'Meeting people, making connections, getting support and much more'
Gemma Stockdale, from our member of the future group, explains what CIH means to her and how to make the most of being a member of housing's professional body.
I'm a firm believer that if you want to try and improve something, you need to understand it first. And to understand something, you need to get inside it. Ergo, if you want to make a positive change, the only way to do is from the inside.
At The Big Conversation in February (you can read about it here), CIH announced that they were introducing a new advisory committee, to focus on improving CIH for the members of the future. I had been a CIH member before, but had let my membership lapse after feeling like I didn't get much personal value for the cost of my CIHCM. The buzz around this new group at TBC was so good that I started to feel that maybe I had missed a trick the first time round. Either CIH had vastly improved in the time I had been away, or that I had never really been able to see its value in the first place.
I re-joined CIH specifically to apply for the member of the future advisory committee - now more fondly nicknamed CIH Futures - using my previous experience to pitch myself as the resident group sceptic and asker of awkward questions.
Much to my surprise, it worked!
So here we are, six months down the line and what have I got?
Firstly, a network! That’s right. I have a professional network. A group of people that I can go to, ask silly questions, and get intelligent answers in return! Of course I joke; there are no silly questions. Within CIH Futures, I have gained a dozen or so people with diverse skills, knowledge, experience and areas of interest at different levels of seniority, but with equal levels of passion and dedication for their fields. Add to that the growing expanse of my personal Twittersphere and I’m cooking on gas. A year ago, trying to find out about what’s going on in the housing world, and especially career-related things, wasn’t always easy. Then last week, I tweeted into the ether to find out how people in research/analysis roles got themselves there, and the notifications went berserk! Within a couple of hours, I had multiple, varied answers and even a couple of invitations to visit or chat things through. So, between us, it seems we can find the answer to pretty much anything, and you can’t place a £ value on that.
Secondly, I have a serious case of imposter syndrome. Sounds like a negative, but hear me out. These are incredibly intelligent, creative and accomplished young people. I look at each of them and I see or hear something that I can’t do, don’t know, haven’t mastered, or even heard of, sometimes! The thought frequently passes through my head that I’m punching well and truly above my weight even trying to contribute. BUT, that’s where it gets good. Punching above your weight is how you learn and grow. That feeling of not being sure you’re good enough is powerful, especially when you really want to be. They inspire me to develop, to be better, to learn, to push myself and do things that are outside my comfort zone. As a great teacher once said, ‘Do. Or do not. There is no try.’
And thirdly, I’m really starting to see that the true value of CIH, as I see it now, is in the people. CIH members are a mine of information, expertise, creativity, thought and opinion, with collectively thousands of years of experience working in housing in the UK and beyond. We are a human library – a living resource that grows and shifts and learns every day, and that means that, in addition to all the other great resources – qualifications, information, training, mentoring and support being a CIH member gives you one heck of a library card.
It’s no good on your own, though. You have to get amongst it, to get the most from it, which I suppose brings me back to my first experience. As a lonely member, sitting in the silo of your organisation, the CIH can seem to be an impenetrable bubble – all the good stuff is inside, but it’s hard to see from where you are, and even harder to actually get into. That’s something we’re working to fix in CIH Futures. Being part of the group has been my ticket to the inside – meeting people, making connections, getting support at the touch of a button, but we need to make it easier for members to access and get the benefit of all the great stuff CIH has to offer.
On the last day of Housing 2017, the excellent Jon Barnes (no, not THE Jon Barnes) from CIH Cymru persuaded me onto camera for a natter about our #WhyCIH campaign. It was late in the afternoon, and I wasn’t feeling particularly articulate, but I managed one small nugget of gold in the midst of a lot of other jumble;
CIH is back up.
That’s what I’ve got now, and it’s brilliant.
Gemma Stockdale is a member of CIH's member of the future advisory group and business development project support at Thirteen Group.
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