December 14, 2018

Steve Biko Housing Association – A truly inspirational organisation

Following its 30th anniversary last year, Liverpool-based Steve Biko Housing Association (SBHA) has had plenty of reasons to keep the celebrations going after its double success at the Inspire Awards, which took place in Manchester in June. Construction Industry News recently caught up with Beverley Williams, Community Regeneration Manager, to see what being named Most Inspiring Housing Provider and winning the Most Inspiring Community Project category meant to the organisation.

“It’s fantastic and our board deserves recognition for the standards they’ve set, especially our Director, Tracey Gore, who is the driving force behind our staff team and is passionate about enhancing the lives of our tenants and community members,” explains Beverley. “We’ve never been particularly great at blowing our own trumpet to be honest, as we’ve been so focused on serving our communities, so to win the awards is brilliant. It is not until you start filling out the application for the awards that you realise the impact that you are having, even if some of the projects are really small or are just one-off initiatives.

“Obviously the awards aren’t why we do the work, but they are a great validation of the effort that everyone within the organisation puts in. As small as we are – we only have eight members of staff – we are all fully committed to trying our best to provide quality standards, so to receive external recognition for our hard work is really gratifying. What’s more, we’re also always looking to improve further, so the feedback we have received from the Inspire Awards is proving extremely helpful.”

The fact that SBHA won not one but two awards underlines the strength of the service it is able to provide. Beverley adds: “We were still celebrating our the Most Inspiring Housing Provider Award when someone had to point out to us that we’d actually won the Most Inspiring Community Project Award too! It was just so brilliant and overwhelming.”

In terms of how the double award success was achieved, Beverley feels that it reflects the ethos that has become so deeply engrained within SBHA over the past three decades. “Because we were born out of a grass roots need, we’ve retained and strengthened the links with the community groups that we work with, particularly diverse communities, and this has been key to our success. We have a team of staff that are very diverse and they reflect our tenant base. As a result, many of our projects aren’t just for our own tenants because many of our properties are ‘pepper potted’ with other housing associations so we do a lot of community engagement work too.”

This willingness to work with as many different people and organisations as possible has become a hallmark of SBHA’s approach. “We are always looking at ways to broaden the impact that we can have, not only with our own residents but also with other housing associations. We are looking particularly at improving young people’s access to learning employment skills, especially within the construction industry. We contract out all our repairs and maintenance work to an outside organisation called HMS and we’re working with them to look at the diversity inclusion aspects of their apprenticeship schemes and work placements. It’s all about strengthening those relationships to enable young people to secure the employment skills and experience they need to develop their careers and improve their lives.”

As an organisation that punches well above its weight, SBHA’s double award win is a fitting tribute to the hugely important work it is doing and the highly beneficial impact it is having on communities. Moving forward it is clear that Beverley and the rest of the team are fully committed to continuing their efforts, while it also looks like they might have developed a taste for awards too. “If we could win a further award in the future that would be great, as it’s a fantastic way of recognising the hard work of not only everyone within the organisation but everyone who gets involved in the local community too. A growing number of our tenants have taken on projects themselves and are running them on our behalf so it would be really pleasing for them to be recognised too.”