Star wars: the final
As the contest heats up and our Rising Stars finalists prepare to battle it out in the grand Harrogate final, Caroline Thorpe sums up their performances so far
They’ve made it through rigorous judging. They’ve been grilled by our readers and survived the Inside Housing challenge to design a smartphone app. Now the five finalists in the search to find housing’s most promising young leader have reached the final hurdle.
Next week the Rising Stars contest, run by Inside Housing and the Chartered Institute of Housing, heads to Harrogate. There, at the CIH’s annual conference, our five will be put through their paces.
The prize is worth fighting for: as well as becoming housing’s first ever Rising Star, whoever triumphs will bag a day shadowing the housing minister, £1,000 for learning and an invite to speak at next year’s CIH conference in Manchester.
So what chances will they have to shine? Things kick off on Monday night when the finalists will enjoy pre-dinner drinks with Tim Campbell, original winner of TV’s The Apprentice, before heading to the official conference dinner to showcase their networking skills.
Delegates can vote for their favourite contestant at the conference and everyone can continue to have their say at www.insidehousing.co.uk.
Tuesday afternoon sees them grilled by BBC home editor Mark Easton at a session on developing sector talent. A Tuesday afternoon discussion on perceptions of social housing marks the point when two finalists are knocked out. Five will perform a series of tasks before becoming three - the surviving trio will be revealed at the Presidential Drinks that evening.
Thursday is decision day. From 2pm housing minister Grant Shapps will quiz the final three as voters have their final say. Votes counted, by 4pm we will have a Rising Star.
Here’s a quick recap of how the finalists have fared so far.
Neighbourhood manager, Bromford Living
The 37-year old from Birmingham has worked in housing for 15 years. His current job involves managing four housing officers and maintaining good relations with the local council. He thinks social housing needs to update its image to appeal to a younger audience and, in the face of cuts, work hard to maintain service standards.
In his own words: ‘I am ambitious and continuously try to be innovative. I am an ambassador, developing superb relationships with other agencies and customers. I make a difference.’
Inside Housing challenge app: ‘Bromford’s employment’, which helps customers access information and support for work, skills and training. The app provides practical support for customers to gain skills and improve their employment prospects.’
Best answer to IH online forum question: ‘The biggest challenge for us all? Few people outside the sector are interested in social housing. It may not be an election winner but the reality is that people who can’t afford to buy or rent in the private sector need a place to live and we have a duty - and a passion - to make sure that need is met.’
What his boss says: ‘Rishi makes a difference. Full of enthusiasm and ideas, he finds new ways of doing things - a great communicator who drives excellence. Rishi will use this opportunity for the benefit of fellow professionals, customers and the sector,’ says Julie Walker, Bromford Group’s head of neighbourhoods.
Strategy analyst, MITIE Property Management
The youngest finalist, this 26-year-old from Nottingham says he entered the contest for the chance to shadow Grant Shapps and see how policies are formulated. He thinks the sector’s focus should move beyond the individual and onto the wider needs of communities.
In his own words: ‘As a strategy analyst at a leading FTSE 250 company, a policy and communications officer at CIH east midlands and a non-executive director of Nottingham City Homes, my strategic input adds value at the highest level, while my practical management expertise saves housing providers money and maximises their returns.’
Inside Housing challenge app: ‘MiPlace’, which aims to help tenants get the most out of their home and community. Features include MiProperty, to help maintain and improve your home and MiCharity, which lets users donate to local causes.
Best answer to IH online forum question: ‘In times of austerity it is best to view every problem as an opportunity. Our sector is facing a revolution in regulation, allocation and finance. A major challenge with this revolution is how we continue to foster social mobility in the communities we operate in, and the new pressures that this gives rise to with respect to the sector’s future leadership and governance needs.’
What his boss says: ‘MITIE is all about “people and passion” and nowhere is this more evident in the person and work that is Caris Henry,’ says
Dr Stephen Giacchino, MITIE’s director of strategy and corporate development.
Housing needs manager, Exeter Council
It’s nine years since Chris started out in housing and today he manages Exeter Council’s homelessness teams. He says TV stations should tackle negative stereotypes of social tenants by broadcasting sector successes, such as people moving into a new home, or freeing up a property by downsizing.
In his own words: ‘I am involved directly and constantly in the challenges of meeting housing need, from tackling rough sleeping to pre-venting mortgage repossessions. I am, therefore, ideally placed to make the best use of this prize, especially any time with the minister, to affect positive change.’
Inside Housing challenge app: ‘Give change’, which allows people to donate money directly to rough sleepers.
Best answer to IH online forum question: ‘We need to be less risk averse. In order to ensure we offer lifetime homes which are energy efficient we must grasp the opportunities presented by social housing’s new landscape to innovate and change current delivery models.’
What his boss says: ‘Chris’s keenness to do his best for our customers is legendary. Faster than a bullet, more powerful than a speeding locomotive: while he’s more Clark Kent than Superman, Chris’s ideas, enthusiasm and leadership make him a true rising star,’ says Ron Mayers, strategic housing manager at Exeter Council.
Group project manager, LHA-ASRA
Karate-loving Suzanne, 36, trained as an actor before working in the utilities industry in the late 1990s and then moving to the not-for-profit sector. She says she entered Rising Stars to have her say on revamping the sector’s image.
In her own words: ‘I think I represent a huge number of people who work in housing - we sort of fell into it but now we’re truly passionate about what we do. I want to make a difference and at a time when everything is changing; leading change is what I do best.’
Inside Housing challenge app: ‘Housepoints’, which allows residents to give immediate feedback on interactions and log issues direct from their smartphone.
Best response to IH online forum question: ‘[I would ask Grant Shapps]When there will be a working committee between Shapps, IDS, Cable, Lansley and Gove and Pickles which will formulate an holistic strategy to address the causes of homelessness, worklessness and low income and to look at affordable housing options not just at a social housing level but for all.’
What her boss says: ‘Since Suzanne joined LHA-ASRA she has demonstrated a tireless passion for delivering the charitable and supportive values of the group and her enthusiasm is infectious,’ says group director Brian Benneyworth.
Head of involvement and policy, City of London Corporation
The 36-year old just made it into the contest - she admits she only entered the day before applications closed. She argues the housing sector can’t risk further marginalisation of social tenants, and should work with private sector organisations to provide good rented housing for all.
In her own words: ‘I am passionate about the future of housing. I am determined to make housing the national priority that it needs to be, rather than the private issue that millions of people struggle with. Housing is too important to marginalise.’
Inside Housing challenge app: ‘iWalkabout’, a simple way to help residents use their smartphone to report things that need done on their estate, quickly and effectively, as they go about their daily life.
Best response to IH online forum question: ‘We desperately need a co-ordinated approach to rented housing across tenures so that is a flexible choice that can meet a broad range of housing needs at different stages in people’s lives. I believe our sector should take the lead and set this agenda so that we are not in a “race to the bottom”. As such, I most definitely do not want to see our sector being marginalised merely as a part of the fractured welfare state, where people’s everyday jobs are unfulfilling and tenants’ quality of life is ruined by insecurity and uncertainty.’
What her boss says: ‘I absolutely knew that Carla was the best person for the job when I interviewed her. I needed someone who knew housing inside out, who could shake things up and inspire change…and she has far exceeded my hopes and expectations,’ says Eddie Stevens, housing services director, City of London Corporation.