2021 Weston Charity Award winner One Roof Leicester recently completed its Awards experience. Salma Ravat, Manager at the charity, took some time out to talk about her experience.

Group gathering in a garden


What is One Roof Leicester?

One Roof Leicester is a charity. We provide accommodation and support to single people who are homeless in Leicester. We work with EU migrants, destitute refugees, refused asylum seekers and British nationals as well. We provide single room accommodation in shared houses, and then provide people with intense support to help them to move on. If they've got limited eligibility, we try and work with them to get their residency status. When they're ready to move on, we help them to find their permanent home, or as we call it, their forever home, and at that stage we will help them to furnish and prepare their new home so that it's ready to move into - so it's not just an empty shell.

Why did One Roof Leicester apply for a Weston Charity Award?

Because of Covid, we went through transformational change as a charity. We had to completely change how we worked and our projects. Before Covid, we ran a three-month winter night shelter to provide emergency accommodation for rough sleepers. We also got funding to start a nine-month static shelter so we would have an all-year-round provision. But because of Covid, the shelters had to close and the guidance that came from central government and public health was that communal living wasn't safe and was probably not going to be safe for quite a long time. We had to make some really tough decisions around what we do instead. And because we already had four houses, it seemed a really natural progression to try and increase the number of bed spaces within the housing provision. But that meant that we had to then have a whole new staffing structure, we had to go back and check all our finances and do a new financial plan.

It just changed so rapidly and that first year was very much around, “Okay, let's just get on with making all these changes, let's try and find more new houses, let’s do a huge restructuring of the staffing, let's go back to some of our funders and ask them if we can repurpose the funding away from the shelter into developing the housing project.” So, we were just getting on with it. But towards the end of that year, we said, “Right, okay, what next? How do we embed these changes properly? What do we want to look like?” And that's when we decided to apply to the Weston Charity Awards. We knew we’d gone through this change and we needed support to really evaluate that change and have some critical partners who could really challenge the changes that we've gone through, and what we wanted to look like when we would come out of it. That was real motivation. If we wanted a new strategy, we needed external help to do that.

How did participating in the Pilotlight 360 programme benefit One Roof Leicester?

When we started Pilotlight 360, I was quite unsure about whether we would benefit from it. Obviously, the initial meeting was very much around trying to find out about us as a charity and us getting to know the Pilotlighters. But actually, as we moved through the programme, we made some changes internally. We encouraged more staff to attend the meetings with the Pilotlighters. We already had buy-in from the trustees, but I kept talking about the Pilotlight 360 programme at every trustee meeting, telling them about what we were doing and that encouraged more trustees to come on board. By about meeting four, we actually had quite a good number of staff and trustees attending meetings. And that for me has resulted in the amount of work that we've done, and the change that we've made.

Overall, the Pilotlight 360 programme for us has been absolutely phenomenal. It's been such a positive experience. The Pilotlighters and the trustees and the staff team over the ten months have just become this one team and there's so much trust between us. And mutual respect. So, when you get challenged, and you do get challenged a lot by Pilotlighters, they really do take you apart and put you back together again, but it's in a very positive, constructive way. It's not to catch you out. It's not to make your life difficult. It really is to try and bring the best out of you and for us, I think everybody agrees that it's been an amazing process.

Personally, the Weston Charity Awards has really helped me to develop as a leader. I think before we started this process, I didn't probably appreciate the amount of input and value that the rest of the team could put into the strategic planning process. But having them involved in all the different stages and come along to all the site visits as well, or as we call them the “away days” with the Pilotlighters, they have managed to bring so much knowledge and information into the process. I think it's made me realise how important it is to have everybody on board and to listen to the different viewpoints and perspectives and their knowledge and experience as well. And that actually has, for me, made the strategy much more robust - and not just a robust document - but it's something that everybody is now aligned with. So, everybody is on the same page in terms of our strategy.

What did you work on during the programme?

The Weston Charity Awards has helped us to rewrite our strategic plan. We've now got a new vision and mission and a very clear idea of what our journey is going to be over the next five years. It's provided a lot of clarity to everybody on the team.

Before we started the Weston Charity Awards and Pilotlight 360 programme, we had lots of different ideas and different people within the charity wanted to do different things. Especially because of Covid. We took on new things and we stopped some other things. Now everybody is really clear about where we're going over the next five years and that's the main thing that it's provided, that level of clarity for everyone. But at the same time, we've now got a new five-year fundraising plan and new KPIs. I don't think we would have all of that if we didn't have the Weston Charity Award and worked on the Pilotlight 360 programme.

I've just studied for a degree, and I just did a thesis on strategic planning, and I spoke to a charity who have never had a strategic plan and they were all over the place. I told them about the Pilotlight 360 programme and recommended that they apply for it because I felt that it would really benefit them. And I got news yesterday that they've applied, and they are going to be in the next cohort. So that's just such a positive thing to have happened.

I want to thank the team at Weston Charity Awards, but especially the Pilotlight 360 programme team, for all the support that they've given to us and all the insight and all the challenging that we've had because without it we wouldn't be the charity we are today. It's been an absolutely amazing process and honestly, I would highly recommend it to everyone. Even though it's difficult at times, it's really worth it in the end.

This is an edited transcription of an audio interview.

Related Charities

Listen to the full audio of this interview along with testimonials from Hijinx Theatre and Young Asian Voices on completing their Weston Charity Awards experience: 

Audio file


If you lead a charity based in the North or Midlands of England or Wales, you too could be eligible to apply to the Weston Charity Awards.  

Young Asian Voices members