G15 Ethnicity in Housing Awards - Meet the winner – Gabriel Codjoe
At the inaugural G15 Ethnicity in Housing Awards on 11 May 2022, Network Homes’ Gabriel Codjoe walked away with the Lifetime Achievement Award. We spoke with Gabriel about what receiving the award meant to him.
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you do at Network Homes?
“I am the Director of Housing at Network Homes. I fulfil two roles, firstly as a member of the Senior Management Team with responsibility that cuts across the whole organisation on corporate issues and how we implement and achieve objectives. As Director of Housing, my responsibility is for all things housing management, from income collection, right through to homes for older people and key workers. I seek to act as a facilitator/mentor/cheerleader to my seven Heads of Service, whilst also providing them with the room to manage their service and to encourage them to best represent Network Homes in their unique way. A key part of my role is that balance between delegation and getting involved myself. I meet regularly with many residents and get involved in casework, which is something I’ve always done and is about being true to myself in the areas that I think I can make a difference.”
Congratulations on your award. How did it feel to hear your name read out as the winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award?
“Well look, everybody says this, but I've never won anything in my life. I was aware I was nominated, but didn't think I would get the award. I nearly fainted when I heard my name announced. It’s been a hive of activity in the 4 weeks since I won the award. LinkedIn has been particularly active, and many people from my past have got in touch to congratulate me. I feel privileged to have felt that experience. I’ve also been at pains to say to people that, whilst it is my name on the award, I feel like I won it for everybody. One of the first things I did when I got the award was to reach out to people from across my career to say thank you for the opportunity to work with them and the opportunities it gave me.”
Is there a particular colleague or experience that was a game-changer in your career?
“There are many, but I did want to highlight a few.
“Julia Ashborne - I had made the decision early in my career that I wanted to pursue housing. I had worked in internal audit and was looking at homeless applications, which was when I decided I wanted to go into housing. After successfully gaining the BTEC Higher National Certificate in Housing, I was posted to a neighbourhood housing office in Stockwell as a housing officer where Julia was the manager. I think we made a great combination along with other great colleagues, Linda Trotman, Trevor Davis, Jackie Simms, and Damie Kaponu. I received my first and second promotion in that office and later working in the team that saw Hyde be successful in one of the first stock transfers in London.
I would like to acknowledge Tom Titherington who was at Hyde Housing at that time (and later at Network), who gave me the opportunity to further my career in housing. Tom invited me to continue working with Hyde in a new partnering agreement with Islington Council, that was a fantastic experience and was really successful. It was great to be reunited with Tom when he was at Network.
“Sharon Allan at Tower Hamlets, when I went back to working for a local authority; she was a great mentor together with colleagues like Jane, she helped me deliver great services to residents. I was a local housing manager, where I worked on the regeneration of the Ocean Estate. My local housing office was right in the middle of it, and we did great work with residents to manage the transition through decants. I was then promoted to the Deputy Area Housing Manager role managing six local housing offices in and around the Isle of Dogs.
“When I moved to Network Homes, I met Delroy Rankin who is the Executive Director for SW9 (part of Network Homes). I started there as Head of Housing Services. We had a great connection and brought about improved performance and resident engagement. Susmita Sen and then Gerry Doherty, my current line manager, have been great support too. Helen Evans and I started at Network in the same year, and we have been on a long and successful journey from a federated organisation back then to what we are today at Network Homes. Last, but not least, my current direct reports, Foluke Ajayi, Amanda Critoph, Elizabeth Brennan, Jackie Trundell, Elizabeth Lill, Charles Culling and Karl Maple; I am sure it was one of these fabulous people who nominated me for this award so a big thank you.
“These people have been pivotal in my career.”
When nominating you for this award, colleagues described you as having openness and an instinct to connect with people. Can you tell us more about why this connection with residents and others is so important?
“I want people to see me for who I am, a human being first and foremost, and I think others want the same. If you can show people you are not judging them, being honest, straight-talking and, most important, that you will listen, they will engage. I do this with my staff and with residents.”
Your career has seen you progress through many different roles. What factor do you think is most important in supporting colleagues, especially minority ethnic colleagues, to progress at work?
“I've asked myself that question many times. I've struggled with the thought of being singled out for my ethnicity. It is recognised in society and in housing that there has been, and sadly still is, discrimination. Therefore, we should do something about it, and if I am used as an example of a version of what success can look like, then we should tell people about it. How did I do it? It's all the people I've spoken about who helped me. I say that if we treat people as human beings, have a purpose that isn't about self-interest, work hard, and people will recognise it and opportunities will come.
“My message to anyone would be to be yourself, give the best of yourself, and trust that it will be seen and rewarded in time.”
Finally, where is your award now?
“When I work from home it's on my workstation, and I look at it and pinch myself and I think ‘wow’.”
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