Win some, lose some

Those of you following the CIH Rising Stars competition will have seen that last Monday one of the other finalists was crowned the winner (here we are just before the announcement was made).


I’ve said for a few weeks that I wouldn’t like to call who would win as I thought all three of us did a great job of the tasks we were set and have a lot to offer the sector. I also said I would be completely gutted if I didn’t win.

So it came as a shock to me when I felt relatively ok when it wasn’t my name that Martin Hilditch and Grania Long read out. I think this is because being a finalist has opened up so many doors and opportunities already, I wasn’t relying on winning to provide these. And what has been important to me throughout the competition is that I can promote my work at Futures Homesape and also my idea of getting out there and working in new and creative ways with partners to meet housing need rather than waiting for Government funding and policy announcements. It was less important to me to have the glory of winning and the achievement for my CV.

In fact I think not winning will have its advantages (I would say that though wouldn’t I!) as there will be less pressure and expectation and I will have the freedom to quietly pursue my chosen interests.

So free of the responsibility of winning, I enjoyed the rest of the awards dinner on Monday night with my lovely work mates, fellow Rising Stars, CIH and Ocean Media colleagues. The dinner featured Baroness Tanni Grey-Thomspon as the speaker and presenter of the Housing Heroes awards and one thing in particular that she said resonated with me: “I’ve lost more than I’ve won”. I find Olympic and Paralympic athletes incredibly inspiring due to their unbelievable determination, enduring motivation, resilience, physical and mental strength, commitment to their sport, etc. I think it’s amazing what they go through and amazing what they achieve. This is something I need to remind myself of more often when I think some insignificant, easily-addressed issue is the end of the world!

Following the awards dinner, I stayed in Manchester to enjoy the full three days of the CIH conference. I’ve been to the conference before but only for one of the three days and previously it’s been quite a lonely experience as my network was quite limited. Due to my involvement with CIH East Midlands and HQN, for the first time this year I found myself bumping into all sorts of people and having a quick catch up. I even met some Twitter friends in the flesh!

I’ve still to digest the notes I made at the conference before I could say what I got out of it, but a couple of things spring to mind:
– discussing PRS policy and good practice with CIH colleagues and hopefully I will be spending a day with them to find out even more and contribute my insight to their work;
– hearing David Cowans from Places for People talk about their approach: ‘the best way to predict the future is to invent it, we can do it, lets get on with it’, I agreed with everything he had to say and he was the best speaker of the week in my opinion. I’d like to learn a lot more about the PfP approach;
– being completely uninspired and quite annoyed by Kris Hopkins MP and Eric Pickles MP who deny all sorts of facts and figures that everyone in housing knows to be true;
– sharing good practice on Health and Housing with Gentoo colleagues which I will feed into the November CIH East Midlands event on that very topic.

However, by the end of the three days I was itching to get back to the office and do something practical, all the endless debating, commenting, political arguing and talking about talking to ourselves too much (!) was taking its toll on me.

So whilst the Rising Stars competition and the CIH Manchester conference are done and dusted for another year, their impact will be long lasting and I’ve plenty of things I want to do as a result of them and I’ll be sure to keep you updated with future blog posts.

For now, I will leave you with a picture of me meeting Lewis the Dulux dog (yes the actual one from the advert!) :)



Why vote for me

After nearly 11 weeks of being a Rising Stars finalist, there are just now 4 days left of voting and 9 days until the winner is announced. So this is my final post as a Rising Stars finalist, the next will be as either the winner or a runner-up.

This post is all about showing you why I should win and why you should vote for me here. It’s also a summary of everything I’ve done during the competition.

As part of the competition, I’ve been asked a couple of times if I want to win and why people should vote for me; when I think about winning, part of me turns to clichéd views such as ‘it’s the taking part that counts’, ‘winning would be the icing on the cake’ or ‘I’m honoured to be in the final’. But when I imagine not hearing my name when the winner is announced a week on Monday in Manchester, I feel completely gutted, so my honest answer is that I am desperate to win.

And not because it will look good on my CV, open career doors and boost my profile in the sector, but because it would give a massive boost to the work I’m doing at Futures Homescape to develop affordable housing in partnership with local PRS landlords, developers and investors for the benefit of the local community. And hopefully, others would be interested in learning from my work and developing their own initiatives, in fact, just this week, colleagues from local authorities in Northamptonshire and Derbyshire have been in touch wanting to know more about our Private Sector Leasing scheme as they’re looking to develop their own scheme.

To anyone that has voted for me, thank you so much! It really does mean a lot, it’s the best recognition and support that I could hope for and what it says to me is that you’re behind my idea, you support the work I’m doing, you want to see more of it and you see the potential in me to tackle the housing crisis in some way.

If you haven’t voted for me yet, here’s why I think you should: because my Rising Stars idea is all about tackling the biggest and most fundamental problem the sector and society is currently facing, a massive shortage of affordable housing. It’s about taking direct action and doing the right thing by our communities (see my last post for why I can’t just sit around waiting for new policies to be announced or Government funding to be awarded). And it’s not just a load of blue sky thinking, my idea is very much rooted in the work I do at Futures so I know it works and it can deliver.

Whether I win or not, I’m determined to make my idea a reality and will use and abuse my status as either winner or runner-up to grab as many opportunities as possible, in fact, I’ve already started: HQN have already agreed to run a benchmarking exercise, produce a case studies publication (which I am writing) and are considering hosting a workshop session on ‘Developing in Partnership’. NHF have also invited me to host a session at the HotHouse Young Leaders event in July and my idea features in the De Montfort University Student Policy Commission report which will be presented to the House of Lords on the 23rd June.

Hopefully, you’re convinced I should take the crown (well, certificate is probably more realistic) this year, but if not, that’s ok, there are plenty of reasons why you should vote for Nicola or James too.

So I’ll leave you with a round up of all the thing I’ve done during the Rising Stars competition in case you thought CIH and Inside Housing had given us an easy ride!

  • Started this blog and written 11 posts; in 10 weeks over it has been viewed over 1000 times!
  • Created a Pinterest board to inspire the housing sector with examples of developments funded either without Government grant or in a nontraditional way
  • Been interviewed by Inside Housing for the article announcing who’s in the final three of the competition
  • Contacted as many friends, family and colleagues as possible through email, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook to ask them to vote for me!
  • Written an article for the Guardian Housing Network on how to turn empty properties into affordable homes
  • Been asked 10 questions by the CIH to find out more about me both personally and professionally
  • Written a blog post for the De Montfort University student blog page on the importance of being a student and the benefits that continued studying brings to your professional career
  • Written a blog for Women in Social Housing and Womanthology magazine about being a women climbing the career ladder
  • Spent a day with the Shelter campaign team to refine my idea (Inside Housing write up here) and written a blog on what I learnt during the day
  • Appeared in the local press here and here
  • Created two infographics
  • Taken part in a Twitter debate, frantically answering questions for two hours! (Storify here)
  • Had an Apprentice style grilling by 3 senior housing industry figures (Inside Housing article here)
  • Presented at the DMU & CIH East Midlands student conference (Student confrence presentation here and Storify of the day here)
  • Drummed up as much support as possible on Twitter, resulting in endorsements from Natalie Elphicke and David Cowans amongst others.


Phew, I’m going for a lie down :)

On the home straight

It’s now just over 9 weeks since I found out I was in the final of this year’s CIH and Inside Housing Rising Stars competition and with less than two weeks to go until the winner is crowned at the CIH Manchester conference (vote for me here), I’m glad to be on the home straight.

We three finalists have been well and truly put through our paces, and rightly so.

In May we had the pleasure of spending the day at Shelter‘s head office and were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the inner workings of their campaign team and advised how to improve our campaign plans. You can read more about our day with Shelter and my finalised campaign plan here (register). I’ve written a blog on what I learnt during this day which should be on the CIH website shortly (as a teaser, the title is ‘Campaign Supernovas’, get it?).

Later in May, we were part of a twitter debate, taking questions from across the sector and beyond on a huge range of issues, catch up on Storify here.

The beginning of June saw a double whammy of tasks: a day at the CIH London offices for a 30 minute interview with the CEO of Amicus Horizon, a CIH director and a CIH Governing Board member, and a presentation and Q&A session at the CIH East Midlands and De Montfort University student conference.

Whilst the interviewers weren’t quite as tough as Sir Alan, I felt like I’d been grilled a bit more than medium-rare. Questions covered a whole host of topics such as the fine detail of my campaign plan, including funding it, risks, getting it off the ground, pitching it to politicians and the housing sector and if it lets politicians off the hook. I was also asked what I’d do if I won and why I want to win, what I would ask the housing minister, why I entered, three things I’m good at, what I’m proud of, how colleagues would describe me in three words, if agree with conditionality, my career plan and many, many more. I think in total I was asked between 40 and 50 questions! Check out Inside Housing next week (Friday 13th!) for the write up.

At the student conference, we finally had the honour of meeting last year’s Rising Star, Peter Bond. The four of us were the last session of the day: a 15 minute presentation by each finalist with Peter facilitating a Q&A session afterwards. I was almost looking forward to this task as it felt the least daunting; I was on home turf with my fellow DMU students, CIH East Midlands Board members and colleagues from Futures Homescape. I was keen to do something informative yet fun during my 15 minutes so I did away with the usual slides of bullet points and opted for a few images (below) instead and included some audience participation (see the full presentation here Student confrence presentation).
Presentation slides

The conference was a great day, check out the Storify here

So now that all these challenging hurdles have been jumped, I can relax a little bit, pick up some of the things I’ve put on hold (like my dissertation!) so that I could focus all my efforts on the Rising  Stars tasks, rustle up a few more votes and cross my fingers until the winner is finally announced!