We want the day to mark the start of a renaissance in community investment.
Community investment has, of course, been part of social housing for decades.
In recent years, though, it’s been under considerable financial pressure.
Now, more than ever, we need to reinvest in community investment as a sector, so we can deliver on our social purpose.
We are and can be more than just landlords, investing in those things that really make our residents and communities thrive.
And through this investment we also protect our assets by building sustainable neighbourhoods.
With austerity continuing to bite, we’re seeing increasing levels of poverty.
The latest figures from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation show that four million working-age adults are living in poverty.
More alarmingly, over 4.1m children are living in poverty: in other words, one in three children in the UK lives in poverty.
Many of those will live in our homes and communities.
And the figures are getting worse.
In the last five years, half a million more children and the same number of working age adults have been added to the number in poverty.
And the likelihood is that it will continue to get worse, as the full impact of welfare reform, the introduction of Universal Credit and the fall-out from Brexit are still to be felt.
Whilst housing associations can and should be rising to the challenge of the housing crisis, they should also be rising to the challenge of poverty and inclusion in our society.
They can play a role in supporting tenants as they engage in employment, education and training, in providing access to financial capability services, and digital inclusion.
All of these are still important and essential initiatives that housing associations provide.
In addition, there’s also the ongoing pressures on health and social care, as well as an increasingly ageing population, making demands on limited local services.
In some communities, housing associations are now the last organisations standing, and their role is critical in supporting the sustainability of neighbourhoods and the people who live in them.
Shout it from the rooftops: small interventions at scale can have a massive impact.
All too often, when housing associations report on the social value they create, they’re often surprised at the financial values they discover.
Boards are suspicious at such large numbers.
Some tend to then question the methodology that produces these figures, rather than reflecting on and owning the positive impact that they can, and do, make.
Yet at the same time, community investment shouldn’t just sit and bask in its own glory.
We should be challenging, changing and communicating the way in which we deliver our community investment work.
Just as housing associations are looking to transfer power to their tenants, how can we use community investment to realise a transfer of power to communities?
How can we put local people at the heart of our community investment work, and not end up reinforcing the paternalism that has been prevalent within housing for so long?
The conference provides an opportunity for community investment colleagues across the UK to celebrate what we do, but also to discuss, challenge and discover how we’re going to innovate in the future.
And, moreover, this isn’t just about what’s happening in one city.
This is a UK conference, reflecting that community investment is a feature of housing across the UK.
Regardless of the policy environment in which social housing sits, the expression of housing associations’ social purpose through community investment is a common thread throughout the sector.
We have much to learn from each other.
I’m looking forward to the conference marking the first step in the renaissance of community investment across the UK.