Rising to the challenge
The three finalists in the Rising Stars competition have been announced. Here they set out why they should be named as the UK’s most talented young housing professional
Pre-conference voting for Rising Stars has now closed, but a separate poll will be conducted during the event, with votes weighted more heavily than during the preliminary poll. Vote for your favourite on the home page.
Scott Bryant, Dean Slavin, and Inti Popat have just found out they have a busy few months ahead of them.
The finalists for the Chartered Institute of Housing and Inside Housing’s annual contest to find the UK’s most talented young housing professional will face a range of challenges to prove they should be the overall winner, culminating in their appearances at the CIH’s annual conference in Manchester in June.
Their first job, though, has been to explain to Inside Housing readers why they should get your vote. You can read what they each have to say below, and let us know what you think by completing the poll at the top right of the page.
Your votes will help to determine who is crowned overall winner in Manchester, winning £1,000 to spend on career development, a day with the housing minister, and opportunities to write for Inside Housing and appear at CIH conferences.
Scott Bryant, 24, is a policy and projects officer at 3,900-home Monmouthshire Housing Association in Wales
Born and raised near Abergavenny in south Wales, my passion and enthusiasm for housing blossomed from difficult beginnings. One of my earliest memories was being dragged by the wrist out of the family home as the ceiling collapsed around me, much to my distress. Attending a local comprehensive, however, I quickly became aware of deprivation and social injustice, and the link between these issues and housing became clear to me at university, where I studied geography. Returning to south Wales, I was eager to build on my new-found knowledge of public policy and the housing sector, and applied for a position in the continuous improvement team at Monmouthshire Housing Association. I have since successfully completed a CIH-accredited masters degree in housing and professional practice at Cardiff University, achieving a distinction, which I completed as part of a graduate traineeship at MHA. The programme allowed me to develop significant operational experience in housing management, as well as an understanding of how social landlords fit into the wider picture of housing provision in the UK.
Once I’d graduated, I was successful in achieving a permanent position with MHA as policy and projects officer, where I am able to investigate and respond to new opportunities for the organisation and co-ordinate and contribute to service reviews. An excellent working relationship with stakeholders both within and outside the housing sector is critical to my work as it allows me to understand how policy translates to practice, and the impact of this on the individual customer. I am inspired on a daily basis by the expertise, innovation and enthusiasm that these people bring to the table, and the potential within the housing sector to address the biggest issues in society today. Yet my few years in housing have demonstrated to me that this potential is not being exploited on a national scale; just like my experience as a child, I feel the housing sector is being pulled in different directions whilst the world falls in around it. I am passionate about changing this, and that is why I entered the Rising Stars competition.
Whilst still reeling from the news of being shortlisted as a finalist, I am indescribably excited about the remainder of the competition. I’m thrilled about the prospect of gaining further support for my cause and influencing housing at a national level, but I’m also looking forward to being challenged by the best and most experienced minds in the sector. Most importantly, I want to see housing from the eyes of others, and further improve my understanding of how the pieces of the jigsaw can fit together. This competition is my golden opportunity to develop myself, my passion and my profession, and I plan to make the most of it.
Dean Slavin, 30, is a resident involvement manager at 5,725-home Parkway Green Housing Trust in Manchester
Hi, I’m Dean Slavin from Liverpool. I’m 30 years old and have worked in housing since leaving university in 2004, putting my degree in business studies to no use whatsoever.
I’m the resident involvement manager at Parkway Green Housing Trust in Manchester, also leading on youth engagement and I’m involved in a bit of community based regeneration as well.
This is easily the most enjoyable job I’ve ever had, but there is one drawback - being a ‘scouser’ in Manchester means that most days I’m on the losing side of football banter from both colleagues and customers.
Football aside, my keen interest in life is working in communities. Although I always had this fascination, it was during my time of working ‘on the ground’ in and around Liverpool where it grew further. I have passionate about working with young people and outside of my role at PGHT, I work on a voluntary basis.
I applied for the Rising Stars award because I’m ambitious and really enjoy what I do. The housing sector and in particular resident involvement, has been on an ever improving journey of change this last few years. Luckily enough I’ve been swept along – changing, evolving and (hopefully) getting better! I was highly commended as RI officer of the year at the 2012 TPAS Northern Awards and RI at PGHT has also seen a 16 per cent rise in satisfaction in two years. Rising Stars seemed like the next natural step where I could test myself.
Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I harp on that resident involvement is the ‘greenhouse of social housing’ (letting the goodness in and keeping the badness out) and I live this value every day!
My passion for helping residents stemmed from being brought up on estates similar to where I work, so to be in a position where I could help residents have a real influence was something that really got me going.
The Tenant Services Authority model brought scrutiny and co-regulation to the forefront. It has given residents a clear, defined and robust role by being involved with registered providers.
After the TSA came the localism agenda and again, through my work at PGHT I’ve helped our customers embrace this idea, most notably through setting up a network of volunteers who do everything from supporting the elderly and vulnerable, to managing a community centre and helping fellow residents get back into work and applying for jobs.
Welfare reform is making registered providers think differently about how they’re financed and structured which will bring some great challenges to the sector.
However out of every situation there are always opportunities and I feel that these challenges, some of the biggest we’ll ever see, present me with an opportunity to get involved.
Over the next few years I hope to contribute towards the reshaping of business models of RPs, enabling us to sustain innovative service delivery and develop new solutions for customers
For me Rising Stars is the ideal vehicle where my skills and ideas on how we move forward during these opportunities can be showcased. I hope that it allows my views to be heard within the sector on this uncertain but exciting era ahead.
Inti Popat, 32, is a supported housing management officer at 13,000-home LHA-Asra, which operates in the midlands and London
My name is Inti Popat, I am 32 years old and work for Asra housing group. I have worked for the group for seven and a half years. The past four years in my current role as supported housing management officer. This means that on a day to day basis I am the housing officer responsible for the organisation’s sheltered housing and one extra care scheme in Leicester and responsible for six scheme managers who work at these.
I saw the Rising Stars competition advertised in the Inside Housing last year and was very tempted to enter, but at the time I didn’t think I could ever win. Just like most people I don’t normally win competitions. Looking back I also may have lacked the confidence and wider sector knowledge that I feel I have gained over the last twelve months. This new found confidence and knowledge has come from Asra housing group supporting me to undertake an MSc in housing and sustainable communities which I am part way through.
This year having entered and forgotten that I had done so, I was very surprised and excited yet nervous after getting the news that I was one of three finalists. Without wanting to sound too cheesy I really do have a passion for what I do. I hope that by entering this competition I can now go on to win it. I want to make a positive difference to people’s lives. I’d like to think I have already been doing so in my area of work, but one day I would like to be in a position where I can do so on a much wider scale.
Being a finalist in this year’s competition I want to enjoy the experience and accolade of what the competition is and how it is viewed by the housing sector. I am looking forward to attending the CIH’s annual conference and developing my ‘big idea’ (more on this in the weeks to come), into a credible proposal. I’m sure it will be a nerve wracking/ daunting experience being on stage and speaking to a large audience of experts but one that I hope I will be ready for.