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John Cutt

Where is the love?

This weekend, millions will take part in the annual celebration of love and commitment that is Valentine’s Day. Vows and promises will be made; hopes and dreams will be shared. There will be fine dining, expensive presents and special moments. Meanwhile, some of us will cower alone in our bedsits, recoiling from the grotesque displays of happiness on our news feeds. Displays of love, however, are not the sole preserve of romantically involved couples. It is often said that love is based on respect; showing respect can be something as simple as making time for a friend, complimenting a colleague on a job well done, or being kind to a stranger. Maintaining high standards of behaviour in our professional and social lives – showing a little love, if you will – is the cornerstone of a civilised society.

This is not merely an issue of social cohesion: there is a solid business case for companies to actively promote a culture of respect in their internal and external relationships. In recent years, the concept of corporate social responsibility has become increasingly prominent in many organisations, with substantial emphasis placed on health and safety, security, sustainability and equality in the formulation and implementation of procedures and processes. Awards and accreditations in these fields – along with the provision of various employee-focused schemes – have become the norm in the business world. Accordingly, developing your organisation in these areas is not merely about prestige: it is about maintaining a competitive edge. Public sector organisations have led the way in this respect; at Tenders Direct we see frequent procurements for services such as quality assurance and accreditation, employee assistance and counsellingemployee engagement and corporate values, benefit schemes and teambuilding events. More than ever, public and private sector organisations are recognising the material and cultural advantages of an enlightened approach to organisational management and development.

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The commercialisation of space

In case you hadn’t heard – “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” is released in the UK today. We decided it was too good an opportunity to pass up without a related blog entry. NO SPOILERS are included below…

Recently I was intrigued to discover a contract notice entitled “Space Mission” published in the global hub of space exploration that is Swindon. Alas, it was not a design and build contract for the Death Star. Instead, UK Shared Business Services were seeking a contractor to assist in opening up the US space sector to UK entrepreneurs. While the private sector has always provided the logistical backbone of space flight – hugely successful conglomerates such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing flourished as suppliers to NASA during the Space Race – humanity’s reach for the stars is increasingly facilitated by private contractors. Indeed, there are growing indications that commercial interests may ultimately replace the quest for scientific knowledge as the primary driver of innovation in the space sector.

NASA now outsources its unmanned supply missions to the International Space Station to California based contractor SpaceX. Retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011 left a capability gap for manned flight; with a replacement platform still some way from fruition, NASA now depends on Russia’s Federal Space Agency to transport its astronauts to the ISS. Reliance on a foreign rival is seen by some in the US as damaging to national prestige and has undoubtedly catalysed the development of private sector expertise in space flight technology. NASA’s decision to award contracts for manned crew rotations to the ISS earlier this year to both SpaceX and Boeing – provisionally scheduled for 2017 – can be seen not only as an attempt to reinstate domestic capability, but also a pragmatic reaction to budgetary pressures. NASA – like so many public sector bodies – has recognised the monetary benefits of outsourcing and the potential of private investment to drive innovation. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic – a bold attempt to apply the business model of commercial airlines to orbital flight – epitomises the drive to transform space travel into a profit making enterprise.

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Remember Remember Your Tenders in November!

Alone with his thoughts in the dank cellar below the House of Lords, Guy Fawkes imagined the display of pageantry that would occur above him when King James I arrived later that day for the State Opening of Parliament. This war veteran from Yorkshire, however, had a very different spectacle in mind: the detonation of 36 barrels of gunpowder directly beneath the King’s feet. With James dead, Fawkes and his fellow conspirators hoped to instigate a popular uprising and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. He just had to remain undiscovered for a few more hours…

A noise… his heart skipped a beat. Footsteps!

It’s fascinating to think that the actions of a few individuals in the distant past can continue to influence our lives centuries later. In his moments of introspection in the cellar, Guy Fawkes probably didn’t imagine that his effigy would be burned as part of a widely recognised annual cultural event over four hundred years after his death; he surely wouldn’t have had the remotest idea that an extensive publicly funded supply chain would be required to make it happen!

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