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PlaceShapers’ national conference brought together members, influencers and experts to take a resident-focused approach to the sector’s hottest issues.

Opening the Birmingham conference, PlaceShapers Chair Sinead Butters stressed the absolute drive to share, collaborate and learn from others.

She said: “People live in challenging circumstances and we are there on the ground delivering the vital services to support them.”

The strong PlaceShapers network and recently broadened membership meant strong foundations for the 2020 Placeshapers strategy. This would continue to put tenants at the heart of Placeshapers’ work.

The conference was a combination of keynote sessions and nine break-out seminars.

The first keynote speaker was Lord Wei of Shoreditch, a social entrepreneur with an interest in social reform. He spoke of role of PlaceShapers being rooted in communities. “You’re on the frontline,” he said. Central politicians are too far removed from the solutions but PlaceShapers can tailor solutions with customers.

Knowing and understanding what was happening locally meant PlaceShapers were well placed to shape communities. This was imperative to make best use of land. Throughout the country there is underused land and empty spaces. This needs to be seen as an opportunity rather than a scandal.

Mary-Kathryn Rallings Adam, Deputy Chief executive of HACT, focused on the role of Placeshapers as community anchors. PlaceShapers is a partner in the Centre for Excellence in Community Investment.

She highlighted that with shared values, community investment was at the core of activities. Placeshapers are creators of social value with ‘sticky capital’ and ‘influencing power’.

She said: “You have the ability to deliver wellbeing, social purpose and build capacity. You have the ability to influence people’s wellbeing.”

Two Placeshapers Gentoo and MossCare St Vincents are among the first to sign up to the new HACT Board Charter.

Nine seminars, chaired by PlaceShapers board member, focused on hot topics

Seminar 1
Culture for Excellence
Chaired by Sinead Butters, PlaceShapers Chair and Chief Executive of Aspire

Jen Barfoot, Chief Executive (Retired), Homes in Sedgmoor highlighted the journey she went on to transform and create a culture for excellence by listening and interacting with staff to get a better understanding of the organisation and create an action plan for change.
Angela Lockwood, Group Chief Executive, North Star Housing Group (and former PlaceShapers Vice Chair) gave an insight onto the culture change process North Star went on to create a healthy work-force, leading to strong resident-focused results.


Seminar 2
Great Places Commission

Chaired by Matthew Walker, Chief Executive of Leeds Federated Housing Association

Katie Teasdale, Head of Member Relations at the National Housing Federation, shared recommendations of the Commission. She also highlighted cross working and collaborative approach, giving examples of how this has worked.

Kevin Rodgers, Group Chief Executive of Citizen stressed the need for housing to go above the Decent Homes Act. For long term prosperity, investment and decisions need to be made at a local level that can be given back to the community. 


Seminar 3
Regulation Update
Chaired by Allister Young, Chief Executive of Coastline Housing

Fiona McGregor, Chief Executive of Regulator of Social Housing, gave an overview of and prompted discussion on the requirements of regulatory compliance. The insight into regulatory issues from the perspective of PlaceShaper members was especially helpful.


Seminar 4
Housing & The Climate Emergency
Chaired by Frank Czarnowski, Chief Executive, of West Kent Housing Association

Richard Lupo, Managing Director of SUSS, stressed that despite predictions there are reasons for hope and more we can do as a sector.  Political agendas and local authorities are now requiring high energy efficiencies in new build standards.  There are also a number of strategies that are pushing for change.
Rosemary Coyne, Co-ordinator of SHAP, said we would create long term change through robust decision making process that can be applied across the sector and has government support.

Seminar 5
Communities in Control

Chaired by Cath Purdy, Chief Executive of South Lakes Housing

Nic Bliss, Head of Policy, Cooperative Housing spoke about community led housing and the buzz it’s creating - £163m is being invested and there are over 16,000 new community led homes coming up. He spoke about successful schemes in Zurich and Berlin, as well as those in the UK. He showed it’s about wellbeing, building better lives and letting people’s potential free.

Samantha Jones, Head of Community Led Homes Programme, explained how it’s all about asking local communities to develop what they want but cautioned that there’s no one size fits all for community led housing - there are a number of different models for them out there.

Seminar 6
Talking to the Conservatives

Chaired by Sinead Butters, PlaceShapers Chair and Chief Executive of Aspire

Nick Kilby, Chief Executive at Cratus Communications shared his knowledge from an extensive background in politics and lobbying on talking to all politicians. He gave practical examples and opportunities for housing associations to work closer with MPs. The voice of individual members could be amplified through PlaceShapers.

Session 7
Innovation in Housing Services

Chaired by Paul Smith, PlaceShapers director.

Alan Keers, Chief Executive, Twenty11 (part of Red Kite) explained how a new customer offer had been developed. It offered rents tailored to a resident’s ability to pay and a licence with points that gives reward or deducts points with unwanted behaviour. The new offer was formed with residents involved throughout the planning and launch.
Prof. Ed Ferrari explained how Sheffield Hallam University helped measured the offer. Positive results including well-being and decrease on benefits also showed a negative on financial position.


Session 8
Governing well
Chaired by Matt Campion, Chief Executive of Shepherds Bush Housing Group

Gemma Bell, Partner, Anthony Collins Solicitors, spoke about the governance journey and how to reach your destination through using your ‘compass’ and your ‘fuel’ (your team) whilst looking out for ‘potholes’ (risks). You need to understand the risk so that you can become more proactive to reactive. Gemma said: “It’s like thinking about the brakes on your car – you have to take those risks but you need to know when to apply the brakes and even stop if you have too.”

Peter Hubbard, senior Partner at Anthony Collins Solicitors, stressed that the buck stopped with Boards. He shared his experienced of successful In Depth Assessments and the importance of well-prepared Boards and executive teams.


Session 9
Homes for Cathy
Chaired by Charlie Norman, Group Chief Executive, MSV

Chris Hancock, Head of Best Practice, Crisis, explained that has been progress from the government/Westminster but levels of homelessness are projected to rise.  There is much that can be done. He gave ideas from Crisis that would completely eradicate homelessness such as a 60% increase in private/social housing supply and if local authorities maximised their building capacity (40% impact). The cost to end homelessness would be £19.4b, but this would delivery benefits of £53.9billion.

David Bogle, Chair, Homes for Cathy and Chief Executive of Hightown, explained key commitments included engaging Boards, work with local authorities and sharing good practice plus review policies. As a sector we can build more homes, put in more of our resources, lobby, challenge and inspire locally, regionally and internally

Two Homes for Cathy members – Broadland and BCHP - gave examples of what they have done to achieve the Homes for Cathy commitments.

The conference was rounded off by Alistair McIntosh, Chief Executive of Housing Quality Network. Alistair gave a lively and animated insight into what the future holds drawing on the lessons of history.

The conference was closed by Sinead Butters, who said in summary: “The buzz of the conference reflected the passion and commitment of PlaceShapers to continue to make a lasting difference.

“The constant theme was the difference we make by knowing our communities and working in partnership.”  


Session 1 Culture

Session 3 Fiona and AllisterSession 2 Great Places Commission

Session 9 Homes for Cathy presenters

Session 3 Fiona and Allister

Sinead and Lord Wei

Session 8 Matt Campion

Session 5 Communities in Control


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