Novus Blog

A Novus Contract Liason Officer talking to a woman in the doorway

NEW CSR IDEAS SHOULD BE GENERATED FROM BOTTOM-UP, NOT TOP-DOWN

  23 JULY, 2019      CSR , INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
Kevin Rhone our Head of Social Value and Customer Service, discusses CSR partnerships between contractors and registered providers. Now more than ever, contractors want to be bolder in their CSR efforts and the days of these initiatives being a tick-box exercise are over. Contractors recognise the commercial benefits and housing providers have an opportunity to make better use of this. Could landlords and their suppliers be bolder in creating initiatives together? The answer is: absolutely. If you are still of the mindset that contractors view CSR with cynicism, then you need to look at efforts by the sector outside of contractual obligations. The construction industry recognises that CSR’s benefits extend beyond just improving communities. For instance, CSR is a fantastic way of bringing staff together and building a positive workforce culture. As a result, it can help retain talent and inspire workforces. We have seen CSR projects really drive home these positives in our own teams. Our charity initiative last year saw us invest £100,000 across five transformational projects around the UK – each nominated by local communities. The campaign, called the Novus Big Five, galvanised our workforce as well as engaging local people. It united our colleagues up and down the country under a common goal while also supporting our values as a family-owned business.  It’s also highlighted the benefits of working with communities themselves to generate ideas for CSR. The initiatives over the year included a range of projects from a refurbishment of a rehabilitation centre for military veterans struggling with addiction to a new ward at a hospital in Brighton for parents who had lost their child during labour, which gives them the space they need to grieve. The range of worthy projects nominated far exceeded the ideas we would have had alone. The learning is that landlords and housing associations should create open forums where contractors on the ground and communities feel empowered to generate their own ideas for CSR. Our workforces are often social landlords’ eyes and ears on the ground in their estates and people living there have an unmatched understanding of the area itself. Together they have a unique insight into where money could be best spent to solve issues. In addition, getting early buy-in from the community and contractor workforces themselves can lead to a valuable initial groundswell of support for projects, including additional fundraising. As partners, we should set ambitious targets too and put as much pressure on ourselves to generate bigger results. However, it isn’t necessarily about investing more time and money, it’s about making sure that, whatever we’re doing, that it can create a lasting difference. By thinking about CSR from the bottom up and asking communities and contractor teams on the ground where they see the biggest issues in communities can help social landlords to make much bigger impacts in their communities.
Sophie Seddon sat on sofa

BITC EDUCATION SYMPOSIUM

  03 OCTOBER, 2018      CORE VALUES , CSR , INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
Our Head of Client Engagement & Communication, Sophie Seddon discloses her top tips for businesses and schools to work together successfully. “I was invited to speak at the Education Symposium hosted by Goldman Sachs on Wednesday 26th September.  This was organised by Business in The Community to encourage and advise other schools and businesses to partner as the benefits are outstanding.” The History of Novus’ Partnership with BITC 5 years ago, we were approached by BITC and The Business Class to partner with a school in Stoke–on-Trent who were going into special measures.  With no hesitation we agreed to work with them to help them through a very difficult time.  We saw an opportunity to get closer to the community we work in, but more importantly we identified an opportunity to work with potential future employees. After 5 years of working with Thistley Hough we have carried out over 100 projects including CV workshops, mentoring, a scholarship programme, donated bespoke school books, built allotments, created a school bank and set up a bank account for every child, and the list goes on.  You can read more about our partnership here. Top Tips for Sustainable Relationships between Schools and Businesses After a very successful partnership these are my top tips for schools and businesses to create a sustainable relationship that really works: Set clear, simple objectives that are easy for everyone to understand including the pupils, parents, teachers and employees. Empower employees to design and own projects and give them the authority to see them through. Be open and honest.  If something isn’t working speak up and move on. Innovate.  Create innovative projects that are interesting for everyone to be involved in. Don’t make excuses!  We are all very busy people and have our day jobs but take accountability and get the job done! Have fun!  It has been a fantastic 5 years for us all and we have had so much fun along the way, so enjoy it!
Kevin Rhone, head of social value at Novus stood next to the Novus logo

HOW EAGLE-EYED CONTRACTORS CAN HELP LANDLORDS

  12 JULY, 2018      CSR , INDUSTRY INSIGHTS
Kevin Rhone, head of social value at Novus, explains why housing associations can glean new insights from contractors working in their communities and use them for more than completing building works. The social housing sector faces unending challenges. Not only are they tasked with regenerating communities, pressured to provide high quality homes and services, and challenged to increase their build rates, they’re also looked to as a key stakeholder in ensuring the safety and security of people in their communities. Having eyes and ears on the ground in these communities to make sure customers are safe and well is a bank-breaking investment, however. This is particularly true of national organisations borne of the spate of M&A activity in recent years. Monitoring communities more deeply than they’re obligated to do is almost impossible over their geographic footprints. Particularly since, for these organisations, huge amounts of capital have to be spent solely on maintaining stock. However, many RPs are missing an opportunity. They’re not using contractors’ insights, yet these businesses can offer a wealth of understanding about local communities. Construction and Maintenance Teams’ Positive Impact Of course, customer care officers can’t be everywhere at once. Construction and maintenance teams interact with housing associations’ customers every day. They see it all first hand and can be friendly faces on estates while also helping associations to identify solutions to regular issues. Many on-site professionals are keen to engage. They aren’t simply there to fix and repair homes, they build relationships with communities and in some cases, can be vulnerable people’s most frequent visitor while they’re around. They will regularly help elderly residents with their shopping and can be the first to discover if they’ve had an injury. Housing associations can also ask these teams to be vigilant for signs of violence and abuse and can ask them to keep their eyes open in areas where there are suspicions of drug use. While, yes, any responsible person would report illegal activity, contractors can help further by identifying trends too – how or why certain issues may be cropping up frequently. Using them in this way can help housing associations think up new ideas of how they might be better addressed. CSR Programmes It’s not just about pointing out the problems too. Many contractors have CSR programmes and housing associations could also use these to proactively address challenges in their communities. We run a national CSR programme called Changing Lives. So far, we’ve changed over 33,000 lives since 2015 through community projects that provide work opportunities or skills development or regenerate certain areas to help improve aspirations. One of our projects in the last year saw us work with a national housing association to provide temporary accommodation for homeless young families in Sheffield, for example. Advice for Landlords Landlords can do this by opening the channels of communication. Contractors and their on-site teams can provide regular updates or join team meetings to discuss issues on estates. They can also work in conjunction with customer care teams during their day-to-day work too, offering opinions, advice and useful context before officers contact residents. Contractors are a resource often under-used in this respect. However, landlords could not only get a better understanding of the real issues in their estates, but get the insight needed to help them solve them, by involving the people who are in their communities every day.
School children holding Novus business in the community signs

CHANGING LIVES TO BUILD ON PAST SUCCESS

  30 AUGUST, 2017      CSR
Following the news that we’re now committed to having a positive impact on 20,000 people through our Changing Lives campaign, our head of social value, Kevin Rhone, takes a look back on some of the initiative’s highlights so far.  Busy Bees Educare nursery makeover More than 200 children attend the Busy Bees Educare nursery in Cape Town, South Africa, where crime and gang activity make it difficult to run any business successfully. In 2015, a team of five skilled tradespeople from Novus spent two weeks at the nursery, carrying out an extensive refurbishment that included repairs and painting to the building’s exterior and colourful new designs for the nursery’s classrooms and playground. The team worked in punishingly hot conditions and completed the job to a superb standard. Novus also donated hundreds of football shirts to the nursery’s local community, following a drive for donations in the Stoke area. Angela Adams, principal of Busy Bees Educare, said: “I want to thank everybody at Novus who has been involved in this fantastic project. We simply don’t have the money or manpower to be able to carry out the scale of work needed to bring the space up to standard. But the hard work and dedication of the Novus team means that the children can now learn in a colourful and stimulating environment.” Pentre Gwyn Community Centre refurbishment Over nine days, Novus brought together a team of volunteers, local businesses and local community figures to deliver a makeover and install a brand new kitchen at the Pentre Gwyn Community Centre, using materials donated by valued suppliers. Staffordshire Business Class Cluster Thistley Hough Academy was in special measures when it entered into a long-term partnership with Novus, with the aim of improving the school’s performance through business-focused initiatives. Thereafter, Novus staff made the short journey to the school to deliver needs-led activities, including mentoring, skills development, volunteering, and improvement of school facilities. The success of this partnership led to the establishment of the Staffordshire Business Class Cluster in September 2013, bringing seven more businesses into the school to offer a broad range of support, and in 2014/15 the businesses in the cluster volunteered 1,718 hours, supporting 3,065 pupils by helping to improve skills and increase their employability. Bristol Complex Needs makeover More than 40 skilled tradespeople installed brand new kitchens for staff and residents, turned the common room into a café with a new floor, tables and chairs, and redecorated large areas of the Complex Needs facility in Stonebridge Park, Bristol. Community Liaison Champion The long-standing partnership between Novus and the Salvation Army Housing Association (saha) led to the creation of the role of Community Liaison Champion, which was advertised across the country. One of the saha residents, Leroy Simpson, had been seeking employment for over three years at that time and had been unsuccessful in over 100 interviews. Now, Leroy plays a vital part in connecting Novus with the communities it serves, and he is thriving on the challenge that the job of Community Liaison Champion provides him with. Following his first day working for Novus, he said: “I applied to Novus as I was impressed with the business, being family owned and having a good reputation.”
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Hannah O'Brien
Telephone: 07854 781631
Email: hannah.obrien@novussolutions.co.uk
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