Optivo chief executive Paul Hackett and involved resident Monica Barnes have both been recognised in the New Year Honours list.
Hackett, who’s spent a decade transforming a previously failing housing association and is known as a national leader on resident involvement, has been awarded the CBE.
While Barnes, who’s spent over a decade shaping and leading one of the most successful tenant involvement approaches in the social housing sector, will receive an MBE.
Paul Hackett, who was also chair of the G15 group of London housing associations between 2017 and 2019, said: “I’m delighted Monica’s been recognised for her unswerving commitment to ensuring residents’ voices are heard.
“It’s great to see her determination to improving services for others has been recognised. Monica’s a remarkable person who’s dedicated her life to others and this honour is well deserved.”
“I’m truly humbled to receive the CBE. This award is a recognition of the hard work of many staff and residents who’ve helped Optivo become the organisation it is today and our efforts to become a sector-leader in resident involvement.”
Monica Barnes, who is chair of the Resident Strategy Group at Optivo, said: “This is a lovely honour, but it’s also dedicated to my family and friends both past and present. I’m from Jamaica and lost my own mother aged seven.
“I was brought up by my father and my aunt (my mother’s sister). My aunt had an opportunity to come to the UK in 1954 as part of the Windrush generation and took me with her.
“Housing was a major issue at the time. My own personal experiences and being an involved resident at Optivo have helped me fully appreciate the importance of good housing for people’s emotional, social and physical wellbeing.
“As an involved resident, you don’t give up hours of your time to be recognised – you do it because you want to make a difference. We’ve all worked hard to improve services over many years, so it’s a real joy to see our work recognised like this.”
Optivo is one of the UK’s largest housing associations with 45,000 homes in London, The South East, and The Midlands.
Background: Paul Hackett CBE
Paul Hackett was instrumental in the turnaround of the failing housing association AmicusHorizon and then its merger with Viridian to form Optivo. The organisation is now consistently securing one of the highest customer satisfaction levels.
Hackett is widely respected as a sector leader on resident engagement, with residents involved at all levels of Optivo’s operations and policy. Through the COVID-19 crisis, he instigated a major programme to support residents through this difficult time. To date, an incredible 64,000 calls have been made to support those isolated or who’ve lost jobs.
A vocal advocate of diversity, Hackett also helped establish the Leadership 2025 programme to grow BAME leaders and won ‘Best Supporting Male’ at the Women in Housing awards 2018 for his gender equality work.
As the chair of the G15 group, a position he held until last year, Hackett personally visited borough leaders across the capital to make the case for councils and housing associations to collaborate, rather than compete, to build more affordable homes.
And he contributed to many policy discussions with government, including Prime Minister May’s Number 10 Housing Summit. He’s met regularly with MHCLG ministers and officials, with whom he’s worked to develop proposals for how government and associations can together increase housing supply.
He’s an Honorary Professor of UCL’s Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management and a member of the RICS Housing Supply Group.
Background: Monica Barnes MBE
Optivo resident Monica Barnes has continued to commit to the needs of others. She’s done so on an entirely unpaid basis and consitently demonstrates selflessness and dedication.
Barnes was core to developing the involvement structure for the housing association AmicusHorizon, which had just emerged from regulatory supervision, and more recently at Optivo.
Barnes was also a key leader in ensuring residents’ needs were central to the improvement plan, which transformed the fortunes of the previously failing landlord.
She spent her career as a youth worker, setting up the Tulse Hill Youth Forum and projects to tackle youth crime in some of South London’s most deprived communities.
In addition to her national role with Optivo, she’s made a real contribution locally, setting up her local tenants’ association and Neighbourhood Watch scheme.
Image: Optivo’s Paul Hackett and Monica Barnes
Are you a social housing professional? Sign up for a FREE MEMBERSHIP to upload news stories, post job vacancies, and connect with colleagues on our secure social feed.