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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

What I learned: Welsh Housing Awards 2017


Jon Barnes, marketing and communications officer at CIH Cymru, shares what he learned from being behind the scenes of this year’s Welsh Housing Awards.

I have a fairly unique perspective on an event that most people in our sector will have some experience of. Working on the way we communicate the good practice captured through the awards means I get an annual snapshot of what’s going on in our sector. That’s been amplified this year by filming interviews with every shortlisted project (see below!). Here are a few things I learned along the way:

Ask, listen, act

So many of our projects this year got where they are because they put the person the service was designed for at the heart of designing the service. Own 2 Feet..Living, UNITY, Mi-space’s work for Tai Tarian; the list continues, but they all have a few things in common:

  • They asked a question (without couching it to get the answer they wanted, hat tip to Jon Conway on the UNITY project for that insight)
  • They listened to the answer (empathic listening is the secret according to Mi-space)
  • They trusted the answer they got enough to act (which was the trick to Own 2 Feet…Living taking off according to Suzy Sorby).

We’re actually pretty good at stuff

When you listen to the people involved, and read about all the wide diversity of activities being undertaken, you really do get a sense that housing is good, really good, at solving problems that go way beyond just putting up buildings for people to live in.


People are pretty happy to test their ideas against the opinion of their peers and colleagues. We added a lot more rigour to the judging process this year, and for the most part people seemed to relish the challenge. I think it’s given us the strongest group of projects ever for…

Good Practice Compendium

If you haven’t seen us talking about the Good Practice Compendium then where have you been? This is the ultimate raison d’etre for the Welsh Housing Awards: a 54 page guide to every shortlisted application, which is free for anyone to download in English or Welsh. That is a substantial investment in the ideas contained within, and one that we think pays dividends for years down the line.

More and more we’re breaking down competitive working cultures and facing up to the honest truth that the more we steal like an artist, the more we acknowledge that we are the product of our influences, then the more we can be effective and creative professionals. Why should we limit ourselves to original ideas we’ve summoned from the ether, when we can iterate, adopt, adapt and improve ideas that come from the whole sector. If two heads are better than one, then surely loads of housing heads are infinitely better still.

There’s a long way to go before we’ve got everyone convinced that the taking part is really what counts, but whilst we’re getting hundreds of housing professionals to download a guide to what other people are doing, we’ll take that as a win!

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