It wouldn’t be the National Housing Federation Summit without the entertaining and exciting Young Leaders final.
Our five finalists were put through their paces, delivering a five-minute presentation on how to change the culture in housing to inspire more trust among residents, stakeholders, and staff.
The Young Leaders had already come a long way to reach the final, overcoming an online vote and a gruelling semi-final.
The winner was Shauna Hutchinson, resident engagement officer at Network Homes, who spoke passionately about effective engagement with residents and how instilling belief in an organisation can drive better services.
Katie Barker, Grand Union Housing Group’s assistant HR business partner, inspired the room with a pitch on creating a shared Apprenticeship Levy portal, so no money was lost to the sector and better training and professional standards could be achieved.
Joe Hughes, neighbourhood manager at South Liverpool Homes, talked about ensuring that trust was earned by organisations, saying housing staff needed to be confident in what they are delivering to achieve better results.
Lara Chani, graduate development project officer at Gateway Housing Association, told delegates that the way to build trust was to introduce mandatory professional standards to improve service delivery.
Tommy Nightingale, contracts manager at United Living, used his edge of being the only contractor left in the competition to talk about building trust when consulting residents over works being done to their homes.
Mark Lawrence, editor of 24housing, said: “It sounds like a cliché, but the standard gets better and better each year. The five finalists blew the judges away with their presentations.
“Congratulations to Shauna, her passion shone through during her presentation and the judges felt the award couldn’t go to anyone more deserving.
“The other four should hold their heads high. They all have a strong future in the sector, and I am excited to see what they do next with the platform this competition has provided them with.”
Winner: Shauna Hutchinson
“Trust gives you the confidence that someone has your back”
It was the Shauna’s passion that impressed the judges, with a presentation highlighting her impressive experience at Network Homes.
The resident engagement officer said there was a need for housing associations to “give staff something to believe in”, and that if staff were passionate about an organisation they would deliver a better service.
She said that “trust gives you the confidence that someone has got your back”, and that effective engagement with residents is a way to earn that trust.
Shauna urged the sector to “own” the mistakes it makes and be honest with residents, working transparently with them to remedy those errors. She added that it would be actions like this that would inspire trust.
She also challenged the sector to think about what they are doing right now to make a positive change. Creating a new #MADMAC2019, Shauna invited the delegates to “make a difference, make a change” and start working now to positively impact people and communities.
When questioned by the judges, she responded energetically that boards were a key part of ensuring there was a culture that ran through the whole organisation, not a disconnect between staff and board.
She said: “I don’t want to just know their names, I want to know what their motives are, what their plans are for the organisation I work for.”
2. Katie Barker
“Let’s pool our resources and maximise what we can do”
Starting her presentation with an attractive “put your hand up if you would like £2.5m”, she immediately had the audience wanting to know how they could claim the money.
The idea is simple: a portal where housing associations can share the money they don’t use from their apprenticeship levy by sharing it with others to provide apprenticeships or training.
For example, the assistant HR business partner has already helped one smaller association with a £50,000 transfer, meaning they were able to provide quality training to several members of staff.
She said the idea would “promote trust between housing associations” and further push collaborative working. It would be administrated by one central body, potentially the CIH or NHF, and all housing associations could be on one database, matching up together in a sort of “housing tinder”.
She added: “We all want the same thing, we have a shared goal…this idea is a no brainer.”
Responding to a question from the judges on how much trust this idea will inspire, she said that through training staff to be better, they were able to be more effective for residents and wider stakeholders.
3. Joe Hughes
“You have to believe what you’re doing is making lives better”
The neighbourhood manager from South Liverpool Homes asked: “Do we even trust ourselves?”
Joe spoke about the importance of investing in staff and that generating trust starts from within the organisation.
On top of this, he spoke of the importance of professional standards for staff and voiced his concerns over the lack of collaboration from the sector on some key issues.
He said that with better partnerships, training, and staff empowerment, tenants “will trust that we are making the right decisions”.
Judges were impressed by the natural leadership abilities Joe has demonstrated throughout the competition, and he said it would require leaders to change the attitudes among housing associations to get the trust right.
Making the important point that “trust is earned”, Joe was keen to stress that openness and trust should be a key part of an organisation, reiterating that it all starts from within.
One key quote was “trust yourself, you know more than you think you do”, which epitomised his view of the importance of investing in people.
4. Lara Chani
“We have a fractured relationship with our leaseholders”
Calling for mandatory professional standards across the sector, Lara says the only way to build trust was to repair fractured relationships.
The graduate development officer from Gateway Housing Association said many leaseholds feel neglected and therefore don’t trust housing associations to put their problems right.
She asked: “Why can’t we have professional standards for a unique sector like ours?”
Making the case for a small change that could have a huge impact, Lara gave delegates a briefing sheet that outlined her case in more detail, including the potential creation of a Social Housing Professional Standards body.
She urged the sector to act now on developing this new standard, saying that when one association fails “we all fail”, and it was up to everyone in the sector to ensure reputational damage doesn’t happen.
She said that if the sector can keep changing one life per day, then trust will be restored.
5. Tommy Nightingale
“We’re young and we’re here to make a difference”
Tommy used being the only contractor left in the competition to his advantage, presenting on how trust can be rebuilt from a different perspective.
He said there was no excuse for not undertaking proper engagement during decision making, driving home the need to explain to people what was happening and showing them the reasons behind decisions.
He lambasted the sector for “only making changes when there is a catastrophe” and wanted the sector to “do something every day to make people’s lives better”.
He said that “open and honest leadership” in housing was the only way to build trust with residents and local stakeholders, using an example of taking MPs, councillors, and residents up scaffolding to show the remediation works after cladding was removed.
The contracts manager at United Living said resident involvement in contracts and procurement was key.
He ended his presentation by demanding that the sector “stand up and make a difference”, declaring the five Young Leaders were “here and ready” to make lasting change.