people whom I personally know. People whom I know personally: for the purpose of Conductive World, this means the hundreds of people and programs, Conductive Education and ’conductivists’ whom I know or know of around the world, all with very own different roles and purposes but united by their common involvement in this precious system.

And like any citizen in a war, my concern is not just what is happening now, not just what is going to happen next, but what is going to happen in the long run. ’Will we win?’ ‘What will it be like after the war?’And what do we tell the children?

A lecture

Children are the next generation, those who will have to live with the mess that their parents have created, make do and set to, and create a new world that is better, one always says, than the old one. Since last Sunday my enthusiasm for the ‘war maps’ has drawn me into writing seven communiqués on Conductive World that have been either directly economic and financial in subject or powerfully influenced by such considerations. This has not entirely driven out reporting more everyday concerns, but almost. Apologies to readers who clock in here to find out a little more about András Pető and Buddhism and angels, or of the meaning and sense of expressions like ‘conductive observation’, the relative significance of ‘task series’ etc. The material and the intention are present for these, they are not ‘suspended for the duration‘. It is just that it seems more pressing at the moment to urge people to the severity of their present situation. Like Cassandra, it feels, but maybe that too will soon change.

On Tuesday I had to give a long-scheduled lecture to first-year students at the National Institute of Conductive Education. In the ordinary way of things (‘peacetime’) this would have probably been an update of the same lecture that I gave on the same topic exactly a year ago. The title of the lecture? ‘From Pető to what?' This was slippery ground indeed by last Tuesday!

Hence my question, ‘What to tell the children?

These students of course by no means children, but young, sophisticated adults. Sure, they do not follow the world economic news as a saddo like myself does. Nor, I know, do they follow Conductive World. But they are all citizens, running their own lives and responsible for everyday decisions that are already affected by the crisis. They are, however, in only their first year of preparing to be conductors. Ought I somehow to cushion them from what I have been increasingly airing in Conductive World. Is this only for the ‘grown-ups’, those more thoroughly entrenched in Conductive Education? There is only one answer to this, academically and ethically: tell them the truth as I see it, justify what is said, index it to their own experience, and raise their eyes to the future.

This is another one that will not be 'over by Christmas’. We shall be in it for the long haul and these young men and women are part of the generation that does most of the actual fighting in any war, and will bear the brunt of what comes after.

‘Conductive Education: whatever next?'

The usual way in which I lecture nowadays is to prepare a skeleton outline of what I shall say then extemporise around this. I have a copy in front of me as I speak and distribute a further copy to each of the students. This way I can time and pace my progress (so can they!) and the students have a hard copy of what I intended to say alongside other notes of that they thought that I said. Some add their own notes to mine in addition to what they write on heir own paper. I am sure the there are better ways of teaching at this level, but this is the way that usually suites me.

The ‘lecture’ took some two-and-a half hours, not up to Fidel Castro’s standards, and we did take a twenty-minute break in the middle. This is a small group, only ten in number when they are all there, a bright and articulate bunch, already with a much less 'secure’ view of the world in general that I had at their age. I fact, as the lecture progressed, I was impressed by their equanimity and the positive suggestions made for how the future might be faced. It was an encouraging experience and l rather wish that it could have extended the discussion for a further half-session (but we do have a little time for this next Tuesday).

Knol it

Over the last two to three months Conductive World has been drawn increasingly into economic concerns. This lecture provided me the necessity of standing up and trying to assess where we are, and to wonder, in a more formal and measured way, whether I am being no more that the Fat Boy in Dickens (‘I wants to make your flesh creep’). By this week lingering questions of that kind have altogether dispersed.

After the lecture I decided to share this lecture more widely, beyond a small gathering of cadets out to the foot soldiers in the fields, their subalterns and sergeant, the colonels and generals. I would ‘knol’ it. Before doing so I emailed a copy of my notes to a few people whose judgements I value, to test it out, but the computer system did something weird and not all could received it. I would have liked their private thoughts, counterblasts etc before going public but time marches on and the very title that I have imposed on these notes for their publication cries out that time is of the essence and one can be very easily overtaken by events.

So I have 'knolled' my lecture notes, pretty much as they were, with some at last of the typos corrected, rougher bits rubbed a little smooth, and slightly reformatted to fit into Google Knol.
Readers' responses will be very welcome, either in the Comments section below or in the one provided on the knol itself

The lecture

Sutton, A. (2008) Conductive Education: whatever next? Towards post-recessonary thinking, 2 December

Friday, 5 December 2008

Charitable income in the US

Can anyone remain unscathed?

Two recent items on Conductive World (Charitable income in the UK and More on charitable income in the UK) focussed of the plight of charitable funding in the United Kingdom. There was no reason to think of this as anything but a local example of a worldwide problem.

Just to hammer this home home, watch an American news report by Keitha Nelson, broadcast yesterday on WAFB TV, Louisiana's news channel (wait till the end of the Toyota advert!):

Catch it fast, I don't know how long WAFB leaves things up there.

If you don't, or would prefer a written version, then go to:

Nelson, K. (2008) Local charities affected by the stock market, WAFB, 4 December

As ever, it is the neediest feel the pinch first.

CE and conductors as commodities

A useful conceptual tool

Andrew Sutton (no relation) is an ‘oil expert’ was recently interviewed by Olivia Sohr for yesteray's issue of science ezine Scitizen. If you’d like to see a macro-economic trend projectable on to the conductor market, try substituting one expensive raw commodity (oil) for another expensive human commodity (conductors) in the following extracts from that interview.

He argues that the markets are “selling the news” of a huge fall-off, and he invites us to watch closely how the energy demand of emerging economies develop.…

‘…There is this perception that there is going to be a huge fall off in demand that we actually haven’t seen yet. It seems like, to one extent, the markets are 'selling the news, but in all reality I don’t think that all that news has happened yet. In the US, we’ve seen a pretty significant slowdown, but everybody I talk to says: ‘There’s just as many cars on the road as there ever were‘. There is a little bit of a disconnect in terms of what is going on and what people think is going on.

‘What I’m really concerned and looking at in particular now are the BRIC countries [Brazil, Russia, India and China] to see how they continue to hold up, in terms of their energy demand. They have been the ones that have really been pushing forward, the Chinese and Indian economies in particular. They have been growing at very fast rates, and that consumes a lot of energy. If they can continue to maintain that growth, we’ll see demand overall not really change that much.’

In other words

First, perhaps what Conductive World has been doing is ’selling the news of a fall off in CE in advance’. No harm in that surely...

Secondly and more specifically, as far as the commodity markets go (oil or conductors), the overall level might remain the same. It is those who are buying the commodity that will change.

So good news for some.

Commodification. Commodification

CE, conductors as commodities? Hang on, isn't that a bit offensive?

No, just using well-exercised terms of economic and cultural analysis, like many such others not explicitly used so far in considering the workings and development of Conductive Education around the world.

A commodity. Something to which a value has been assigned, including knowledge, skills and services, and can be then bought and sold. Examples in this sector are the labour of conductors and provision of a CE program.

Commodification. Long-standing Marxist term for the process of assigning economic value to something not previously considered in economic terms, leading to expansion of market trade to previously non-market areas If this rings a bell when you look at what has happened in Conductive Education over the last twenty-five years, in Hungary as much as elsewhere, then you can extend the analysis of CE and conductors on into commodity fetishism and alienation.

Commodicisation. More modern business term for transformation of a market from a monopoly position to one of competition, often leading to a fall in price. Branded products’ may suffer but customers may benefit. This may ring a bell in CE, particularly in respect to the risk to customers of not being able to see the difference between different brands or versions of the apparent commodity, different qualities, fakes etc. You might find this a useful way of thinking the apparent market commodity of ‘Conductive Education’ and ‘conductors’, as perceived by would-be users such as parents, by existeing professions and services, and by officials and policy- makers. Researchers too have fallen victim to this process, in their droves.

Cultural commodification. A very modern term, referring to how some outward forms of a previously vigorous social movement (Socialism, Black Power, for example), may be appropriated as fashion statements, with no feeling for their original purpose, thereby denying their previous force for change. One might find this too a useful way of regarding commodified fragments of conductive practice adopted into contexts in which their transformative powered altogether diffused.

Reference

Sohr, O. (2008) A huge fall off in demand? ‘We actually haven’t seen it yet’ Scitizen, 4 December http://www.scitizen.com/stories/Future-Energies/2008/12/A-huge-fall-off-in-demand--We-actually-haven-t-seen-it-yet-/

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Jobs for conductors

What is happening in CE worldwide?

Doom and gloom aplenty in the macro-economy, with obvious projections week by week here on Conductive World on how this might impact upon the micro-economy of Conductive Education: not a happy prospect! But is this really a fair way of looking at the fortunes of the CE movement or are there also more concrete and specific underlying trends to be looked out for? One quantifiable index of what is happening might be though the advertisements placed on the Internet, on the CE Job Centre.

Facts?

Surveys of how charities are fairing in the UK have thrown some light upon on corner of the economic cicumstances od Conductive Education in the closing month of 2008, but there is no concrete information as yet on what is actually happening on the CE ground. Reasonably and sensibly CE programs and services keep their commercial/financial business to themselves. This means that there may be little or no public information on how they are doing till their situation gets so really bad as to be unavoidably in the public domain (at its most extreme, when a program ceases operation). Against this background perhaps one possible public index of economic activity in the sector might be the Conductive Education Job Centre.

The CE Job Centre in November

A prime purpose behind establishing the CE Job Centre in the first place, in the late nineties, was to 'keep an eye on' what was happening during the internationalisation of CE. Informal report suggests that many people do in fact look at it to ‘see what is going on’ rather than specifically about employment. The CE Job Centre was intended to include of jobs any kind in CE but de facto has tended to be overwhelmingly concerned with conductors.

Recent visitors to the CE Job Centre will have seen that it is experiencing technical difficulties but scroll down the page and the job market is still busy there, with 19 posting over the thirty days of November.

The most salient (one might say the most glaring) feature of those listed is that all but three of these 19 postings are for ‘conductors wanted’. Only three (involving four conductors) are from conductors looking for jobs.

First impression therefore is that the job market is still blazing away, much as it always has, with more jobs looking for conductors than there are conductors looking to fill them.

This situation is certainly born out anecdotally. Rainbow House in the North West of England, a successful and satisfying sort of place to work in, has been trying for months to find conductors to meet expansion plans. And a month ago Conductive World tried its own test of the market by publicising what again sounds a most attractive a job vacancy, in Mauritius. Result last tiMe that I heard: no enquiries. Perhaps my views of what constitutes a satisfying job in for a conductor are rather wide of the mark.

Jobs wanted

With only three ‘jobs wanted’ postings in November maybe it is unfair to judge from what they tell us. Here goes anyway. The one was looking for a fortnight’s work in the USA just before Christmas (this Christmas), ‘…for a short CE session… feel free to call’. A second is looking for ‘4-5 weeks, December-January‘, though it is not clear where. The third merits quoting in full:

Two qualified conductors with good experience are looking for a summer job for July in 2009 in Monaco. Both of us speaks good English.

Nice work if you can get it and quite possibly they will. Either way, just perhaps their very asking , in the way that they do, tells us something about the nature of this particular commodity market.

Jobs on offer

What do the people advertising jobs vacant offer in return?

A lot of it might be described as bread and butter, the very stuff that CE was developed to provide:
  • Full-time conductor in established project (North Coast Ohio Conductive Education
  • Position immediately for Conductor-Teacher (Sara‘s Garden, Ohio).
  • Full-time conductor teacher (Horton Lodge School, English Midlands)
  • Conductor, expected to write/lead task series, contribute to reports (Kent, England)
  • Full-time, conductor for year-round program, long-term position (PACES, North of England

Three are looking for something a little extra:

  • Senior position critical to strategic development (PACE, North of London, England)
  • Senior Conductor to lead and develop the Parent and Child (PACE, North of London, England)
  • Conductor (Conductor/Teacher) to run our Outreach Service Provision (Hornsey Trust, London

The remaining seven are seeking to fill a variety of private arrangements, live-in or part-time

  • Full time helper, not necessarily conductor (Private, North East England)
  • Live-in (South of England)
  • A few hours a day for the whole of 2006 (Private, Milan, Italy)
  • For up to a year (Private, Florida)
  • Part-time, work some weekends and occasional weekdays (Private, in mainstream school, near Hull, North of England
  • Private, live in, Angelman’s syndrome (Oxford, England)

What does one make of all this? Not a too much. For a start, it is possible that many conductors find their work through networks of personal contacts and never advertise at all. Centres and individual families might not always be able to access such grapevines. Immediately, therefore, the two lists might not be like for like in terms of their respective advertisers’ wider access to possibilities.

Other factors might be in play on this small and almost certainly selective sample. It has been pointed out to me that, for example, the recruitment picture might be differentially influenced by the time of year. One has to remember too that these postings from last month are only postings: one cannot know to what degree there requirements will be satisfactorily met.

Let us hope, of course that they will all be successfully and satisfactorily fulfilled.

No conclusion...

Apologies for the micro-analysis. If it suggests anything, then that is that conductor jobs involving serious, long-term commitment may be hard to fill. No surprise there, then! It goes beyond the data, however, to speculate whether less serious, short-term engagements are higher up the priority list'

And, recognising that there will always be rich people, and that of course the families of some of these may need the services of a conductor (like they needs maids and drivers), it is no more that unsubstantiated speculation to assume that there will always be jobs for conductors, recession or no.

A month ago the Mauritius posting here on Conductive World, included this thought:

Just perhaps the balance of economic forces behind the conductive bubble is such that the conductor job market will drift on through the world recession blissfully immune to the mayhem around it. Just perhaps…

A month later and I am no wiser. It is possible that the conductor commodity will continue to find buyers, even in the teeth of global recession, but not so much in its ‘traditional markets’, making unavoidably apparent a contradiction within the conductive movement long felt but usually discreetly veiled.

We shall have to see.

Reference

A great place to work, especially in hard times: so why can’t they find a conductor? Conductive World, 13 November
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/search?q=mauritius

Conductors as a profession

Opening salvoes in a public debate?

László Szögeczki opened the question two days ago on his blog. Today Judit Szathmáry posed a possibly contrary position on hers, and Laszlo opened a possible second front by posting his original question on the Conductive Community Forum.

A hot issue and already three potential theatres for discussion within a couple of days!

Will people rise to the challenge, or will silence again prevail?

References

László (Tuesday)
http://szogeczki.blogspot.com/2008/12/ce-paradox.html

Judit: (Thursday)
http://sourcesense.blogspot.com/2008/12/evaluation-and-reflection.html

László: (Thursday)
http://sourcesense.blogspot.com/2008/12/evaluation-and-reflection.html
http://www.conductive-community.com/node/23

More on charitable income in the UK

More news not good news

A item on yesterday’s Conductive World ended with a promise to peep into the UK's charitable press to try for a deeper understanding of the present situation.
I’ve now seen enough for the moment. Here’s what, with the help of Gill Maguire, I found there.

…could smart charities come out of recession in better shape than they went in?

The outlook is not good. As charities prepare their budgets for next year, many will be reflecting on how times have changed. Even relatively recently, they remained upbeat about the future.

When the National Council of Voluntary Organisations asked charity leaders in August about their plans, 61 per cent expected to increase spending next year and 42 per cent intended to take on more staff… By mid-October, a survey by the Charity Commission showed four out of 10 charities had been affected by the credit crunch, with a quarter reporting a fall in donations. Of those, one in 12 had been forced to make redundancies. Since then, things have only got worse.

The aricles goes on to detail some high-profile disasters in over the last couple of months. Icelandic banks figure large, with Cats Protection losing £11.2m in an Icelandic bank. What was it doing with that amount of money anyway? Luckily, though, it is unlikely that any CE charity anywhere in the world has had the sort of money worth risking in a dodgy bank! Corporate sponsorship is ‘drastically down’, so are legacies (hit by falling house prices) but again it is likely that CE in the UK is not overly dependent on such sources.

More worrying for some, particularly perhaps for the smaller operations, is individual giving:

The great unknown, though, is the impact on individual donations.

Most experts expect to see some reaction from donors, even if it hasn't yet materialised. Pegram, for instance, points out that the NSPCC is fairly dependent on small, regular donations, and thinks these could be vulnerable. "If there are widespread redundancies, it's relatively easy for people to go through their bank statements and chop off non-essential standing orders," he says. ‘We're worried we might be one of them. Oxfam, too, says individual donations are the most likely area to suffer. Cancer Research UK admits it's a possibility and says it forecasts fundraising income will fall by 4 or 5 per cent over the next year.
… etc.

Qualified grounds for possible cheer?

On the plus side, there are two areas in which charities might see gains. One is charity shops, which are reporting an increase in business as consumers look for bargains. The downside, however, is that clothing donations tend to fall in a recession: Cancer Research UK and Mind have already warned that stock levels in their shops are declining.

And how many CE centres run charity shops? I know of one and there may be others, but not many.

The other upside is government funding, which accounts for a greater share of the sector's income than it did during the previous recession and could cushion falls in income elsewhere…

That is, of course, dependent upon ofering a service that the local state agencies actively want. There are indeed a few services in that lucky position but they are certainly a minority. And moreover …

Here again, though, there are risks. At a local level, recessions in the past have seen councils cut discretionary spending, including grants to the sector. That could happen again, particularly if freezes in council tax go ahead. Nationally, a future Conservative government could rethink any plans Labour has to spend its way out of the recession.

The only cash charities can really count on, therefore, is what they save by cutting costs or projects.

So cheer up

But it's not an entirely bleak outlook. Some charities build up reserves during the good years and put off difficult decisions that can't be avoided in a recession. .. ‘You often come out fitter and leaner than when you went in.’

It seems unlikely that most CE services in the UK have ‘build up reserves during the good years’. Financially speaking, what good years?

But many, maybe most have ‘put off difficult decisions that can't be avoided in a recession’ (no there’s a persistent theme for you!) . Maybe they will now grsp some of these nettles:

So you could think of it like a good workout. Or, if you prefer, a trip to the dentist: you may well feel better afterwards, but it will probably hurt a little.

So, there’s the good news!

This rather leaves the choice, for those services that make it through, of ‘leaner and fitter’ or… even leaner.

The fata are still not, however, small-grained enough to tell us specifically about the economics of CE in the recesion. I have, though, found one small possible, public index for this and will return to it when I have evaluated it further.

References

(2008) Charity income is feeling the pinch, Third Sector, 3 December
http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/Article/866452/Charity-income-feeling-

Sutton, A. (2008) Charitable income in the UK, Conductive World, 3 December
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/12/charitable-income-in-uk.html

Death of a Nightingale

A play for today

'Compelling, controversial and confrontational, it is a brilliant addition to the inclusion or, as some argue, the illusion debate. Philosophical, political, cultural, ethical, yet human and humane in content, it is written with insight into the conflicts, traumas, joy and concerns that are daily events in the life of any school...' (The Teacher, October 2008)

Do you have a disabled child? Do you work with disabled childen and their families? Are you looking for a Christmas present that's bit different?

Then try this:

Death of a Nightingale
by Alan Share

Or at least read and consider the extensive website which includes an extensive download available for preview (including the author's personal testament). The book comes from England where 'educational inclusion' has so far been receiving its severest public drubbing, but you may well find that what is says is relevant to your own situation or experiences wherever you are.

This is a work of fiction, in the form of a play for reading or public performance.

The book is privately published and all royalties are being donated to the Death of the Nightingale Fund to help fund holidays for disabled children.

The website contains its own Forum but you comments on reading this (book or website) will also be most welcome on this blog.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Charitable income in the UK

Documented trends hardly likely to be specific to just one country

In the ever harsher competitive struggle for resources Conductive Education worldwide has been looking largely towards three sources as its source of income:

  • to state funding (through local administrations and health systems),
  • to charities,
  • to the surplus wealth of individuals who can afford to buy some measure of a conductive experience for themselves.

Charity surveys

Here's some update on the second of these these sources, charity.

Charities in the UK are very closely monitored and perhaps present trends there might be of relevance to a wider audience. They have certainly made the international news this week through a release from Associated Press, by way of Monday’s European edition of the International Herald Tribune.

The British Red Cross has canceled its winter fundraising ball — and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

British charities are expecting a fundraising shortfall next year as corporations donate less, investments fall in value and fundraising costs rise during an economic downturn, a large survey published Monday found.

Britain is home to around 190,000 charities, including international ones like the poverty-fighting charity Oxfam and Cancer Research UK. Together, the country's charities raised a total of 47 billion pounds ($70 billion) over the 12 months through Dec. 1 for domestic and international causes… PricewaterhouseCoopers, the Institute of Fundraising and the Charity Finance Directors' Group surveyed 362 of these charities — and found that, big or small, all expect their incomes to fall and their costs to rise in 2009.

This morning’s edition saw a follow-up report, by Rebekah Curtis

…as a tighter-fisted public cuts down on donations and corporate partnerships fall by the wayside, charities are also beginning to lay employees off and turn away volunteers….

‘Charitable giving is...a luxury good in economic terms. I would expect charities to have a relatively hard time,' said Stephen Lea, an economic psychologist at the University of Exeter.

Three-quarters of charities believe income will remain stable or decrease in the next year, according to research from the Institute of Fundraising, the Charity Finance Directors' Group and PricewaterhouseCoopers. The survey of 362 charities showed 32 percent putting capital projects on hold, while 71 percent expect either no growth or lower income from corporations in the coming 12 months…

Nearly one-third of British charities cut jobs between Sept 2007 and Sept 2008 and slightly more than half limited staff pay increases, according to a survey carried out by the Charities Aid Foundation and the Association of Chief Executives of the Voluntary Sector.

Weathering the storm

The causes most likely to retain support are those focussed on children, followed by international emergency relief and medical research, according to a survey by consultants the Management Centre. ‘There are some kinds of expenditure that people conserve at all costs as they get poorer, and one of them is expenditure on children,’ said Lea, the psychologist at Exeter.

Many readers of Conductive World will have a particular concern for cerebral palsy, especially with respect to children. Is there perhaps ground for some comfort here.

Scope has already read the runes

As long as two month ago, by far the largest charity with a concern for cerebral palsy in England, Scope (formerly the Spastics Society), issued a press statement on its first defensive action.

Scope is to reduce its senior management team and introduce other cost-saving measures to minimise the impact of the worsening economic slowdown before it reaches its peak. … There will also be redundancies in several other back office departments as the organisation streamlines its administration and management functions. These changes will step up the pace of its existing financial improvement programme in order to stay ahead of the declining UK economy.

Scope, like most other organisations, is facing increasing running costs at a time when some of the charity’s key sources of income are in decline – namely a slow down of legacy income, a drop in investment value and delays in property sales - due to the current economic climate. The future impact of the “credit crunch” on fundraising income from public donations also remains uncertain.

Unlike many other charities, Scope does not have substantial financial reserves. It has decided to take action now to minimise the impact of the economic slowdown, which is widely predicted to worsen.

The charity is also undertaking other practical measures to reduce overheads, such as cutting non-essential expenditure and reviewing purchasing arrangements.

Scope currently has around 3,500 staff across England and Wales.

Across the board

I never thought that I would find either need or interest to go back to the charities press, but I have, to see a little more of what is happening to the broader range of charities, not just to mega-bodies like the Red Cross and Scope but also to the far, far larger number of small- and medium-sized charities that have carried much of the burden for establishing Conductive Education in the United Kingdom. So here I am, looking through Third Sector, the weekly magazine for charity managers.

Tomorrow I may have something more to share…

References

(2000) UK charities brace for 2009 fundraising shortfall, International Herald Tribune, 1 December
http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/12/01/europe/EU-Britain-Charities-Hurting.php

Curtis, R. (2008) Charities no haven for laid-off bankers, International Herald Tribune, 3 December
http://www.iht.com/articles/reuters/2008/12/03/business/OUKBS-UK-FINANCIAL-BRITAIN-CHARITIES.php

Scope (2008) Changes at the top as Scope acts to beat worsening ‘credit crunch’ (press release), 2 October
http://www.scope.org.uk/cgi-bin/np/viewnews.cgi?id=1223034552

Monday, 1 December 2008

Early sign of anticipated crisis

Parallel but converging?

Norman Perrin’s blog this morning alerts us to an early public report of the credit crunch hitting a quality, non-state alternative service in the United Kingdom. There may have already been others, in the UK or elsewhere, but if so these have not been spotted, or not shared. Read the article, by Margarette Driscoll, for yourself:

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/money/article5258236.ece

A familiar-enough story. Articulate, humane, determined parents, the de Savarys, are horrified at the quality of state services provided for their disabled child. So they set up their own, a small domestic-living unit for severely disabled young people who grow up to fall off the end of the education system and find… nothing.

In a sector of desperate need, this develops into a small system of five such homes: Home from Home Care.

What they do does not come cheap. Quality doesn’t, in any area of life.

This is not Conductive Education but no matter. The parallel (the converging parallel?) is at the social, not the pedagogical level. The driving force of determined parents, the benefits (first for their own child and then for others), and the effects upon their own lives, are the same stuff as has been the backbone of the international spread of Conductive Education over the last twenty years.

Hard times

The service that they provide stands at a particularly vulnerable end of the market, disabled adults in full-time care, perhaps an inevitable sector for the first shots of public and commercial retrenchment to be fired.

Local authorities, many of which have been hit by the Icelandic banking collapse, have begun to drag their heels over placements. At least four have been told to look again 'in county' [i.e. something local, run by the public care system] for somewhere to place vulnerable youngsters… although nothing suitable was found when social workers first considered their placements.

… the delay has led the company’s bank, HBOS, to withdraw a previously agreed borrowing facility, based on occupancy rates, costing the company £150,000. The bank has also asked for a business review that will cost the business £20,000...

In order to ensure the cash flow while the bank makes its investigations, they have made six administrative staff redundant and taken themselves off the payroll.

The de Savegnys seem relatively advantaged people, advantaged that is by the standards of many of those who run CE centres, few of which can say that they have investors standing by to help possible future expansion of their system by opening new homes. Paul de Savigny does, however, say:

‘You do wonder how long it’s all going to go on for. It matters very much to us because this isn’t an ordinary business. You can’t mothball part of it till the good times come again, and cutting costs - and therefore care standards - would undermine everything we stand for.’

Let us hope that it works out for them.

Meanwhile, in Conductive Education…

Norman Perrin in his blog, looking forward to CE's post-apocalyptic future, quite rightly extolls the virtues of the way in which Tsad Kadima in Israel is developing such a service within the Conductive Education model. But it may need a new business model (new on the whole to Conductive Education, that is) to give such a service to get of the ground, in the UK and many other countries.

Maybe the way in which the de Sevignys have operated points to one way: as a business. But maybe the practices, locations. alliances etc of Conductive Education will have to make a considerable step forward, out of the old ways, before this can be even considered.

Notes and references

Home from Home Care
http://www.homefromhomecare.com/

Driscoll , M. (2006) The credit crunch hurts even the disabled, Sunday Times, 30 November
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/money/article5258236.ece

Perrin, N. (2008) The credit crunch hurts even the disabled, PACES CEO, I December
http://paces.typepad.com/paces/2008/12/the-credit-crunch-hurts-eve-the-disabled.html

Sutton A. (2008) Please, not just retrenchment: surviving the credit crunch in a socially responsible way, Conductive World, 27 November
http://andrew-sutton.blogspot.com/2008/11/surviving-recession-in-socially.html

Saturday, 29 November 2008

New blog on the block

Becky Featherstone’s Brazilian adventure

Becky Featherstone started her blog in May. Why she stopped and whyshe started again are interesting in the light of recent comments on the CE blogosphere.

When I am not working I spend time preparing for lessons, writing reports, training the staff that work with me, alongside doing the chores of daily life. Any spare time I have I try to catch up with loved ones and friends in England and around the world, and I also enjoying following the blogs of a few people within conductive education. It turns out that I spend more time following the Blogs of others than updating my own, and I am not alone in this as I discovered whilst talking to another conductor last night. Through a chat on Skype I established that she was updating her own Blog, whilst reading others, at almost 1 o'clock in the morning! As a result of our short conversation I have now been prompted to again start updating my own Blog.

Her blog is at:


Falling in love with a country

Becky's is not specifically a Conductive Education blog, it is a blog by a conductor and as such offers another glimpse into the divers human reality of an otherwise often mysterious tribe. This is how Becky introduces her writing:

Although this is my Brazilian adventure, I would like to share it with those I sadly left behind in England. I came here primarily for my work, for which I have great passion as many of you already know, but since arriving here I have slowly fallen in love with not just this country, but also its culture and people. The purpose of this blog is to share with you the other side to my life here, exploring the vast beauty of this country.

There is a long and honourable tradition of participative anthropology. transmitted through writings that are not necessarily ‘scientific’ or even more generally scholarly (though many of them are) but express a powerful, personal and emotional attachment to a land, a people, a language, a society. Such writers do more than simply settling in to a new environment, they embrace it passionately, and they play a major part in shaping how people back home perceive the world, as the British well know (particulary with respect to India).

Blog it

I have met other conductors who feel this way about their new countries, Canada, the United States, yes and even England. Becky is the first that I know of to commit this to writing. She happens to write rather well. What other such talents are already lurking out there in Conductive Education? This is the twenty-first century: no talent need go unexpressed simply because of geographical isolation:

Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.


That was a harsh reality once but remains now so only in so far as people allow themselves to think and act ac if it still has to be. There’s no excuse to perpetuate this situation. I wonder whether a major factor in this doing so may be no more than lack of confidence (sorry, I don’t buy ‘lack of time’, except in the most specific circumstances). Conductive Education will be a richer and more relevant movement if more conductors, parents etc who are its life blood go public and tell about what they do, the circumstances of the work, the triumphs and the frustrations.

If you’re shy, or if you fear some kind of reprisal, then do it anonymously or under a pseudonym (great historical precedent here, in András Petö !).

If you don’t think you have enough to say, do it with friends or colleagues.

If you’re nor sure how to proceed, get a mentor!

And if English is not your native language then so what, write in the language if your choice.

Just do it!

Notes
Featherstone, B. (2008) My Brazilian adventure

Conductor Becky Featherstone works in the project Com Amor in Florianópolis, with Leticia Búrigo, the doyenne of CE bloggers (who writes not in English but, to great effect, in Portuguese):

Gray’s Elegy
http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Poetry/Elegy.htm
There is an awful lot of ‘village Hampdens’ and all sorts of other undiscovered, unsung heroes and innovators, unseen within Conductive Education. There needn’t be!

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Please, not just retrenchment: surviving the recession in a socially responsible way

Some advice from people who might know how boom can follow bust

Some people who might know

Ten years ago the Asia financial crisis laid low the ‘Tiger Economies’ of the Pacific Rim. Boy, did they learn from this and did they recover in the years since!

Now of course they too are severely affected by the collapse of world trade. Last week the Government of Singapore issued advice to companies, based presumably upon fairly recent experience of building new prosperity following financial ruin.

An article in the Straights Times has summarised salient points of potential interest to those involved in Conductive Education around the world, employers, employees and service-users.

Employers… must be socially responsible as the economic downturn bites harder, and resort to retrenchment only after all other options have been exhausted.

There are many other alternatives available before the dreaded axe is wielded.

The Singapore Government is releasing a list of cost-cutting options available to companies with excess staff in a time of slowing business (a position in which CE around the world services might find themselves):

The guidelines - which are not mandatory - include having flexible work arrangements, a shorter work week and sending employees for upgrading.

Acting Manpower Minister Gan Kim Yong says:

'We want to help these companies and guide them through the process, so that they look at the whole challenge holistically, and so that they also understand that there are many other options available other than retrenchment'.

In Singapore, as (so far) in many other places, services industries like the education and childcare sectors, are still hiring. Mr Gan added:

'The key is how we can help the retrenched workers transit to these new industries.'

Who will be most affected? Again Mr Gan has an answer:

On who will be hardest hit, he said that the impact will be felt most keenly at middle-management levels and in PMET (professional, managerial, executive and technical) occupations. This, he explained, is partly a factor of success…

The majority of jobs in world CE fall within the PMET bracket.

A socially responsible response

In no spirit of criticism, and acknowledging some outstanding exceptions, it is fair to say that Conductive Education has not expanded around the world on the basis of social responsibility. Much of it has been driven at best by enlightened self-interest, and often simply by self-interest. Why not? That has been the spirit of the times.

Now that the CE bubble might be bursting, the corresponding risk is that the major response within Conductive Education will be sauve qui peut, ‘every man for himself’’. And Devil take the hindmost.

A socially responsible response would involve, at the very least:

Setting aside time and resources aside to safeguard clients, so that they are not left wholly on the lurch where their CE services shrink or vanish.

Doing the same for employees (and, again, the hear the plea that non-conductors are remembered here too)

Doing what in Singapore the Government calls ‘sending employees for upgrading’. Now what could that mean for Conductive Education, not just for the benefit of those directly involved but also for would-be beneficiaries of the system. Most importantly of all in the long term, the survival and future development of the system.

Painless? Certainly not, but it will hurt, whatever is done. Even over the medium term, simple retrenchment might hurt even more. This way, however, perhaps increases the chance of Conductive Education’s surviving in the longer term with three important assets, not just intact but also enhanced, as a basis for rebuilding a new CE order as we emerge into a new world:
    • reputation
    • people
    • institutions
That might be what they would recommend to ensure the survival of Conductive Education in Singapore, at least, they might do if they had any there yet!

Maybe, though, one day they will.

Reference

Chow, J. (2008) Guidelines today on options before wielding the axe. Ministry of Manpower list will include flexible work plans and shorter work week, Straits Times, 19 November
http://www.straitstimes.com/vgn-ext-templating/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=c0bdb7b9560bd110VgnVCM100000430a0a0aRCRD&vgnextchannel=cf70758920e39010VgnVCM1000000a35010aRCRD