The sector must maintain its passion as it changes and adapt to new times, says Tom Forty.
Rising Stars 2016 seems to have come and gone in the blink of an eye. It’s been a great opportunity and this is a chance to reflect on the experience and some of the thoughts I had along the way.
The competition - formed of a Twitter Q&A, presentation to young people on a career in housing, and an ethics discussion panel - has confirmed that I love working in housing. We are on the brink of something special as a sector; associations are evolving, adapting, and innovating so quickly. It’s an exciting time to be a housing professional. The passion for people, commitment to communities, and the focus on social values are points that stood out as I engaged with so many new people – digitally and face to face. It’s motivational to see, and a key strength of our sector. We mustn’t lose that.
Questions asked in the Twitter Q&A were great, highlighting challenges the housing sector face. Finalists got a real buzz from answering questions and engaging with some of sector’s leaders. Personally I found it really useful to help see where I sit on many of the key issues, and looking back at the Storify, it’s great to see some really interesting and thoughtful responses. Despite the challenges, we can, and need to be, optimistic for the future.
There was a question that stood out for me, on a concept sitting at the heart of how we can succeed as a sector. Tom Murtha asked: “As housing associations become more commercial, how do they maintain their social purpose and values?” This is a topic I’m really passionate about, as I believe getting this right is key to unlocking potential within housing. I’ll be looking forward to the session “Social or commercial mission: building a culture of change” at the conference next month, to see how housing explores this further.
Balancing commercial and social objectives poses a question about what skills are needed. How do we then recruit and attract the right people to develop our organisations, but still retain focus on values and delivering great services to customers that really need us? The second task allowed us to explore this and develop a conversation with young people entering housing. Our ability to solve the housing crisis needs to be as much about getting the right skills and attitudes working in housing as anything else. Focussing on this now can strengthen our sector for many years to come.
The third and final task centred on ethical dilemmas, of which I am confident there will be many as the sector works to balance social and commercial. How would we respond to ethical dilemmas? What’s our ability to reason and see the bigger picture, and to make difficult decisions? These skills are vital for leaders now and in the future, as we play that key role balancing priorities, delivery models, risks and people to ensure we continue to be relevant and indispensable. We need to be seen as key players by the public in a changing society with evolving needs, expectations and perceptions.
This is obviously a competition I’d love to win, but getting this far has been great and is something that I will learn from. I was really chuffed to hear a group of our customers found out about the competition, and started rooting for me, even registering with Inside Housing to cast their votes! A huge thanks to them – win or lose it’s the customers we’re here for, so it’s good to know I have their support. We will just have to now wait and see. Good luck and well done to the other finalists – I’ll be seeing you all in Manchester.