Make the most of membership

Last week I attended the ONE CIH conference for the second time. The conference is an opportunity for all CIH board members from the English regions, devolved nations and central Governing board to get together. Senior CIH staff also attend and the purpose is to review the previous year and think about the year coming up. It’s a great opportunity to share ideas, network with other board members and challenge one another. Ultimately, it’s about improving the services provided to CIH members and the wider role of CIH to society.

Like many membership organisations that don’t benefit from mandatory membership (like RIBA or RICS), member numbers have fallen in recent years and it is a much debated topic about how we CIH board members can tackle this. Unsurprisingly, it was a session topic at ONE CIH and I made sure I attended the discussion in the hope of finally tackling this problem.

In summary, the session centered around how we improve our communication to current and potential members. It was agreed that the membership offer is good on the whole but better marketing is needed to ensure both professionals and employers realise its benefits.

During the session, there was a lot of discussion around using peer-to-peer communication methods as these were considered to be more powerful than others. So as a regional board member, I was challenged to share why I value my CIH membership. So here goes…

I first joined CIH as a student when completing my Level 4 Certificate in Housing. Whilst I had chosen to pursue a career in housing, I hadn’t studied housing previously and as someone who enjoys studying I was keen to do this as soon as I could. I remained a student member for about 5 years as I progressed to a BSc Housing. At this point in my career, the value of CIH membership was access to courses and related information and events.

I really value studying and promote it to anybody that I can, whilst it may not always improve your technical knowledge to do a certain job, it improves other skills such as critical analysis, understanding of the bigger picture, researching good practice, making arguments for and against, etc. It can also stir an interest in lifelong learning as you realise the benefits of removing your nose from the grindstone every once in a while. For those looking to climb the career ladder, obtaining a certain level of qualification is usually a necessity.

About 2 and half years ago, I successfully applied to the CIH East Midlands student bursary scheme and as a result became a co-opted member of the board. I’d previously considered applying to join the board as I knew another colleague who had done so, but I never quite brought myself to do it. Being a board member is now the biggest benefit of my CIH membership. Through my board role, I have developed a huge support network across the housing spectrum and not just in the East Midlands. Having this network has been hugely beneficial as I can tap into their knowledge, experience and expertise, either for practical work reasons or personal development reasons. One of the brilliant things about housing is that everyone is so willing to share and support each other, something that is more important than ever in these changing and challenging times.

Board membership has also given me some fantastic opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, such as presenting at a leaders roundtable event alongside Terrie Alafat and Boris W0rrall, speaking at CIH Manchester, organising the biggest Midlands awards and networking event, hosting a policy roundtable, contributing to the new PRS qualification, and even a job opportunity.

The other side of the board member coin is that I get to give something back to the CIH and also influence their work. For those who are dissatisfied with their CIH membership, consider getting involved to effect the changes you would like to see.

Finally, being a CIH member has given me an ego and profile boost by being eligible to apply for prestigious awards, including Student of the Year (which I won) and Rising Stars (made the final three in 2014).

CIH membership is what you make of it and will mean something different to each member. I’d love to hear what you value most about your CIH membership.