Thinking out loud

As I’ve been a bit lax on the blogging front recently (this final quarter seems to be super busy!), I though I’d share a few of the things I’ve been pondering over lately:

1. In the last few months I’ve been on city breaks to Barcelona and London and there were interesting differences in terms of community spirit, visible poverty and street homelessness. Whilst in Barcelona, it was La Merce festival and throughout the city all sorts of events took place. It was amazing to see how the community of El Poblenou, the neighbourhood we stayed in, celebrated their patron saint; every night for a week, neighbours would gather in the public squares, each bringing a chair and some food to share  There was signing and dancing and lots of bingo! Ladies old enough to be my grandma were up later than I was playing bingo on trestle tables on a side street! A stark contrast to the bingo sessions I’ve seen in my organisation’s community centres! But the flip side of this wonderful community was the amount of poverty and homelessness that we saw. We were pretty much harassed day and night by people trying to make a living by selling individual bottles/tins of “agua, cerveza, coca cola”. I also saw on more than one occasion rough sleepers searching through bins and pushing their worldly belonging around in a trolley. The same was true of my recent visit to London, I was lucky enough to attend the CIH Presidential Dinner at the Natural History Museum (4 course dinner, free bar, average salary of guests at least £100k) and on my way there saw someone rough sleeping in a Kensington doorway just opposite. I also saw a couple of people in the gardens near the Palace of Westminster wearing dressing gowns over several layers of other clothing, trying to catch a little shut eye. How can some have so much and others so little?

2. I enjoyed Alistair McIntosh’s article comparing the housing sector to Tesco in terms of dealing with competitors after a comfortable monopoly position, the conflict of campaigning against benefit and grant cuts whilst making record surpluses and paying fat cat salaries and facing greater customer scrutiny thanks to the power of the internet.

3. Whilst preparing for the imminent arrival of Universal Credit in the area I work, I considered the Government’s argument for many of their welfare reforms that they are seeking to bring the benefit systems in line with what happens in the market. But the market is hardly doing a lot of people many favours is it?! Shouldn’t our Government want to do better than that? Take the reform to housing benefit for under 35s as an example: the argument was that in the market most people this age live in shared housing, so why shouldn’t HB allowances reflect this. But the only reason people share is because of the housing crisis, which the Government has allowed to happen. So the Government allows the market to fail and then rubs salt in the wound by reforming Government policy to reflect this failed market!?

4. Whilst thinking about career progression, I saw some comparisons with the Royal Family! It seems we have a lot of leaders who have been in place for a decade or two and this is limiting opportunities for the rest of us. When they move on, does Prince Charles finally get to have a go for what remains of his working life after having spent years in waiting, or does the Duke of Cambridge leap frog him and the cycle continues?

5. There should be a housing museum to celebrate and educate and showcase our sector. Who’s in?!

6. I wonder whether the higher ranks of our sector and others are more dominated by men than women because of the preference of the former to debate issues and the latter to take action? I might be making some gross generalisation here based on a handful of my own experiences but I think it’s an idea worth discussion. I also wonder whether this attitude is more prevalent in charity/not-for-profit/public organisations as it’s not our money or business in jeopardy. Those I know that work for themselves or in private companies, don’t have time to have endless meetings, there is a bottom line to worry about and, as the saying goes, time is money.

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