John Synnuck Celebrates 50 Years in Social Housing
It's not everyday that someone celebrates 50 years of service in a sector. It's a milestone worth celebrating and presents an opportunity to reflect on 50 years' of experience.
At Swan, we've been fortunate to benefit from John Synnuck's wisdom for 25 years. It has got us where we are today, so we want to share it. John has kindly written down some of the highlights of his career as he reflected on this special milestone in 2018.
We are delighted that John's achievement has been recognised this year as he is a finalist in the national Housing Heroes Awards - in the Lifetime Achievement category. The judges decision will be shared at the final in June.
Good luck John, from everyone at Swan.
'FOR ME, SOCIAL HOUSING IS ABOUT THE CREATION OF OPPORTUNITY'
"I have, on occasions, described myself as coming from the wrong side of the tracks. Whilst I have been fortunate in my career, I have never taken these opportunities for granted. The biggest impact on people's lives can come from a safe and secure home to call their own. Once you don't have to worry about your home, you can focus on the rest of your life. It's that simple."
'THE FUTURE OF OUR SECTOR IS ONE OF COLLABORATION AND INNOVATION'
"I believe we have now reached a critical moment in our history. The increasing scale of the regeneration work that HA's are taking on, made possible by the willingness to collaborate that exists with our Local Authority partners, means our sector is now working with leading architects and designers to transform vast swathes of unsatisfactory housing across the country.
Projects like the £300m regeneration of Robin Hood Gardens in Tower Hamlets which we are delivering in partnership with the Mayor of London and LBTH. It will replace 252 existing homes with 1,575 new homes, 50% of which will be affordable housing; shops and commercial premises, improved public greeen space and a new station square at Blackwall Reach DLR. It has already delivered a new Swan regional office; community facilities; a mosque and an extended primary school.
The ambition, diversity and scale of Blackwall and many similar projects being delivered by other HA's would have been unthinkable not only when I started out, but during my years as Director of Housing in Southwark in the 80's."
'OUR SECTOR FORGOT THAT IT WAS ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE'
"One of the failings of social housing over the last 50 years when it came to regeneration is that, as a sector, we haven't spent enough time with the people.
Many schemes saw a focus on the property forgetting about the people. There hasn't been enough investment in building communities that people can feel part of.
Yes, we need to increase the number of homes, but we also need to invest in high-quality community space that becomes the heart of the new communities we create. Whether that's community facilities, play areas, green spaces - even outdoor gyms - we have a responsibility to deliver healthy vibrant communities.
Delivering large scale regeneration well is about an ongoing conversation with the local community. The most successful schemes don't forget that and as a result deliver vibrant, regenerated communities for everyone."
'YOUR PEOPLE ARE NOT YOUR 'ASSETS' TO BE MANAGED'
"The concept that our staff are your greatest 'asset' is overused and incorrect. People management theories come and go but, after 50 years of working in housing, my view is that instead of thinking of people as 'assets' to be managed, we should think of our staff as people to be inspired and engaged.
If you can get your people engaged and inspired in what you are trying to do as a business, they will find a way to do it better, faster, cheaper than you ever could on your own. That's why for me, being a leader isn't about having all the answers. Instead, it's about creating a positive working environment where people feel able to look for new answers, try ideas, fail and then try again.
Being a 'baby boomer,' I'm conscious of the broad and increasingly diverse generations in my own organisation. However, whilst ther are some differences between the generations, it's the similarities that strike me more and more each day. We all want and need, the right technology, the right work space and a culture of trust. Given these conditions your people, like mine, will make your vision into reality in ways you have not yet imagined!"
'IT'S ABOUT MAKING THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE'
"I've led Swan for almost 25 years now and I feel our vision has never been clearer. We take on large scale projects so that we can make the biggest difference, not just building homes, but also delivering infrastructure, including commmunity space, medical centres, retail and commercial units, fantastic quality public realm and on schemes like Purfleet on Thames, a school, university campus and film studio.
We build mixed tenure schemes because it's the right thing to do to create sustainable communities, but also because it enables us to fund much needed affordable homes. Then we look after our estates really well and provide great services to our residents, investing in our residents and the wider communities in which they live.
That's our social purpose: 'delivering homes and services to those who need them' and it underpins everything we do."