1 October 2020

Ahead of our National Smaller Housing Associations' Conference in November 2020, we caught up with John Giesen to find out how the pandemic has impacted his role as a board member and why he's attending the event this year.

How has your role as a board member changed since the coronavirus pandemic began?

I’m not sure the role of a board member has changed that much. I think there has been a desire to ‘get involved’ and in the early stages of the pandemic I was fearful that some boards might become too operational and actually hinder what the organisation was doing during this unprecedented time. I believed our role remained to support and challenge the executive and to test that the strategic direction of the association was still fit for purpose.

What new priorities and challenges have arisen for your organisation in the last few months, and how are you tackling these?

For us at Providence Row Housing Association it was important to recognise that, unlike many other organisations, we could not simply move to a remote way of working. The nature of the client groups we support meant that we had to find safe ways of continuing to do that and to ensure we remained a viable organisation into the future.

What are you hoping to get out of the National Smaller Housing Associations' Conference to help you in your role?

I think I find the coming together of people from different places and different organisations is vital if we truly want to improve. The connections made at events like this prove invaluable in ensuring we can take ideas back to our own organisation but also share the things that we do well too.

What do you think board members can get from attending the conference?

I think too often board members live in a bubble and don’t appreciate the benefits to be had from a wider network of others involved in primarily the same thing.

John Giesen

John is Chair of Tpas and a board member of two housing associations

John is Chair of Tpas, a national organisation promoting best practice for landlord and resident engagement and a board member of two housing associations including one in East London, providing supported housing for people recovering from drug, alcohol and mental health issues.

John has nearly 50 years experience in housing and was CEO at B3Living, for 10 years, leading them to become a 3* Top 10 Best Company for 5 years in a row. B3Living were also ranked No.4 in the Stonewall WEI and championed ‘End Racism this Generation’ with the Runnymede Trust.

Being a board member during a pandemic: priorities and challenges