Steve Douglas CBE: What I’m taking from nine years on the Board of Commonweal to my role as CEO of St Mungo’s
I joined the Board of Commonweal almost nine years ago, having previously worked at the heart of social housing funding investment decision making throughout the first decade of 2000s. Initially an action research charity with a passion and curiosity to explore housing solutions to social injustices, the organisation recognised that just the activity of testing and trying new ideas was important in itself. So we developed our mission as an action-learning charity, prepared to work with partners and other charities to try new ideas, to learn from them, adapt them and to see if they could be scalable.
We’ve looked at issues including violence against women and girls (VAWG); the criminal justice system; tenancy sustainment; and young adults at risk of homelessness, amongst others. The work that we have done on the Pods – short term housing for rough sleepers – that provide security, shelter and storage is now being taken forward by Housing Justice and ReedWatts and widely shared with homelessness charities.
We’ve used our learning to influence better practice and policy, where we can; to support partners to have the freedom to think creatively; and where relevant to press for government and commissioners to think differently. The latest example of this is our work on the issue of specialised supported housing for some of the most vulnerable in our society, that is largely unregulated in the exempt accommodation sector.
I’ll take that passion and commitment to tackle those homelessness social injustices, into my new role as CEO of St Mungo’s, the national homelessness charity. I’ll also take with me the importance of partnership- working with other charities, with partners and commissioners. And I’ll take with me the recognition that tackling the scourge of homelessness, though difficult and at times seemingly soul-destroying, can be achieved; and that the hope and reaffirmation of life that the right type of housing and support can give is a goal worth the effort.
I will miss being a Trustee at Commonweal, it’s a great charity with a great Board of trustees, great staff and some really supportive partnerships. But St Mungo’s have most recently been a partner on a toolkit for working with homeless couples, informed by previous Commonweal-supported research, so I’m sure there will continue to be a relationship. And with Commonweal’s current Call for New Ideas, I know that there are many other housing related social injustices that they will be keen to lend their action learning approach to.