Updates from first North West network meeting

Oct 11, 2019

The North West network held their first meeting on Monday 7 October at the Woodhouse Park Lifestyle Centre, a community centre in South Manchester.

The meeting brought together 32 people from 20 different housing associations across the North West. The event was chaired by Sarah Klueter, Assistant Director of Community Investment and Regeneration at the Wythenshawe Community Housing Group, who is also Centre’s Network Lead for the North West of England. We spoke to her about some of the key outcomes of the meeting.

What happened in the North West network’s first meeting?

Adam Chester, Project Officer for the Centre, began the meeting by introducing the Centre for Excellence in Community Investment, as well as the idea of 11 geographic networks around the UK and how they work. Later, he did a consultation on two of the current projects that the Centre is running.

The Managing Director from Communities that Work, Linsey Sweeney, then spoke about the work that she was doing influencing government and how that could link into the regional networks.

Following that, the network had an open discussion about what people want to get from a NW network. The overwhelming response from the room was that a network for community investment professionals is needed. 

In the North West there are some strong networks making a difference to the way the region works.  We talked about our relationship with the Greater Manchester Housing Providers, the Athena Group, and the GMHP Social Value group.

It will be important to ensure a network for community investment professionals is well linked to the wider networks across Greater Manchester and the North West and avoids the potential for duplication.

What were some of the key priorities expressed by network members?

We talked about the topics that people were interested in, which included creating a safe space for community investment people to talk and share experiences and knowledge. A particular priority for those at the meeting was wanting to find out and share more about good practice exchange, particularly around career and employment skills.

Network members want the ability to link in with other members at key times, such as when developing a new policy or area of work, or seeking to influence internal stakeholders.

A priority expressed by network members was research.  This includes understanding and accessing research that’s already out there, evidencing our programmes and working together to pool resources on research and benchmarking.

Was the meeting a good networking opportunity?

It was a positive and energetic start. People absolutely wanted to speak to each other, and it was important that there was space before the meeting, during the coffee break, at lunch, and at the end where people could just have an informal chat.

One example of networking from the meeting was a network member who is currently developing a new area of work. At the meeting they were able to link up with another member who has expertise and knowledge of that field. They shared contact details and left having planned a site visit and meeting, to share what works and what doesn’t.

What’s the plan going forward?

Following discussions in the meeting the network are planning to meet every three months. The network was also keen to see each other’s projects in action.  Our first site visit will be focused on employment and skills in the New Year and we’ve already had two members come forward offering to host. 

Other attendees said:

“I talked to other Community Investment professionals over the break just now.  It was great to recognise that we face similar challenges and to start sharing ideas.”

“I’m writing a policy and I want to hear best practice on what’s working well – and what’s not.”

To find about your nearest network visit our events page

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