John Belcher’s account of the decision to switch from Sheffield Family Housing Association to South Yorkshire Housing Association is interesting. He talks first of all about the big decision to provide services in Rotherham as well as Sheffield. At the time, the Board had said yes to Rotherham but no to Doncaster or Barnsley. Fast forward 10 years and the front cover of the Annual Report in 1994 showed the four A-Zs of the South Yorkshire Local Authorities under the heading Branching Out.
In the early years on my watch we toyed with the idea of expanding into other parts of Yorkshire. We even opened an office in Hull which we closed one year later after it achieved nothing!
Although we did expand into the Sheffield City Region, and now work in North Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire (with some services on the borders) we decided 15 years ago to focus our work on our local area. This strategy has been exactly the right one. To those associations who believe that economy can only be found through growing into new areas, we would say that economies of geography can be equally, if not more, effective. Ask anyone from around here who the local association is and you can bet they will say it is South Yorkshire Housing Association. This comment applies to politicians, statutory and voluntary organisations, local businesses and communities.
Barbara Walsh’s (former Chair of the Board) oft-repeated description of South Yorkshire Housing Association as a “local organisation with national influence” neatly summed up our leadership ambition.
When he was Chair, Rev David Walker wrote a satirical article for Inside Housing on the subject of names. The weird and wonderful formulations that some organisations have adopted are not for us. South Yorkshire Housing Association may not do it for the branding gurus, but it works for us – we are what it says on the tin.
Sadly, John Belcher passed away a few years ago, but what would he have made of us today if he had been able to walk into our office? If he looked down as he stepped over the threshold he would see the words Come Home. We have set it, as they say, in a tablet of stone. These words are embedded in our brand 50 years on. He would also immediately recognise that what he described as the cherished values of the association are alive and well today.