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Sinead Butters reflects on Leadership Summit

I'm not usually a blogger, I work on the basis that most people don't really give a damn about my view; and that's probably right.  But, following the National Housing Federation's Leadership Summit on 19 February, I plan to change all that. 

As new Chair of PlaceShapers I'm trying to get out to members and non members to find out what people think of us.  I'm doing this because I have a sense that PlaceShapers could do better, that we could add more value, have a clearer proposition, collaborate more and galvanise our capacity to be an organisation with which people can do business. 

Now, I'm an old cynic really, when I'm at events like yesterday, I seem to be the last to engage.  The last to embrace the message and the first to say what have I learned here?  What didn't I know already?  I recognise that's not an attractive trait.  The "know it all" trait. The "I've been there done that" trait. Come on folks, confess you probably have thought that too.

But the Summit was different.   We heard from Weber Shandwick about perceptions of the Sector in government, opposition, and opinion formers.  Despite all our efforts and the truly inspiring things we do in our communities, much that no one would or could do, we have a poor reputation.  Poor.  Word clouds with "inefficient", "complacent", "old fashioned" and "a bit lost", flashed in front of us.  Later we heard from the journos.  What became abundantly clear is that despite what we think about our value, and I'm sure in part can evidence, no one really cares.  No one in govt that is.  We are seen as a sector that hasn't quite got the programme.  There is no money.  Just because we exist doesn't mean we should. We have no God given right to the place we occupy in this world.  We have to earn it and earn it and keep on earning it every single day.

I think this is the moment. I really do.  I think that if we do not do something very different from everything that has gone on before, then our future and that of the people who rely on our services will be at risk. 

We heard yesterday from the PR experts "to know us is to love us".  We heard David Orr passionately exhort the sector to play nicely, to stop criticising each other and stop providing the ammunition for other people to use against us.  We heard that the new world would never stop changing, that change isn't a programme but a mindset, that 21st Centrury values of resilience, insight, curiosity and humility are critical.  And we heard that in order to change these perceptions we must deliver.  We must build more and be more efficient.  

So back to those values.  And back to the start of this piece.  PlaceShapers needs to embrace this new world in all its guises.  We need to lead our businesses and find a way to do the things that matter to our communities and to keep on doing them.  We need to embrace this moment. Of course we need to build more homes, to deliver those amazing diverse services we are so proud of and to persevere when it feels everything is conspiring against us.  And to stop whingeing. Because we are better than that, better than being diverted from our shared purpose by the slings and arrows coming our way.  We must transcend this nonsense and show inspirational, magnanimous, intelligent leadership.  And let's not forget the humility.  The time is now to stop feeling hard done to and to get busy.

Let's stop all this negativity.  Big versus small, North versus South, PlaceShapers versus G15, merger code "in" or "out.  Because our collective worth is so much greater than that.  

So I'm getting out and about trying to find out what people think of PlaceShapers.  What can we do better.  And you know what?  I realise that I'm doing this because I have a sense that the Sector could do better, that we all could add more value, have a clearer proposition, collaborate more and galvanise our capacity every single day to be a Sector with which people can do business.

 

Sinead Butters

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