16 Mar 2021

Are you really listening?

That’s the most important question for me and it always comes back to our residents. We’re here to build safe and secure homes and neighbourhoods, to support with health and wellbeing in all ages and to make sure that voices are heard when decisions are being made at every level. The key thread of the Social Housing White Paper, the charter for social housing residents, published last year, reflects on tenant voice and how that voice can strengthen the impact housing associations can have.

COVID-19 has challenged us all in so many ways, not only in relation to health and mental health, but in terms of using technology to communicate effectively. The lack of human interaction has been tough, nothing beats seeing the whites of people’s eyes in real life or those mini conversations that can spark wider research or a change in process or policy. Engagement like everything else has had to adapt. However, our commitment and enthusiasm remain the same – we’re here to create a dialogue with residents. The ‘Together with Tenants - lessons from the early adopter programme’ report published last year in conjunction with the National Housing Federation, found that ‘effective engagement is not necessarily about having a large variety of ways to interact with the organisation, but rather that the organisation is genuine in their approach to engagement and has the right intentions.’

Having worked in resident engagement, tenant involvement, empowerment or whichever term you’d prefer to use (which there are many!) for a number of years I’ve seen the impact of the resident voice but also the many challenges within organisations to make those voices heard. Why does a resident want to know about grounds maintenance contracts or what type of windows are going to replace their current ones or their preferred method of communication around fire safety?

Because it affects them and they should be involved, if they chose to be. Who better to give your business feedback than the people using it every day? 

Arnstein’s ‘ladder of participation’, a citizen involvement theory developed in 1969, is still relevant today, with the notion that involvement is a choice with different levels and with varying amounts of commitment. We need to empower customers to feel they can feedback on our services and offer valid involvement which can lead to improvements and changes.

If you’re interested and inspired by the power of resident feedback, please join fellow CIHNW regional group member, Kate Henderson and I for a virtual event held on Microsoft Teams on 31 March at 10.00am – Amplifying the resident voice. Are you really listening? We are keen for any customer-facing housing professionals in all departments to join us, at all levels. Come along and hear from two forward thinking organisations – Onward Homes and Stockport Homes - who are really using customer feedback in the best way, by acting upon it to improve their businesses.

Written by Issie Howard

Issie Howard is a partnerships manager at Housing 21, and is a member of the CIH North West regional group.