13 February, 2024

In Conversation With: Rebecca Rieley, Head of Communities and Projects

We sat down with Rebecca Rieley, HACT’s new Head of Communities and Projects, and discussed her vision for the role, as well as the current set of challenges facing communities in the UK and how HACT’s work can mitigate them.

I truly believe that if we’re able to come together strategically and effectively, we’re better able to share our resource, share our knowledge, and share our ideas in order to meet these overwhelming and complex challenges.

Rebecca Rieley

Head of Communities and Projects

Good morning! Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about what you do at HACT? 

My name is Rebecca Rieley, and I’m the Head of Communities and Projects at HACT. So I look after the Centre for Excellence in Community Investment and the corresponding projects that come out of the Centre. We’re looking to test new ideas and incubate solutions to challenges that housing associations and communities are facing and pilot these projects across the UK. 

 

What aspects of your role are you looking forward to taking on? 

As I joined at the start of this year, I’m really looking forward having further conversations with other organisations and partners to understand what they really value about the Centre, and what their hopes are for it going forward.  

I think we’re in really challenging times, so I think one of the most exciting aspects of my role is being able to convene this group of leaders, hear their thoughts, and make sure that the Centre can adapt and evolve to meet the current needs of individuals and communities. I think this is crucial work, and work I’m really looking forward to doing. 

 

What are some of the biggest challenges facing communities currently, and what can our work do to mitigate them? 

This is a tough question, because many people are living in difficult circumstances at the moment, but the headline challenges for communities across the UK are the cost-of-living crisis, and the health inequalities that are caused and exacerbated by that. Last week I attended the launch of the Joseph Rowntree’s report on assessing the state of poverty in the UK, and the outlook was just frightening and quite bleak. These challenges are structural and deep, making it particularly difficult for many of the communities we work with who are often at the sharp end of these challenges. Within that wider context, HACT is working with housing associations and communities across the UK that are trying to create more urgent impact with a lot less resource. 

My work, and the work of the Centre, can help meet this challenge by providing space for strategic and impactful collaborations. I truly believe that if we’re able to come together strategically and effectively, we’re better able to share our resource, share our knowledge, and share our ideas in order to meet some of these overwhelming and complex challenges. The Centre can provide such a useful space for joint problem solving and joint solution finding to support our communities, and I think that’s going to become even more important as we go forward. 

Another challenge we face as a sector is losing hope that there are opportunities for a better future than the challenges we’re currently dealing with. For me, that sense of hope and optimism is a source of energy that can bring about change, so how we support our communities, how we support our workforces, and how we support our colleagues and partners to find a sense of hope in these really challenging times is incredibly important. If we can’t find that energy, then we risk losing the ability to pay attention to what is difficult and lose the confidence to lean into what is difficult. The Centre brings people together and fosters a communal confidence to lean into difficult things. Working together is always easier than doing it alone. 

 

Is there anything exciting coming up that you’d like to mention?

There’s a couple of things coming up for the Centre that I think are really exciting. One is the London Food Insecurity Network. Following on from its successful winter markets campaign, the group is now looking at what to do next. We know there is a need there, and we’re starting to explore different ways of working together to meet that need.  I think 2024 is going to be a year of evolution for this group. 

Another thing that I’m starting to look ahead to is what next for the Community Investment Conference. There has been substantial positive feedback about how the conference went last year. Our partners found it a really valuable space for learning and connection, so I’m starting to visualise what this will look like in 2024 and mapping out what we want to achieve. 

More broadly in terms of communities, I’m excited about a growing sense that co-production and co-creation is the way forward for organisations to find solutions for the communities they work with, which really aligns with the way I like to work. I’m also keen to hear about new funding models with more emphasis on participation. I think that’s great for the sector and valuable for communities too. 

Want to join the Racial Equality Group?

If you’re interested in joining the Racial Equality Group or have a question about it,

get in touch with our Head of Communities and Projects, Rebecca Rieley

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