What you possibly didn't know about Stephen, that he :
* was born in 1951 in Barnet, North London, the son of Mary and Thomas, a civil servant and linchpin of his local Catholic community.
* passed the 11+ examination, attended Finchley Catholic Grammar School for Boys, then Bristol University in 1969, where he read history and met his wife, Lorna and after graduating in 1972, embarked on a postgraduate certificate in education course at Cambridge University but changed to a law after a chance encounter with legal scholar, Clive Perry in a lift, who 'saw something in him' and facilitated his conversion..
* left the country with Lorna for a year in Africa at the age of 22 in 1973 and taught in Sudan with the Voluntary Service Overseas, an experience which left a lasting impression on them both, stimulated his interest in the voluntary sector and coincided with a famine in the West of the country and Darfur.
* on return to Britain, trained at the leading law firm, 'Freshfields', as an articled clerk, moved briefly to the 'Frizzell Insurance Group' and then, in 1980, at the age of 29, joined the fledgling commercial and charity solicitors, 'Bates Wells Braithwaite', where he was to spend the rest of his career and where the ethos created by the founder, Andrew Phillips, suited him perfectly.
* was the adviser who helped Zarine Kharas and Anne-Marie Huby found 'Justgiving' in 2000 as a company providing online services for the collection of charitable donations and of whom Zarine said : 'Such was his generosity and vision that were it not for his personal encouragement and belief at every step, Justgiving may not have seen the light of day'
* helped to create the legal framework for the 2001 'Eden Project' in Cornwall, with Tim Smit its founder recalling that : "I never once heard him downbeat or lost for a solution to whatever problem we were seeking to resolve. most of all, he was a kind and generous man whose advice was always coloured by a human perspective and an insistence that the Law should serve the spirit of the intentions, not just a mechanistic means of controlling events."
* put social enterprise on the legal map by inventing the community interest company over a bottle of claret with Roger Warren Evans at Balls Brothers wine-bar in Cheapside where he sketched out the idea on a table napkin and next day produced a short schedule of the appropriate amendments needed to the Companies Act.
* built the new CIC companies on the old British tradition of co-operatives, community enterprises and trading charities, providing a structure by which the benefits of a business could be shared between the social entrepreneur and the community and saw the sector grow to make a £18.5bn contribution to the economy and saw the model replicated in Canada and Australia.
* brought, on behalf of the Environment Foundation, a test case against the Charity Commission arguing the case of 'sustainable development' as a charitable objective and when they were initially denied, was in the words of John Elkington "utterly incensed" and "fought our case for two years, and when it extended into a third year volunteered to continue pro bono. It was a joy to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with such a man, alongside the late Helen Holdaway, during what proved to be a fairly protracted fight. In the end, thanks to Stephen, we won."
* saw his establishment of sustainable development as a charitable objective incorporated into the Charities Act in 2006, benefit organisations like the 'Fairtrade Foundation' and served as legal adviser to Lord Hodgson's review of the Act in 2012.
* came up with the notion of a low-cost insurer for not-for-profit organisations, part-owned by the sector itself and saw the 'Charity and Social Enterprise Insurance Management', set up in 2007, which now insures more than 2,000 charities and social enterprises at much reduced cost.
* in an article for 'Charity Financials' in 2009, was critical of the forces behind the financial crash with :
'the rampant conflicts of interest, the blatant self enrichment; the reckless piratical behaviour that has driven our economic system onto the rocks' and concluded with a quotation from President Roosevelt’s Inaugural Address in 1933: "The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilisation. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truth. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."'
* was interviewed at the Tällberg Forum in Sweden in 2011 and spoke about his aim to replicate U.S. low profit liability companies which mingled private and public sector money by creating a new legal structure which avoided expensive regulatory clearance, bringing "rather technical, nerdy, boring changes that can have huge social impact."
* rose to the position senior partner at BWB and ensured that it kept its close connection with the not-for-profit sector and turned its charity division into the 'Charity and Social Enterprise Department', encouraged flexible working and was instrumental in ensuring that talented female lawyers made progress in the company.
* said in an article for BWB in 2013 entitled : 'Social enterprise - friend or foe ?' concluded : 'Robert Kennedy, in the speech he gave following the assassination of Martin Luther King, quoted 'the Greeks' when he said we needed “to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of the world”. Charities and social enterprises can help tame that savageness. We need as many of them as possible and should encourage them as much as we can.'
* had lived in Greenwich, South London, since 1974 and been on the board of a number of local charities and was a Quaker and member of the Blackheath Meeting who followed the precepts of his faith.
Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said:
"Stephen's unparalleled expertise, combined with his innovative thinking and sheer passion for the work of charities and social enterprises, made him rightly one of the most respected figures in the voluntary sector."
Rod Schwartz, founder and CEO of ClearlySo, helping social entrepreneurs to raise capital said :
“He took on all sorts of causes, cases and clients – sometimes for no fee, often at low fees, just to be helpful to some socially-oriented enterprise trying to get onto the first rung of the difficult and slippery ladder we call success.” and was “the godfather of many enterprises which populate the social sector” and was “indefatigable” and “endlessly connecting people… But despite all of that he was incredibly humble”.
Sir Tim Smit said :
"He was one of those rare people for whom it can be said that when he walked into a room, the room felt better for his being there."
Britain is certainly a better country for him having been here.
A post for another unsung hero :
Sunday, 25 May 2014
Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to an old and forgotten debt-busting philanthropist called Martin Dent