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News & opinion

7 MAR 2019

Changing the world

We meet RICS professionals who, in the true spirit of working for the public advantage, are helping to make the world a better place.

Natasha Collins MRICS

Mental health ambassador, Lionheart

It was failing her APC that started Natasha Collins on the path to joining LionHeart, the support and counselling service for RICS professionals. Hers was a classic case of overload. "I was working full-time, doing my master's and my APC, and training for a half marathon," she says. "At the same time there was a lot going on in my personal life, including trying to buy my first property."

Something had to give, and unfortunately she ended up not passing the APC. "I thought my world was going to end," says Collins. "RICS recommended I talk to someone at LionHeart. I was allocated a counsellor and we had phone sessions at lunchtimes."

Six months later Collins passed her APC. "Two days beforehand, after panicking that I hadn't done enough again, the counsellor advised me to be kind to myself and trust that I had done enough work, and suggested I did something for myself instead. So I went to a spa. By the time I got to my final assessment I felt prepared and ready to pass."

So impressed was Collins with the difference the counselling made, that she suggested to LionHeart they find a way to pass on what she'd learnt to others. Since October 2016 she has been running seminars called "Supercharge Your Wellbeing", aimed primarily at those studying for their APC.

After working as a commercial surveyor specialising in landlord-tenant issues, Collins set up her own business, NC Real Estate, an online members club for landlords and property investors to learn best practice and achieve their property goals. She also lectures at the University College of Estate Management in Reading, as well as running the seminars for LionHeart. Since summer 2017 she has added "Boosting Your Resilience" seminars aimed at managing stress, for surveyors at all career stages.

"Our industry has a culture of long hours and pressure to turn work around quickly and sometimes expectations are unrealistic," she says. "People don't feel in control of their work, which is when stress happens." One of Collins' methods is to split people into twos and threes and get them to offer one another strategies. "It helps them see things from a different perspective," she says. "People don't want to talk about stress with their colleagues; the seminars give them a safe space so they can talk about what's going on."

Natasha Collins
Natasha Collins MRICS

Diane Dumashie FRICS

Economic development and land regeneration surveyor, and member, RICS Governing Council

Diane Dumashie juggles her time between the UK and international assignments, particularly in Africa. "Wherever I am, land governance matters to people's livelihoods," she says. "The majority of the world's poor don't have secure rights to land and property."

Understanding, clarifying and enforcing land rights has a powerful impact on all members of society, especially women. It creates incentives that enhance economic growth and sustainable development. Between 70% and 90% of land in Africa may not be registered in formal land title systems. In traditional communities the leaders will grant parcels of land to people, or agree where they can build a house, but if nobody's registering the land, then there is no formal security of tenure.

Much of Dumashie's work is getting people to the point where they can access fair systems for registering land. Working with international development agencies such as the World Bank and UN-Habitat, as vice-president of FIG (International Federation of Surveyors) she leads the FIG Africa Regional Network, for which she has designed and delivered training workshops for land professionals. "Over the seven years I have run the workshops we've had 250 attendees from 12 African countries," she says. "The success of this network has also influenced African member associations with ideas and tools for the development of land professionals in their own countries."

Ensuring that women have secure rights to land is essential in addressing gender inequality because women face legal or social barriers to their land rights in more than half the world. "In many areas of sub-Saharan Africa women can't inherit, so if they are widowed or 'divorced' by their husbands they have nothing, and can't go back to their family land because it has been reallocated."

Dumashie coordinated international collaboration with women-led grassroots organisations and land professionals to develop a tool called the Gender Evaluation Criteria matrix. This is used to assess whether laws and policies respond to the needs of both women and men, and has helped individuals and communities engage with governments to secure their land rights.

One example is a women-led community in Recife, Brazil, which was located in a zone without formal planning. After using the matrix they were able to persuade the government to recognise the settlement, enabling them to start formalising their land occupancy. "Amazingly, this was announced at a UN-Habitat International Forum in Rio," says Dumashie. The issue of certificate of title to the women has now begun.

Diane Dumashie
Diane Dumashie FRICS

Kate Charrington AssocRICS

Surveying vlogger

Kate Charrington is passionate about her job as an associate residential surveyor with Countrywide in Surrey. She is also a passionate vlogger. She combines the two very effectively, producing videos about her role that are helping to bring a new generation to the profession. "Young people use social media. If you're not on social media then you can't reach them," she asserts flatly. "Not enough young people understand what a surveyor does, so vlogging is a very good way of showing them."

Charrington left university, where she studied for an arts degree, with no thoughts on a career in surveying. "When I graduated I went into estate agency and met surveyors during the course of my work," she says. "I thought what they did sounded really interesting. Luckily, Countrywide enables people to join a graduate programme if they have property experience. The firm had a lot of older surveyors approaching retirement and needed new people."

She is RICS Matrics Chair in Surrey, looking after members new to the profession, giving her another reason to vlog. Her videos appear on LinkedIn and she recently released her first on YouTube for International Women's Day, encouraging more women in the profession to become visible themselves.

"Only 14% of surveyors are women so we really need to address this," she says. "When people think of a surveyor they automatically imagine a man – in fact I have gone to jobs where homeowners have opened the door and said 'I was expecting a surveyor' or 'I was expecting a man'. The way to change this is by making women surveyors visible, which is where vlogging really helps."

Charrington is delighted that people are engaging with her videos. "I get 10-20 people a month messaging me asking for my views, asking me about my job or surveying in general," she says. "Vlogging has also boosted my confidence 100%, and raising my profile is definitely good for my career."

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Kate Charrington
Kate Charrington AssocRICS