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Young Leaders 2015: Vote Now

March 2015

Now in its fifth year, the competition has rapidly grown in popularity since its inception in 2011, becoming one of the most talked about and prestigious events in the housing calendar.

In 2015 we are pleased to reveal that following last year’s exciting live final at the National Housing Federation’s annual conference in Birmingham, this year’s five finalists will once again get to make their ultimate pitches at this year’s conference in September.

With the sector facing unprecedented pressures, we want to see tomorrow’s talent now; the people with the flair to lead us out of the gloom.

The entries for this year's award were better than ever and the competition looks set to be fierce. Following a difficult shortlisting stage our online public vote to decide the final 10 is now open.

The lucky, and no doubt nervous, final 10 will then be invited to a special presentation day at the NHF’s headquarters in London to explain and thrash out their big ideas, and where our judges will decide who will go through to the live final in September.

Jon Pendrill, director at Maxmedia, which is sponsoring this year’s Young Leaders Award, said: “Over the past four years there have been some truly amazing people recognised as inspiring young leaders, demonstrating what a brilliant sector social housing is to work in.

“Across the UK they are making a huge difference to so many lives in our communities and neighbourhoods. Good luck to everyone nominated in 2015, we look forward to sharing this experience with you.”

Jon Land
24housing Magazine

1. Darwin Bernardo

Co-founder of Nutmeg CommUNITY - Barnet Homes

"Darwin Bernardo (26) is co-founder of youth empowerment organisation Nutmeg CommUNITY. Inspired by financial and mentoring support from Barnet Homes, Darwin leads on initiatives which promote a number of youth volunteering, youth leadership and community development projects involving Barnet Homes’ young residents and its wider community. Darwin’s passion and vision to empower young people has led to him being recognised by high profile national projects that have enabled him to help young people achieve their goals and aspirations even further. Darwin sits on The Queen’s Young Leaders Advisory Panel and has beenachairman of Transport for London’s Youth Participation Forum – a voice for young people on the London Borough of Barnet Executive Management Group. Darwin set up Nutmeg with his co-founders in 2008 when a close friend was stabbed outside his school for stopping a fight in 2006. This inspired Darwin to do something for the community because his friend was respectful, ambitious and humble, which exemplifies the Nutmeg ethos – aiming to steer young people away from delinquency and instead turn them into role models and future leaders. Currently Nutmeg CommUNITY is delivering a successful peer mentoring programme in three Barnet secondary schools."

Nominated by: Derek Rust, Director of Operations

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2. Rachel Honey Jones

Vice Chair of Family Housing Swansea/ Development Officer NPT Homes - Family Housing Association Wales

"Rachel (29) was nominated last year in her capacity as Development Officer at NPT Homes. This nomination is for her work on the board of Family HA Wales (FHA). FHA employs over 235 staff and manage a range of care and traditional housing. Rachel Joined the board as part of a team committed to changing the organisation. FHA was under supervision with the regulators; the chief executive and finance director had left along with five long-standing board members. Rachel played a critical role in recruiting new board members, in the recruitment to the senior posts and took over as vice chair at the most critical time for the association. Governance is now under control, the funders and regulators are comfortable and the HA is moving forward. Rachel sets the highest standards of professionalism for herself and for her fellow board members and is a fantastic role model for the staff. Being a young member on stable well-managed board is a challenge; being a board member for an organisation going through supervision and a governance revolution is doubly hard. It is amazing when a such a young person can dedicate time not only to their career but can also contribute so much time to resolving a substantial governance problems at one of Swansea largest landlords."

Nominated by: Mike Owen, Chair of Family HA

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3. Michael Baggett

Senior Development Officer - Fortis Living

"Michael (27) is a tremendous young leader. He demonstrates professionalism, commerciality and empathy. In his short career, his knowledge has increased exponentially. He puts aside the inconvenience of his dyslexia to enable him to thrive, both in the dynamic team environment and in the eyes of external peers. Michael is the consummate professional. He often (almost obsessively), will not leave his desk until his daily ‘to-do’ list is clear. He asks thorough questions and participates actively in meetings. While he can often find it more testing, his contributions towards my board reports are always insightful, well structured and filled with the appropriate facts. While Michael does not have a commercial background, his ability to acquire knowledge quickly about financial aspects, ensures that he is always my ‘first choice’ to complete commercial projects. He will always critically analyse proposals to ensure appropriate return. This is rare in our sector. Finally, Michael’s empathy enables him to become a well liked member of my team. His listening skills have enabled him to become a trusted friend to others and always able to support them, whether with a personal or work issue. Michael’s dedication to his role has seen him promoted within 18 months."

Nominated by: Duncan Smith, Assistant Director of Growth & Development

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4. Amy Butterworth

Service Manager - Forum Housing Association

"Fearless – Amy (28) is willing to try anything which improves outcomes for young people, she does this with gumption and isn’t afraid. She has stepped forward to become the association's coaching lead and has been key in bringing ‘coaching’ in as our main vehicle for delivery rather than ‘support’. Amy has coached colleagues through the change, helping them to embrace an improved way of working with young people. Tenacious – Amy was a Foyer resident herself until she became a resident representative and then progressed through the ranks to service manager, she never gave up. This tenacity is mirrored in her drive to ensure that every service user achieves their full potential. Amy sees the good in everyone and creates opportunities for service users to shine, helping them to see where their talents lie and how they can best be used. Excellence – Amy doesn’t do mediocre – she has developed an 'achieving excellence' policy and framework for the whole association to work by which sets out our standards to engage residents in the various opportunities we offer. She has led and inspired colleagues to recognise and embrace the invaluable contribution which our service users make to our organisation."

Nominated by: Ian Cardwell, Chief Executive

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5. Kenny Kristiansen

ICT Helpdesk Manager - Halton Housing Trust

"Kenny (27) regularly demonstrates his ability to motivate. He recently took on the role of helpdesk manager with no previous experience. The team consists of a number of graduates; Kenny spends time encouraging and enabling them to take ideas forward under his guidance. Already the team is performing to a high standard as well as suggesting and developing innovative solutions for Digital First. Kenny is a great communicator. He uses his technical expertise and translates ICT systems, strategies and processes into meaningful language which colleagues can understand and utilise. This has earned him respect across the business. Kenny is always willing to take on challenges. Kenny was selected to take part in a specific project to investigate new solutions to house building which he embraced and tackled head on. The new role required Kenny to use his technical skills along with his drive for innovation to research and evaluate new ideas the Trust could implement. As part of the group Kenny presented the project findings and suggestions to the leadership team who were highly impressed with the results. It’s been a pleasure to see Kenny grow over the last 12 months and I believe he has great future potential."

Nominated by: Carole Galsworthy, Director of ICT & Business Support

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6. Thomas Sutton

Smarter Buys Manager - Incommunites

"After finding out that a career in teaching wasn’t for him, Thomas (25) joined our Incomes team via the GEM Programme in late 2011. Thomas started at Incommunities with joint responsibility for researching and dealing with the implications of the Welfare Reform Act for our customers and developing and implementing a communication strategy for employees and customers. Thomas immediately added impact to our team, quickly developing expertise in a complex area of legislation, communicating to other teams in a way everyone understood and with an ethical approach towards our customers. Thomas liaised with customers often with complex needs on a daily basis to help them through the problems caused by the impending Welfare Reform Act, particularly the customers hit by the so-called “bedroom tax.” Fast forward three years and Thomas now manages our innovative Smarterbuys store, a low interest household store which fills a gap in the market and is a service the community needs, replacing high interest lenders and providing housing advice and support. Thomas’ leadership qualities have shown through in everything he does, and I’m looking forward to seeing him as a well thought of chief executive in the not so distant future!"

Nominated by: Dave Dickens, Director of Incomes

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7. Sophie Burns

Senior Community Empowerment Officer - Knightstone Housing

"Since starting her career in social housing in the field of community investment with us two years ago, Sophie (30) has established herself as key leader in the communty empowerment service both internally at Knightstone and externally with residents and partners. Demonstrable values: 1. A commitment to self improvement - having progressed from officer to senior community empowerment officer, and in sourcing and a leadership training and development course from Onyett Entero, Sophie is putting into practice a range of new skills and learning and evidencing a genuine capacity, eagerness and desire to improve and develop her professional leadership qualities. 2. Ability to model.. a resonant style - Sophie manages a group of four officers in a wider team and leads by example. Her attention to detail, ability to understand and deliver expectations of others, supporting and nurturing her staff and providing positive and consistent examples and persona in the face of new complex challenges enables an inspirational environment in which her team are excelling. 3. Emergent and empowering styles - Sophie has led groups of residents in Hartcliffe, South Bristol to develop sustainable community infrastructure solutions whilst sensitively aligning the organisation with local organisations to deliver creative solutions."

Nominated by: Pete Davies, Community Empowerment Manager

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8. Madeleine Brown

Active Citizenship Coordinator - Luminus Group

"Madeleine (23) joined Luminus as active citizenship coordinator in 2014 after completing a degree in social policy. Her role supports Luminus’ 2020 Vision: The Road to Renewal, to change the world where we are, to rejuvenate communities and encourage active participation in building a better society for all. We were seeking a fresh perspective on how to engage across all demographics, and support community initiatives through volunteering. Through her enthusiasm and knowledge, Madeleine has brought this to Luminus. Madeleine is an exceptionally engaging young person. The three most important values she has demonstrated as a leader have been to influence, build trust and confidence with our residents, supporting them to make a positive contribution in their communities. She has refreshed our approach, encouraging those involved to lead community initiatives, including neighbourhood litter picks, walk-abouts and our innovative 'street representative' scheme, which encourages residents to get involved and volunteer their time to be the “eyes and ears” of their neighbourhoods. Through Madeleine’s passion and commitment we now have 175 street representatives and 170 'energy champions', who pass on energy saving tips to neighbours and friends."

Nominated by: Angela Hamilton, Customer Services Manager

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9. Emily Burton

Community Housing GEM Graduate - Orbit Group

"The three most important values demonstrated by Emily (23) are: 1. Initiative. Emily has been working with Orbit since October 2014 and has led on a range of projects in which she has shown initiative in terms of the project planning, research and implementation. Specifically she has researched concentrations of ASB across the Stratford area, in order to inform a plan of action to address the ASB. 2. Team Working. Emily has assisted the wider housing team in a range of projects including helping out with a jobs club, Upsize Downsize event and also neighbourhood action days. She is now initiating projects on her own which are supporting the work of the rest of the housing team. 3. Positive Outlook. Emily is always positive and enthusiastic in her approach to her work and in engaging with colleagues and outside organisations, setting a good example to those around her. She has demonstrated this in the project work and research she has carried out for the downsizing project as well as supporting a community investment approach to tackling ASB."

Nominated by: Sophie FitzHugh, Area Community Manager

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10. Tom Forty

Business Improvement Manager - Orbit Group

"Tom (28) has worked for Origin since 2012 and in that time has grown, both in terms of his own knowledge and his influence in the organisation. Tom has spearheaded our move towards digital services, taking responsibility for developing the on line customer portal which has proved hugely successful with over 230 registered tenants, and in helping prepare customers for universal credit by designing web based information and a tool to assist with financial assessments. Tom has shown considerable leadership skills in confidently driving the policy and procedure agenda from a low starting point, ensuring that all P&Ps are of high quality and working with staff at director level to secure resources to work on this, resulting in up to date P&Ps which are invaluable as training tools. Tom has been instrumental in working with groups of staff to unpick complex processes and help improve key services to external and internal customers. He personally led the process mapping of pension auto enrolment which was key to its successful implementation, and has mapped key repairs and tenancy processes to speed up service delivery. He has also lead teams, training them to carry out their own process reviews." NB. Tom has joined Orbit Group since the nomination

Nominated by: David Dent, Head of Business Improvement, Origin Housing

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11. Ashley Philp

Anti-Social Behaviour Officer - Sovereign

"Superior communication skills: Ashley (27) communicates effectively at all levels, from vulnerable residents to directors. An attentive listener, she collaborates well with colleagues, residents and stakeholders. She presented to 40 senior IT managers at a day’s notice on a housing officer’s needs and utilising IT support. Her contribution, called ‘Ashley’s vision’, formed part of a submission to the executive board.

Inspirational: Ashley’s perseverance, dedication and passion is truly inspirational. During her year at Sovereign, Ashley has become a trusted and dependable colleague, playing a positive part in projects, shaping processes and improving performance, including:

• A new process to monitor performance by front line staff, ensuring consistent approaches, clarity and improving productivity.

Going extra mile: Ashley constantly achieves an exceptional level of performance, going far beyond what is expected. She manages a large block of inner city flats with a high proportion of families with English as a second language. In August 2014, a number of homes were flooded during roofing works. On the floor below, four flats were infested with cockroaches and bedbugs. Working with stakeholders she kept residents informed, supported and back in their homes quickly. Despite enormous pressure her confidence and positivity did not waiver and her day job did not suffer."

Nominated by: Karen Walsh, Housing Services Manager

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12. Sophie McKechnie

Digital Inclusion Project Manager - The Hyde Group

"Sophie (27) takes full responsibility for Hyde’s progressive digital inclusion programme. She shaped the programme by developing the DI Strategy, involving staff and residents to ensure that the programme met the identified needs of residents and the business. To get meaningful buy in and move from concept to delivery across the business, Sophie took responsibility to influence key decision makers to commit funds to ensure we achieved key aims of the strategy. Through her thoroughness, quiet persistence, her competence and her calm professional attitude she has elevated Hyde’s DI work to a national level. Sophie is particularly skilled and talented in networking effectively with both internal and external stakeholders to build consensus and deliver improvements for tenants. Sophie built a network of senior figures across Hyde to consult who now help maintain support and group-wide buy-in for the implementation of the strategy. Externally, Sophie was a founder member of the 'connected housing' initiative and currently chairs this important group which aims to challenge broadband suppliers to offer cost effective options for tenants. Sophie continually demonstrates her solution focussed approach to challenges both operationally and strategically."

Nominated by: Tom Gardiner, Hyde Plus Special Projects Manager

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13. Apsana Haque

Workforce Diversity Project Officer - Tower Hamlets Homes

The three most important values demonstrated by Apsana (24) are:

 1. Promoting diversity. As a British Bangladeshi woman who has lived, worked and studied in Tower Hamlets for her whole life, Apsana has applied her passion, commitment and knowledge of the issues related to workplace inequality – and directly support women, BME and disabled workers to access careers in housing in East London. Through Apsana’s leadership and tireless work, THH's workforce diversity project has driven through a range of positive action initiatives, as well as introducing mandatory training for all managers on issues such as unconscious bias and inclusive leadership.

2. Developing others. Apsana is a founding member of the THH Women’s Network, currently with over 70 members (of a possible 190 women colleagues). Working through the women’s network, Apsana has provided coaching and mentoring to improve the confidence, knowledge and skills of potential applicants from under-represented groups. Over 30 sessions have taken place in the last three months alone, preparing candidates for application and recruitment processes for specific roles.

3. Delivering strategic objectives. As THH’s workforce diversity project officer, Apsana has single-handedly transformed the approach which Tower Hamlets Homes has a taken to improve the recruitment, development and retention of under-represented community groups – specifically BME, women and disabled colleagues and job seekers. Since Apsana has led the workforce diversity project, of 46 appointments made at all grades: - 80% (37) appointments have been BME; 44% (20) appointments have been Bangladeshi, compared to a previous baseline of 25% in the six months before the project commenced; 4% (2) appointments have been Somali, compared to a previous baseline of zero; 59% (27) appointments have been women, compared to a previous baseline of 27% In short, Apsana is an inspirational colleague, who applies her knowledge of housing, skills and passion to tackle longstanding inequality and disadvantage for women, BME and disabled people in accessing housing careers in East London."

Nominated by: James Caspell, Business Innovation Manager

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14. Ashley Rudge

Communications Manager - Wandle Housing Association

In just under three years, Ashley (25) has gone from being a fresh-faced graduate trainee to leading and nurturing a happy, high-performing team, taking on one of the most challenging communication jobs in the sector. Through his hard work, resilience and good humour, Ashley has shown he has what it takes to be a young leader.

Innovative in every aspect of his work, Ashley has built a team from scratch over the past six months; challenging the received wisdom and bringing a range of ideas to Wandle to improve the way we do things.

Customer Focus: In everything he does, Ashley expertly puts himself in the resident's shoes, ensuring that our communications are less about us, more about residents.

Team player: In a short period, Ashley has developed fantastic relationships with colleagues from across the business – as well as with partners: building up trust and breaking down silos.

Ashley is an asset to Wandle and to the sector – he will go far.

Nominated by: Stephen Mutton, Head of Partnerships

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15. Katie Moore

Head of Business Intelligence - WM Housing Group

"Commitment: Katie (30) has demonstrated a commitment that is extremely rare in someone so young, embarking as a housing graduate just four years ago. She has secured a well-respected role of head of business intelligence by mapping out the route needed to progress, developing skills and securing qualifications, including a post-graduate diploma in housing studies to become a member of the CIH. She was amongst the first members of WM Housing staff to complete the group’s inaugural leadership programme in partnership with Warwick Business School.

Knowledge: Katie has led significant business projects for the group, including implementation of its affordable rents regime – becoming the ‘go-to’ person for all strategy and policy relating to affordable rents. She was the strategic lead on its social housing fraud initiative, securing match-funding for a full-time investigative post and managing the relationship with the local authority. The project led recovery of 18 properties.

Inspiration: Katie’s forward-thinking approach and determination sets her apart and inspires others. Katie’s current role sees her tasked with horizon scanning and developing knowledge management for the group. She has launched a Futurist Academy, which sees colleagues attend workshops with expert speakers to understand and identify key trends to influence the group’s business."

Nominated by: Ian Hill, Director of Business Excellence and Communities

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16. Oliver Herrmann

Skills Development Manager - Wolverhampton Homes

"Oliver (27) is a rising star; balancing the academic world with the human side of housing. His commitment to improving the life of local tenants is demonstrated by his work to establish our LEAP apprenticeship programme. He’s revamped our approach to skills and employability and now hundreds of tenants have access to training packages and features that simply aren’t available elsewhere; and that’s down to Oliver. Oliver has developed his role to be a type of champion for tenants; working tirelessly to create opportunities for them to access employment and skills development. He’s got a unique ability to interact and empathise with a whole range of people. It’s his easy-going style and friendliness that’s one of his key strengths and allows him to be at home in the company of chief executives, directors of private companies or shy, apprentices who are taking their first steps into the world of work. He already manages a team and is widely regarded as one of the most popular and progressive managers in the organisation. But in a city with high levels of deprivation and social inequality – we can’t understate the impact Oliver’s had. More than 50 tenants have taken on apprenticeships and nearly 50 more are now back in employment; that’s the real impact of Oliver’s work. He’s also worked to secure £800,000 over five years under the 'talent match' programme to develop mentors and outreach work in the city His rise may have been rapid – but for those he’s supported he’s left a lasting impression. Sue Kunynec, Director of Corporate Resources, Wolverhampton Homes says:  'I can’t think of a better example of someone who really does live and breathe the value of making a difference for our tenants.'"

Nominated by: Jamie Angus, Head of Communications

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17. Isabel Chapman

Assistant Youth Development Co-ordinator - Peabody

"Over the last 12 months Isabel (25) has coordinated a youth-led project funded by Erasmus+, which gives young people a chance to take part in master classes, organise events, and influence politicians and decision makers on the issues that are most important to them. She is one of the first housing sector professionals to complete the young people and violence advisor training provided by Safe Lives, a national charity dedicated to ending domestic abuse. This will help Isabel and Peabody better support young people experiencing violence and abuse in their relationships. Isabel delivered a TEDx Clapham talk in January 2015 about her work with young women exploited by gangs and the need for statutory sex and relationships education in the UK."

Nominated by: Gudrun Burnet, Senior Business Partner (Domestic Abuse)

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18. Natasha Jarrat

Policy Assistant - Incommunities

"Natasha (25) has a strong commitment to social justice and has the ability to understand the role housing plays in relation to involving customers to ensure that their voices are heard and the impact customers have in shaping services to meet need. This is also fits with Incommunities vision 'Improving lives in communities'. Natasha has demonstrated this within her work within a number of projects she has worked on. Natasha has quickly become an asset within a diverse team and has a strong work ethos that promotes equality and fairness. Natasha is developing leadership skills and is a mentor to other young people who are currently engaged with Incommunities, through our junior GEMs scheme. I have no doubt that Natasha will progress up the career ladder and become a strong fair and vibrant leader in the future she is an asset to the team. I am proud to have been her mentor."

Nominated by: Jayne Booth, Equality Advisor

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19. Helen Coulson

Lettings Officer - Adactus Housing Group

"Helen (29) has been promoted to allocations and lettings manager with responsibility for allocation of our new build properties. We are now building 650 properties a year, making us one of the biggest housing association developers in the country, and Helen has been given responsibility for ensuring that our new properties are let on a sustainable basis. Helen has put in place systems to ensure that tenants taking tenancies on an affordable rent basis are in a position to pay their rent and contribute to the community in which they are rehoused."

Nominated by: Paul Lees, Group Chief Executive

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20. Robert Flint


"Robert (29) demonstrates leadership through these values:

Courage – while only a trainee, Robert co-wrote the Policy Exchange report in favour of equal marriage. He had the courage to give an interactive presentation on this controversial topic at our regular staff training seminars – our first trainee to do so. He also has the conviction to write an outspoken blog on the housing crisis for young people which has been regularly published by the Chartered Institute of Housing and 24Housing.

Justice – Robert volunteers for the firm’s CSR rent arrears clinic at the local Southwark Citizens Advice Bureau. He helps council residents manage their rent arrears. His experience as a former MP’s parliamentary assistant helps residents to navigate the welfare reforms and access the benefits payments due.

Ambition - as a junior solicitor Robert is the youngest member of our strategic private rented sector (PRS) partnership committee. He helps decide our strategy in this critical emerging sector, including the organisation of our flagship PRS conference series. He led the organisation of our recruitment process – successfully interviewing candidates, writing assessment papers and managing the day-to-day organisation."

Nominated by: James Duncan, Partner

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