Meet Maria Morgan, Executive Director of Kineara, one of the seven ventures on the first cohort of our Reimagining Rent programme which is supporting these innovations working to make the private rented sector work better for vulnerable people. We talk with Maria about how she came to set up Kineara and how the Reimagining Rent programme is helping them to achieve their aim to prevent homelessness by supporting people who are at risk of eviction to stay in their home with their Rent Support Programme.
Tell me a bit about Kineara, what do you do and what makes you unique?
Well, the name Kineara is a combination of two words that encompasses where we come from and the ethos we work within: Kin, denoting family and putting family first, and Eara, a Gaelic term meaning from the East, which refers to our beginnings in the east of London.
What we do is intensive but purposeful. We work with families and individuals, providing holistic support and helping to mobilise services around them. We aim to establish meaningful connections between them and the services they need, whether they be related to housing, education or employment so that once Kineara has left we can ensure that the change is sustainable.
Since setting up in 2012, we’ve supported nearly one hundred households to stay in their homes and avoid eviction with our Rent Support Programme.
And what were you doing before you started Kineara? What inspired you to set it up?
I’m a social worker by trade. I left social work to work on a Family Intervention Project programme, 12-14 month intensive whole intervention programme, with Tower Hamlets Council. I was attracted to the programme because it reminded me of what social work is supposed to be about; being hands-on and out there and facilitating real change in behaviour.
It’s that project which inspired Kineara. It came from a chat with my manager at the time, Nikki Bradley and Andrea Baker (Poplar Harca), about creating a shorter intervention looking specifically at rent arrears, I went away from that conversation and created the RSP (Rent Support Programme).
We trialled the programme in 2011 and it seemed to work. Most people had paid back some if not all of their rent arrears. Due to the success of RSP, we decided to roll it out into a social enterprise, adapting the project to create a shorter term, 10-week form of family intervention to try to avoid housing tenants getting into rent arrears.
Although at the time I didn’t have any experience in business, in 2012 I become the Director of Kineara and it became its own entity in 2012 and was made into a viable social enterprise. The Bromley by Bow Centre’s Beyond Business Programme, supported us to develop the idea, write a business plan and pitch the idea to investors. Of the hundreds that apply to the programme every year, Kineara was shortlisted and given £10,000 to get the project off the ground.
What have been some of the biggest challenges for you personally, and for the organisation, so far?
I really value and appreciate grant funding. It is important that social enterprises and charities have access to financial support to work with society most complex challenges. Organisations like Kineara, that help support and empower people, who in turn help strengthen their own communities is how you sustain growth in every capacity.
However, I didn’t want Kineara to be solely dependent on grants, and developing a social enterprise that isn’t, can be challenging. But if you want something to last you need to think of ways to become more self-reliant. This is an on-going journey for Kineara.
So is your ambition to scale Kineara?
We’re still working in Tower Hamlets and in Hackney with our education programme. But we’re now also working with Southern Housing Group who have houses all over London. We’re branching out year by year.
We ultimately want the Rent Support Programme to run across the country. We want it to be in minds of housing associations and private landlords that evictions are costly and that this intervention can be both cost-saving as well as helping to tackle the homelessness crisis.
You’ve just finished workshop six of the Reimagining Rent programme where you learnt about finance, operations and governance. How has it been so far?
It’s been such a good programme. It’s been challenging to have to think about the organisation in a more theoretical way and ask ourselves important questions such as how we measure impact? How do we position Kineara?
We are reimagining Kineara and that’s really exciting!
So how have you been reimagining Kineara?
We’ve been rethinking our offer to the private rental sector in particular. Why would a private landlord pay for the service Kineara provides? How can we connect to them and starting to think about our offer?
We’re also been thinking about how to improve the connections between the private sector and local authorities. For example, at the moment, if someone is about to be evicted by their private landlord, they won’t be signposted to their local authority. There is a gap in communication and we’re thinking about what we can do to try and lessen that gap and stop the revolving doors of people coming into temporary housing and prevent rough sleeping.
This week you were also introduced to your mentor, Susan Aktemel from Homes for Good. Susan spoke to the whole cohort at the last workshop about her experience of scaling her innovation in the Private Rented Sector. What do you hope to get from your relationship with your mentor?
I’m excited to be paired with Susan. This is a great opportunity to talk to someone working in the same space but much further on in their project. I have loads of ideas for the future and it would be great to get her advice on which areas to pursue.
Would you recommend the Reimagining Rent programme to a potential applicant?
Of course I would recommend it. It’s so good. It’s golden! I just want to absorb as much from it as possible.
It also provides a great opportunity to connect and debate with others working with similar challenges. It’s great to come away from the hustle and bustle, to an oasis almost, where we are given the time to really think about what we’re working on. It’s been everything I hoped for and more!
Reimagining Rent is working with Kineara and six other initiatives to strengthen their business models, demonstrate their impact and grow their potential to scale.
The programme launched in London in autumn 2017 and will be delivered in other areas of the UK in subsequent years. Applications are now closed, however, if you have any questions or would like to know more about the programme please contact the team on firstname.lastname@example.org
The Young Foundation’s Reimagining Rent programme is being funded by the Nationwide Foundation, a charitable funder aiming to increase the availability of decent affordable homes for people in housing need.