Looking back with pride and moving forward to tackle challenges

In the run-up to our 90th anniversary Stakeholder Strategy Day in October we will be publishing a series of blogs. Whilst I have the dubious pleasure of penning the first, this year we have asked colleagues who are close to the front line to share their experiences of working with customers, tackling homelessness and regenerating communities, as well as looking at what the future looks like for them. We will be publishing four more, so look out for them.

Ninety years is a long time ago: before the Second World War, the National Health Service and rock ’n’ roll. I often wonder what our founding trustees would have thought of the Riverside they’d find today if time travel permitted. No doubt they would emerge from their time machines blinking at the scale of our operations, the way we travel and communicate, and our interesting dress code – especially over this long, hot summer. “Where is their modesty and why aren’t they wearing hats?”, they would probably say.

Once the shock had passed, I would like to think they would be incredibly proud of what we have achieved from the modest start they made in Swan St, Liverpool 13, and see that the organisational DNA they created has survived. I sense they would be hugely reassured that we still work with the poorest and most disadvantaged; we are striving to build more and better homes all over the country; we are providing opportunities for people to get on in their lives; and we care about places, not just homes. I also think they would understand we have had to be inventive and commercial about the way we operate, driving efficiency and building homes for sale to recycle profits into our charitable work. After all they founded Riverside (or rather, Liverpool Improved Homes) during the Great Depression, so know a thing or two about austerity.

But they would probably be appalled that in one of the richest countries in the world, inequality is rife, symbolised by the rapid spread of food banks and rough sleeping across practically every town and city in our land. They would scratch their heads at why, when we have such an advanced economy, we have failed to build the homes the country needs, not just over the past few years, but over decades. And they would be so disappointed that a generation of politicians have failed to prioritise housing in the way that visionary politicians were able to do in their times.

My hunch is that they would conclude that Riverside is just as relevant now as it was in the 1920s. That our social purpose should remain at the heart of everything we do – the thing that makes us get out of bed in the morning, to do the best job we can as we serve customers, build communities and provide more affordable housing.

So it’s great to look back with pride and celebrate 90 years of transforming lives and revitalising neighbourhoods. But it is only worth doing if we apply that experience to moving forward to tackle the challenges of our day.

Hugh Owen, Director of Strategy and Public Affairs

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