Introducing Sandra Brown
I am a senior Legal Secretary having worked in several top city law firms over the past 20 years. As well as the Chair of Odu-Dua Housing Association, I am a trustee for Barnet Citizens Advice Bureau.
What does your organisation do?
Odu-Dua is a Registered Housing Association and provides more than 180 homes to those in greatest housing need. Our homes are located in North and North-West London and services are provided by a small team of staff based at our offices in West Hampstead. Housing Associations may get involved in all sorts of different forms of housing but our focus is on affordable housing for local people and families. It is a tough time for Housing Associations at the moment and the sector is under increasing scrutiny from the Treasury as the Chancellor implements measures to curb public spending including capital and revenue funding for social housing.
When and why did you become a Chair?
I became Chair in October 2013 after a period of turmoil for the Association resulting in the eventual sacking of the then Chief Executive for gross misconduct. I was one of only two legitimate board members left on the board following a couple of resignations including the previous Chair and technical defects to the appointments of three others. I stepped in to ensure the organisation could carry on and to protect the interests of the Association’s tenants during what turned into a prolonged and difficult dispute between the board of the Association and the then CEO.
What do you most enjoy about chairing?
Chairing effective meetings; engaging with board members and the CEO to make sure we are all working together as a team as far as possible; engaging with wider stakeholders both within and outside of the housing environment.
Do you have a key tip or lesson to share with your fellow Chairs?
Make sure your organisation’s key Governance documents are up to date and that your board understands its role though those documents. Ensure that your board members possess the skills required to take strategic decisions for your organisation and that they are given the resources to keep pace with any changes in your sector or organisation. Board members should reflect the make-up of your organisation. Establish a constructive relationship with the CEO and ensure the board provides constructive challenge to staff. Lead the board as a team to ensure effective board performance. Finally remember that you are a first amongst equals – that you are a board member yourself and that you do not have the final say!
Why did you join AoC?
As a new Chair I found that there was limited resources, or organisations that were able to advise on the specific job role. Whilst researching the internet, I came across AoC. As a member I can say that this organisation has been superb and of great benefit to myself. Its two resources, “A Question of Balance” and “A Chair’s Compass”, are excellent reads and give good insight into what being a Chair is all about, with much informative help should one ever get stuck in the minefield of chairing. I wish I had been privy to these two books when I first became Chair.