Cedric Boston, Chief Executive of Arhag Housing Association / December 14, 2017

To create real change housing associations need to be bold

At Arhag Housing Association we are currently undergoing an exciting phase of our development. Taking a step back towards our roots as a campaigning organisation for migrants and refugees in London by placing non-housing activities at the heart of our offer.

We aim to become the ‘go to’ organisation for migrants and refugees. To really get to grips with our vision we had to look at our area of expertise differently and challenge the way things have always been done. By not being afraid to tear up the traditional housing model, we’ve been able to develop partnerships that help us to deliver real impact for our tenants.

We have already started our journey in providing meaningful services to migrants and refugees in the capital. Working in partnership with social enterprise Olmec, we designed an award winning Employment Programme called RISE.

The programme focuses on the needs and aspirations of individuals and supports them into meaningful work. RISE is a 10-week programme, comprised of six weeks in class, understanding what an employer is looking for, learning tips and tricks for writing a good CV, getting hands on experience and feedback from mock job interviews. The remaining four weeks is spent in a work placement of the participants’ choice, to gain meaningful experience to enhance employment opportunities. Participants will benefit from one to one support in searching and applying for jobs during and after the programme. So far, RISE has seen 60% of participants find meaningful employment and has a huge impact on confidence.

Arhag resident Vanessa Harrison found out about the programme via a text message from us. Vanessa was unable to find her feet again after she lost her job. RISE gave her back her self-belief and confidence. Vanessa has now joined us in the housing sector , having been offered a trainee Housing Officer post. This involves working with and supporting people on a daily basis, something she is really passionate about. She said “I loved RISE so much! The team were such a huge help in re-building my confidence and I would recommend it to anyone looking for work or a new career path. The work I am now doing is so much more satisfying, rewarding and worthwhile.”

Success is best when it is shared and in this spirit the RISE programme has continued to grow and develop. Its services are now used by 14 BME London housing associations and members of the wider migrant and refugee community living in London. Initial analysis of the programme using the Social Return on Investment model developed by HACT found that every £1 spent there brings a social benefit of £12.

But we’re not resting on our laurels. To create real change and have a social impact, housing associations need to be bold. We have purchased a brand new office space in Stratford, East London to act as a ‘one stop shop’ for migrants and refugees. The space is large enough to house a number of specialist organisations, including:

  • our employment partners Olmec
  • a community hub
  • modern and flexible office
  • state of the art training room and meeting space
  • centre for specialist research and consultancy
  • a unique health clinic.

No longer will our residents have to travel from one end of London to the other to access the services they depend on.

We want to embed innovation and change in our very culture. That is why we are excited to be taking part in Creating our Future. The first stage, the Ideas Labs were a great way for us to break the rules and bounce around ideas to find the best solutions to everyday challenges. The workshop showed us how to take the creative process a step further and we’ve taken these tools back to our organisation to continue on our journey to improve the lives of our tenants and the wider community.


By Cedric Boston, Chief Executive of Arhag Housing Association.

Housing associations have always turned society’s challenges into opportunities to improve people’s lives. Creating our Future taps into the energy and enthusiasm of the entire sector to better understand the trends shaping the future and co-create groundbreaking ideas in response. You can see more examples here.

If you would like to contribute a blog then we’d love to hear from you – please email us on futures@housing.org.uk.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


createyourfuture / February 15, 2018

Extra Care services should reflect the diversity of any healthy community

We often seek to place vulnerable households in categories, such as ‘elderly’ or ‘special needs’. But rather than categorising people we should see individuals with…

createyourfuture / February 12, 2018

Innovation happens when you fall in love with a problem – not an idea

One week of warmth. That’s all it takes to save the lives of two million babies born prematurely in the developing world each year. It’s…

createyourfuture / February 9, 2018

The Byker Estate: from transition to transformation

Long before the Government announced the 1% rent cut, we were already a step ahead after reviewing our services, seeking improved service delivery and looking…

createyourfuture / February 1, 2018

Got an idea for how the housing sector could change the world?

Our 15th and final Ideas Lab has come to a close. It was another inspiring event with great ideas from housing association staff from across…