Still housepartying on…

Curious about what happens when you shove just about anyone with something innovative or fresh to say or think about housing into one venue for two days – well I certainly found out! Peter has already written about the Houseparty ‘unconference’ – but I was fortunate enough to be invited to help out, and wanted to share a few thoughts too.

What did I learn? Well, perhaps predictably for me to say – there is no better way to learn about something new than volunteering. The whole spirit of Houseparty was about people getting directly involved, doing as well as sitting in a room and ‘attending’. Talking with volunteers while doing a task was invariably as rich an experience as attending a session, (several session organisations were also in fact volunteers). It also seemed everyone attending did so because they had found out about the conference though having a genuine interest in sharing, and learning about new things – people weren’t there for the sake of being there or being seen to be there. So it felt a genuine privilege to help out while being able to sidle up to virtually anyone and start a conversation that would teach you something new.

At the same time, it didn’t feel like a club. My background is less mainstream housing, more homelessness and social care – so the particularities and peculiarities of housing associations are fairly new to me. You would think perhaps an ‘unconference’ only advertised via twitter might be a very select group, a clique, perhaps only interested in talking to itself or its established members. Being an outsider myself, it didn’t feel that way at all. Perhaps it’s the way social media can now cut through status, and job role, or the fact that Houseparty was pay-what-you-can, really meant that it was something not just for senior managers, or Chief Executives. I personally liked that by the second day, the colour coded t-shirt system somewhat broke down – and that half the attendees seemed to be wearing blue ‘conference organisers/sponsors’ t-shirts. I may or may not have been responsible for that… (sorry Esther!)

In terms of what Dot Dot Dot wants to talk about, Houseparty gave us the opportunity to also take stock that many people in the sector are quite unaware of the concept of property guardians, or social enterprises that can help make use of empty property for the good of the community. Hopefully, this will be the first of many more events that Dot Dot Dot (and other equally valuable social enterprises – see Clear Village and Community Empowerment Academy) can get involved in, and Katharine, Peter, myself, Saffron, Lizzie, Laura and Remi will be popping up wherever we can to have these conversations.

But the final word I want to give over to Jon Lord, Chief Executive of the Housing Association Bolton At Home. In his ‘fire-side’ chat, (think a large print out of a roaring fire, floor cushions!), we talked as a group about what passion means in housing, and the importance of sometimes going with the gut – feeling that an organisation or a person that is trying to do something differently somehow ‘gets it’, and what this then means to move forward, take a risk and back it. Dot Dot Dot has got off the ground in part with the help of people exactly like Jon, and for innovation to flourish we need many more people like him. We’ll see you at Houseparty 15!

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