Nivene Powell, head of communities at developer EcoWorld London, on how she got started in property, her top TV and book picks, the historical figure she’d like to befriend and how she’d spend a million pounds.

Nivene Powell headshot

Nivene Powell

How did you join the property industry?

Growing up, I was surrounded by social housing. It was hard to ignore how much it could be improved, which made me decide to start working in property. Since then, I have always chosen companies with social value at their core.

What does your job entail?

It is my job to ensure every one of our schemes and the nearly 5,000 new homes we are delivering offer real benefits to the local community. We engage with the community at the start of each scheme to find out what changes they want to see in their area and how we can help deliver that.

Aside from communities, we work closely in partnership with local councils and housing associations to help them meet their objectives. We describe these relationships as civic partnerships, as we see them as genuine and long term.

My job also includes sourcing volunteering opportunities for staff, engaging with local schools and selecting where charitable funds will go to have the biggest impact locally.

What do you like most about the property industry?

The property industry has a direct impact on people’s lives. Through social value, it can have enormous positive benefits for every member of a community.

And what do you dislike most about it?

When the above does not happen, communities are not consulted and there are missed opportunities to improve their lives for the long term.

What would you change about the property industry?

I would like to see more government schemes that support the creation of better-quality social housing.

What barriers or challenges do you feel you have overcome?

As a black woman working in an industry dominated by white males, it has been hard at times not having role models I can relate to. That is why I am so passionate about elevating people of diverse backgrounds into senior roles.

What are you most proud of in your career?

My proudest moment at EcoWorld London was launching a pre-employment training scheme at our Kew Bridge site in Hounslow to combat rising unemployment during Covid-19. Our scheme gives unemployed residents of Hounslow the chance to get the certifications and experience needed to work on construction sites through a training programme worth £2,000 per person. So far, 60 people have completed the course – earning 480 qualifications in total. Of those, 36 have since secured long-term employment – more than half our graduates.

What do you value in people?

Honesty, integrity, empathy and loyalty, as well as an understanding of what valuing individuals means in reality.

What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?

Be prepared to face challenges and be open to learning. Embrace and build on your transferable skills. Believe in yourself, be confident and stand up for what you believe is right for the business.