Patron Profile: Olivia Harris

In our latest Patron Profile, Dolphin Living Chief Executive, Olivia Harris shares her motivations for being a member of the Patrons Network, and how the industry as a whole can broaden its understanding of youth homelessness in order to make a bigger impact.

What motivates you to support LandAid as a member of the Patrons Network?

In my day job, at Dolphin Living, I see the value that our own external networks bring to us; they provide opportunities, ideas, and a wider spectrum of advice than exists in our small organisation. I benefit from that advice and those opportunities for Dolphin Living, so want to pay that forward.

We and LandAid both work in housing, which brings an obvious alignment to our partnership. More recently, I’ve started to understand just how close to homelessness so many people are – people who you wouldn’t think were.  It’s not as remote an issue as we might have previously thought – it’s happening on all of our doorsteps. If the current economic climate and the cost of living crisis are difficult for people who have full time jobs, it’s even worse for young people who don’t have stable, existing support networks already. The whole thing is just terrifying.


Why does the Patrons Network in particular appeal to you as a means to support LandAid to end youth homelessness?

The Patrons Network gives me an opportunity to hear directly from the most senior people within LandAid’s broad base of support about the impact LandAid is achieving and how I can help. As a Patron, I can be more active, and open to opportunities, such as the recent article in Inside Housing which we collaborated on. Membership of the Network encourages me to think about all of this more, and inspires ideas for how I can support.


Referencing your recent article in Inside Housing, HOW can the real estate industry broaden its understanding of homelessness? And once this happens – what is its role in tackling the issue?

In trying to understand the residents of Dolphin Living’s projects, I do my research; I attend talks, engage with Local Authority housing teams, and read a lot of the research coming out of think-tanks like the Resolution Foundation. People need to realise that homelessness is a reality for so many people. This isn’t just something that happens to somebody else. To have empathy we need to have understanding.

Through the Real Estate sector, we can take a multifaceted approach to solving some of these problems and creating real social impact. As well as the developments and communities it creates, this can also be achieved through its approach to employment – eliminating zero-hour contracts, for example, which make it very difficult for people to gain tenancies. The sector can also look to do more to look after the tenants within the buildings it provides. The other thing in our power to create are the opportunities for meanwhile-uses which can support people who are experiencing homelessness.

All of this is about embedding social purpose across your businesses – not just doing one thing on your company’s charity day, but adding value to your business through the impact you can create. Not just in pounds but in social capital as well.


What role can LandAid Patrons play in boosting this understanding?

The Patrons are all senior in their organisations; they are voices that are listened to –  within their own organisations, at the conferences they speak at, and through the PR platforms they have.

We have a voice and an opportunity to speak out. As well as promoting ourselves and our businesses, we can use that voice to promote what LandAid does, and how the industry can benefit through its work.


What, in the future, would you like to get out of being a member of the Patron’s Network? How would you like to see it grow, and what extra potential do you see the Network having?

What’s been interesting, is hearing what others in the network have been doing to promote LandAid. I’d would like to find more opportunities to see what others have done, and are doing, to be able to replicate those ideas across the network.

There’s so much potential in the network. LandAid has created a group of strong advocates for what it does and the impact it has. It’s not just about corporate donations, but about what the network can do with its time to amplify that impact even more.