Collaborative working is key to social value in Greater Manchester, says Salix Homes chief executive Lee Sugden.

A number of years ago I read in an article in a national broadsheet that housing providers were the ‘sleeping giants’ of social enterprise.

Collectively, Greater Manchester Housing Providers contribute more than £1.2 billion to the regional economy. That’s 2% of the total gross value added of Greater Manchester, which when you think of like that, really highlights the spending power that we, as housing providers, have.

‘Giants’; yes. ‘Sleeping’, however, I would have to say, no longer.

Our spending power coupled with the ability to innovate, our multiple ties in the most deprived communities and our dedication to driving positive change, make social housing providers an ideal force to help lead social value strategies to meet social, economic and environmental challenges.

And in Greater Manchester, by working together, we’re proving what can be possible.

Collectively, in the last year, GMHP members have supported 6,500 residents towards work, awarded £2.2 million of grants for community-run projects, housed close to 2,000 people who were previously homeless and built more than 1,200 new homes. There are also more than 100 local community and voluntary sector organisations who are contracted to provide services.

Impressive numbers, but it’s the partnership of 26 housing providers that make this possible, who despite each being an independent business in their own right, have found a series of common goals. With the scale that comes with owning one in five homes in the region, we can leverage in skills, expertise. investment and influence that achieve way more than we could individually and make the pounds we spend, work harder.

This is starting to bear fruit. As well as those collective statistics, a whole host of joint projects, initiatives and subsidiaries have been established, to create social value in everything from training, apprenticeships, procurement, homelessness and much more.

And last month, we hosted our first ever social value conference, bringing together partners, businesses, politicians and social enterprises from across the region and beyond. Not only does this showcase what the sector can achieve in the name of social value, but it gives countless local social enterprises a platform to speak to and engage with businesses and service providers from across the region.

Far from sleeping giants, housing providers can and are leading the way for how social value can be maximised to meet some of the key challenges facing society today, from the local to the global. This is real, meaningful CSR, that is at the root of what we do and is a model that many industries could learn a great deal from.

Furthermore, what we’re proving in Greater Manchester, is that when we come together collectively, the impact can be enormous. We have made a huge difference to the region, but the potential to do more is even bigger.

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