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Support where it’s needed most – a conversation with Georgie Kay, Community Connector

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We spoke to Georgie Kay, one of our Community Connectors, to learn more about her role and the experience of organising the Harehills Community Matters Day, a fantastic annual event that brings the local area together to socialise, chat and enjoy a range of activities.

Can you explain your role as a Community Connector?

“I work in the Places Impact team, specifically the Community Investment team. Our role is all about partnerships; working with and supporting local charities, organisations and projects, who in turn directly support our Customers and the wider Community. 

“We support Community partner organisations in many ways, including: 

  • managing applications for and distributing internal grants,
  • having our colleagues take part in Community volunteering opportunities and/or offer pro-bono expert advice,
  • employing our supply chain’s social value commitment in order to get support to partner organisations,
  • working collaboratively with organisations on project ideas and external funding bids.

“The charities and Community organisations that work within our stock areas are the pillars of our Communities up and down the country, they work tirelessly, day in, day out to give that face-to-face support that is desperately needed. By supporting these organisations, we are increasing our own team’s capacity as well as that of the organisations, allowing them to support and reach more of our Customers and Communities.“

What do you find the most rewarding aspect of the role?

“Meeting incredible people and making a tangible difference. Building key relationships and networks in Leeds over the last year has been an incredibly rewarding and enjoyable experience, and hearing from our partners about the impact our support has had makes it all worth it.

“This may sound bizarre, but walking down the streets in the Communities in which I work and have people stop me for a chat and give me a debrief on how their day is going is a big win for me. I feel like I’m slowly becoming part of the Community too.

“That being said, it’s easy for us to boast about the numbers of people we’ve supported via our funding and support to Community partner organisations, but the ones putting the graft in are the Communities themselves, and they deserve as much recognition for that as possible.” 

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What challenges do you face in the role?

“Building trust within Communities is a difficult task and takes years to achieve. The lack of physical presence Places for People, and Housing Associations as a whole, have had in our Communities, has no doubt had an impact on our relationship and trust with Customers and the wider Community. Being in our Communities on a regular basis often means we bear the brunt of the mistrust, frustration and disappointment, and this can sometimes be difficult to navigate.

“We also need to work harder to let all our Customers and colleagues know about the great work Places Impact and our Community partner organisations are doing! We want to get all this in-Community support to our Customers and can only do this through colleagues who are willing to spread the word – so please help us spread the word! “ 

Can you tell us about the Harehills Community Day?

“When I first started in this role slightly over a year ago, I found it surprising that there was no existing partnership between Housing Associations in our main Leeds stock area, Harehills. This was my first mission; to set one up. In May we had our first collective meeting, and since then have been meeting every 6 – 8 weeks to discuss challenges and share best practices and knowledge of the area. 

“Harehills used to have a Community festival, run by the council, but due to funding cuts this ended some time ago. Speaking with the Community and the Love Leeds Parks team, various consultations found that this was something the Community wanted to see come back to Banstead Park, so I suggested we collaborate to make it happen. 

“This was the first big collaborative project the new housing partnership could work on together; pooling our resources to bring all our Customers and the Community together, highlighting the support that exists within the Community, providing endless forms of entertainment and offering free healthy meals for as many as we realistically could.”

How did you find the most recent Harehills event?

“Incredibly stressful! But now I’ve taken a few days to reflect, it was an incredibly rewarding day to see all that hard work pay off – despite the failed sun dances and awful weather that graced us for the day. 

“It was a huge showing of collaboration, with both internal teams and colleagues, and external partners. 

  • Tara Swordy, our Health and Safety Advisor, spent days working on the Event Management Plan and Risk Assessments – setting things up for all future Community events to come – absolute legend!
  • Lainey Parkin was my partner in crime, bringing her team, Landscapes and Repairs on board, and keeping me (mostly) calm and avoiding a complete meltdown; she also left her sunny caravan to join us. 
  • Gillian Sladen got fifty volunteers involved, briefed and enjoying the day. 
  • Liza Scholefield brought in an impressive amount of sponsorship money and support from our supply chain. 
  • Rory Monaghan got to drive a van full of gazebos from Preston to Leeds and back – lucky him!

“But most importantly, the Community turned up! We’ve had great feedback from our Community partners, Customers and the wider Community – now our thoughts must turn to 2025.”

How would you describe the impact you make as part of Places for People?

“Places for People is the first Housing Association I’ve worked for; before this all I knew of Housing Associations was what I’d seen in the news – not much of that is very good. But how my mind has been opened and views changed.

“To be able to work for Places Impact and re-invest money into our Communities is something I am proud to boast about when meeting new potential partners; not many Social Enterprises have the resources and toolkit behind them that we do, so being able to use that to really impact and benefit our Customers and Communities is something to shout about. 

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“In the last year I have been able to support my Community with projects that range from a call out for sewing machines and kits for a craft group, the development of a sports hub in one of the most deprived areas in Leeds, funding for a women’s refuge and a defibrillator for a Victorian swimming pool – the delight in which these have been received and the difference they make benefits us all.

“I hope over the coming years the team develops and expands, and we can keep adding to our Community investment commitment! 

“We focus on a Community-wide approach, not just a direct Customer approach. In short, we’re here to help lift up a whole Community, working across sectors towards the same goal: making this country a fair, equal and safe place for everyone, no matter their backgrounds.”

We’re here for the many, not the few, and we won’t walk by when we see people in need, Customers or not. 

Read more heart-warming stories from our Customers and People

We hope you found this story inspirational. If you would like to read more stories from around the Places for People organisation, check out more of our In My Own Words stories.  

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