World Homeless Day aims to draw attention to people who experience homelessness and their needs locally, providing opportunities for the community to get involved and work together in responding to homelessness. In this year, perhaps more so than ever as we emerge from the pandemic, it’s time to pause and reflect on how organisations in this space came together in the last year to take extraordinary action to meet the needs of the people they support.
What demands did it place on leadership in the sector?
What are the leadership qualities that shone through?
Here at Peridot Partners, we work with many organisations that are responding to the needs of homeless people in a variety of ways. We help them find the right leaders at the executive and board level, to help build and develop robust, resilient, and agile organisations that can continue to evolve to support some of the most vulnerable in society to turn their lives around and get back on their feet. We want to ensure our partners find the best leaders to continue to drive positive impacts in addressing homelessness.
The unprecedented circumstances of the coronavirus pandemic have bought the issue of homelessness into ever sharper focus, and those who are most vulnerable in society are facing more uncertainty than ever. Leadership challenges in this sector were arguably some of the most acute during the pandemic, with no time for analysis and an absence of guidance. There was a need to fill that void and an imperative to get on with doing what was needed in the context of significant uncertainty.
We caught up with three of the leaders we’ve worked with in the sector to capture some of their reflections on how their leadership has evolved over this time.
“The P3 staff team have been nothing short of amazing. Their dedication throughout the past eighteen months ensured frontline services adapted, remained open and worked to continue to deliver our contracted homelessness services, providing both accommodation and wrap-around support for people who were considered most vulnerable to contracting Covid-19.
Looking ahead, I am certain P3 has an important role to play in the national effort to rebuild society following the pandemic. The charity is continuously inspired by the people it works alongside and is constant in its vision to act as an agent for social change for the long-term.”
Adam Hackett, Chair of P3
What we saw was innovation, problem-solving, agility, partnerships, and collaboration. There is a renewed sense of collective purpose to build back better and fortified relationships that provide a strong foundation to ensure collaboration is here to stay.
Faced with the need for action, leaders needed to ensure they struck the appropriate balance between the need to react and doing things that aligned with their values and strategy. Then, to ensure changes borne out of the necessity to act were appropriately embedded.
Leaders needed to be able to navigate a situation that was constantly changing, be comfortable with a high degree of ambiguity and importantly make decisions amid a situation where uncertainty was a constant.
“I think the biggest challenge and learning for me has been adapting to providing leadership within the context of very significant uncertainty. There is always complexity and uncertainty in any leadership challenge, but I think this has been to unprecedented levels during the pandemic and now, as we wait to see what the longer-term impacts of the pandemic are for charities like Emmaus UK. My natural leadership style is facilitative and collegiate, but I think operating in a context of complexity and uncertainty makes it all the more important to facilitate and listen and develop joint solutions.”
Charlotte Talbott, CEO of Emmaus UK
In this context of change, unsurprisingly there’s been a focus on building organisational resilience, shifting culture and creating an environment that empowers and enables staff to come up with solutions to collectively grow and develop. In the maelstrom of the pandemic people also looked to leaders to provide certainty and decisive action whilst holding firm to values and vision.
Whilst the challenges of the pandemic have at times felt overwhelming, the crisis has offered opportunities for growth and development and most leaders will have enhanced their skills, probably surprised themselves with their ingenuity and resilience and looking ahead to continue to deal with the impact of Covid-19 as its repercussions will continue to bite.
“If I reflected on this period during the pandemic and my own journey, I think I would say we need to build more financial resilience. I was made redundant because of a big loss of income from trading by my previous employer. However, if we had a better online side of the business the impact could have been less severe as online sales remained possible throughout the pandemic.”
Julian Price, CEO of Emmaus, Coventry, and Warwickshire