Cabe can blame no one else for its imminent demise
The organisation’s recent actions demonstrate how it has lost sight of its values
Is Cabe finished? The answer is almost certainly yes and the fault is not the government’s, which will cut off its money next spring. Neither is it the Design Council’s, which had Cabe forced on it. Cabe is to blame for its own demise because in the end it lost sight of its values.
Some will say these went a long time ago when it had to turn itself into a profitable business by flogging design review services to cash-strapped local authorities. But the trick it needed to pull off was to keep those values going because these are what underpin any successful business.
They govern what it sees as important, what it does when faced with a problem and what its purpose is.
In Cabe’s case it was a body that stood for the improvement of the built environment. It doesn’t matter that towards the end its motivation was simply to take on more in order to grow. We knew what it stood for.
But, as a former director says this week, it has lost sight of that. Instead of seeing independence from government as an opportunity to campaign on issues that need open debate, it became inward looking and almost silent.
It also became dysfunctional, losing three senior staff in 12 months. The latest is its director, Nahid Majid, who was fired after returning from holiday. But it’s to her credit that she refused to be paid off in return for her silence.
Whatever her shortcomings as a director — and why did it take Cabe 10 months to become aware of them? — her treatment looks shoddy. Meanwhile, she is not being replaced, leaving Cabe in the hands of someone with no built environment experience at all.
All organisations sometimes need to make decisions based on short-term gain. But few successful ones take risks with people’s jobs and livelihoods unless they face annihilation.