Busy, hectic, fun, never boring

Blog: TPAS chief executive, Jenny Osbourne


As one conference closes, another conference opens..


What a fantastic week Team TPAS had at the CIH conference in Manchester last week. From enjoying lots of visitors to our stand, games of “play your involvement cards right”, debates, scrutiny live and tons of conversations it was a week where TPAS flew the flag loud and proud for tenant involvement in England.


We were vocal, we were positive and we were determined. Determined to say clearly, hang on UK Housing, tenant involvement is still as vibrant as it varied, it’s alive and well and and its sure as hell as relevant today as its ever been. Yes it’s changing, yes there are relentless pressures, yes it needs to adapt but the rationale for good involvement is still crystal clear. It’s life changing for individuals, it’s sound business sense for landlords and it’s flipping great for communities.


The Scrutiny Live sessions in particular were a joy to behold. Four tenants from across the country asking key housing figures such as Sir Bob Kerslake, Nick Raynsford MP, Tony Stacey, and Emma Maier, challenging and so very very real questions about the future of housing. No wonder it drew some of the largest crowds of the conference for the fringe sessions. CIH delegates knew that this was where some of the real questions were being asked. No holding back or false politeness here. Just a desire to get answers and get the debate moving on to address the issues most affecting tenants today.


Because affordability, benefit cuts and media persecution are the cruel reality for so many tenants today. There’s a whole load of tough real life going on outside the rarified conference walls where debates and panels are important, but are not always making the difference we need now.


It’s tough what communities are facing today. And it’s that focus on the immediate, the now, that we are focusing on at our annual conference next week in Kenilworth.


So we are discussing the skills that tenants need to be equipped to co design services with their landlord, to be work ready and increase their employment prospects, to be positive partners with stakeholders in their communities. To be ready to effect change.


The TPAS conference is the place where we hear direct from young tenants about what they have learnt from involvement so far…and how much more they have to give. Just as the sector wants future housing professionals to nurture and develop it needs to nurture it’s future tenants too. I really welcomed CIH President Geraldine Howley’s focus on young people in her presidential year. Here at TPAS we will support that by ensuring young tenants have a voice and giving them the platform to be heard. I know that Liam Islam, Young Mayor of Lewisham, will have lots to say to inspire us for the future and to shake up the ideas of some of us more mature attendees! Ahhh to be young again, sigh….


Back to the present though, there’s a lot of talk at the moment about housing organisations becoming increasingly commercial. That need, or the desire, to diversify, to expand and enter new markets and utilise new technology to do so. It seems to me there are some who are jumping too quickly to say tenant involvement has no place in that. That it doesn’t belong in that “exciting” new world.


That’s why I am delighted to welcome Mark Sebba, Ex CEO of Net-a-Porter and now Chair of Hyde Housing to our opening session. Here is a man who lived and breathed innovation, who embraced the possibilities the world of technology could bring and yet still is absolutely clear that for any business to thrive it needs to know, understand and work with its customers. It’s going to be a strong message and one I hope that will stop the notion once and for all that commercial, the future and tenant involvement cannot be spoken in the same breathe.


And of course we will be hearing from participants from Scrutiny Live… Two weeks on how they found the whole experience and what they learnt. I fully expect we will be hearing their appetite is for more, much more!


So, let’s focus on Our Time is Now at the biggest tenant involvement conference in England. It will be noisy, it will be hectic but I assure you it will never be boring. If you aren’t joining us at the conference (and if you are passionate about involvement then my goodness why not?…) then get involved and part in the conversations anyway on #tpasconf15


I, for one, can’t wait.