Thoughts on Housing Camp Cymru

12 July 2016
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Neil Prior, Account Director at Northgate Public Services

Hosted in Cardiff, Housing Camp Cymru, is an 'Unconference' that has just run for the second time. For the uninitiated, an Unconference follows a loose format where delegates pitch an idea, which then gets added to the agenda. The law of two feet applies: if the session you’re attending isn’t working for you, get up and go to a different one.

This event draws interest from housing professionals (leaders and practitioners), local government, governing bodies, tenants and other interested parties. As the event is held on a weekend, it's fair to say that those who go are committed to and passionate about their work.

Two topics of note particularly interested me.

Digital Transformation

Every organisation across the land is wrestling with this one, and it’s no different in the housing sector. The challenges are familiar: culture change, leadership buy-in, integrating with legacy IT systems. For many, this is being exacerbated by austerity budgets which are causing organisations to look at economical ways to provide better services, in addition to putting the user (or customer) at the centre of what they do.

Value for Money

Another fascinating debate, this centred on value for money in a cost justification sense, and also in delivering social value, which is much more difficult to quantify (The Wellbeing of Future Generations Act springs to mind). A few suggestions were offered, but what struck me is that there is still a need to construct compelling business cases that protect the budget and attract greater senior support. It also highlighted the silo mentality of public sector budgeting when several organisations are involved. This is a particularly difficult question to answer, brought into sharper focus by the fact that there will need to be greater regional and collaborative working across all public sector bodies in Wales.

Housing Camp Cymru will not answer the questions overnight, but it is clear that there is a hardcore of innovators and leaders who care passionately about the services they provide and want to answer these questions. My challenge is to become a trusted advisor to the Housing Sector in Wales, and this event was a first step on that journey.

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