Sector first as pilot project launched
Published by kerri smith for Thrive Homes in Housing and also in Communities
A groundbreaking one-to-one mentoring project is being launched in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire to help housing Board members boost their skills.
The pilot scheme, which will include Board members from Thrive Homes and the Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust, is being run in partnership with the Housing Diversity Network (HDN). Mentees will work with mentors who have governance experience in order to boost their confidence and personal development.
The idea was the brainchild of Elspeth Mackenzie, Chief Executive at Thrive Homes, and Kate Russell of Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust. Together they approached HDN, the not-for-profit organisation that specialises in training and advice on equality and diversity issues in the housing sector, to create a tailored programme for individual Board members.
“There is plenty of very good technical and sector-specific training on such issues as governance and regulation, but I noticed that there isn’t anything that identifies the individual needs of Board members,” explained Elspeth.
“As Board members take on ever more responsibility, making more decisions on very complex matters, it seemed to me that some individuals may need extra support so that they can work more confidently and effectively in this most crucial of roles.
“I am pleased that HDN also recognised the need for such a programme and agreed to launch this pilot project with us.”
Board members from the Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust and Thrive Homes can now apply for mentee places, as can individuals from other local housing providers across the three counties. Potential mentors are also encouraged to submit an application.
Between eight and 12 places will be available and the pilot scheme will run between June and December this year, with a view to then rolling out further afield.
Would-be mentees and mentors should apply for a place by 22 March, when their individual needs will be identified through a questionnaire and meeting with an HDN consultant. Mentees will then be matched with a mentor, who will be chosen because of their relevant governance experience.
Between June and December, they will undertake four one-to-one mentoring sessions, and training, guidance and email/telephone support will be offered. They will also be invited to take part in group Board development workshops, which will focus on such areas as values-based leadership, the role of risk in governance, diversity, finance and value for money.
Juliet Hancock, of the HDN, said although the organisation ran an established mentoring programme for housing officers and junior managers, it was clear that there would be huge benefits for running a similar programme for Board members.
“Board members are values- driven and come from a very wide range of backgrounds, bringing with them unique skills and contributions,” she said.
“When they sit on a housing board, there may be some areas that they are less used to, such as governance or finance, and this programme is tailored to enhance their personal and leadership development. Going on a training course isn’t enough anymore; it’s about the person being able to learn contextual knowledge, skills and behaviours, and being confident to apply them in a leadership role.”
Kate Russell, Director of People and Performance at Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust, said the mentoring pilot would enable Board members to learn additional skills, as well as share best practice with peers.
“The challenges faced by Board members are huge because of the regulatory changes and they have to understand extremely complex issues to fulfil their duties, so having a mentor will give them the confidence to deliver what is expected of them,” she said.
“The one-to-one mentoring support will strengthen the standard training and conferences that they already have the opportunity to go on. Because of HDN’s track record in delivering mentoring programmes, we are confident that the quality of the programme will be second to none.”
Thrive Homes and Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust are jointly funding the pilot programme, although mentees from outside these organisations will have to pay a subsidised fee of £500.
For more details about the mentoring programme, contact the Housing Diversity Network on 0870 142 2732 or email firstname.lastname@example.org