28 Apr 2022

By giving our tenants a voice, we bring a new meaning to the term ‘tenant engagement’

We do things a little different at Circle VHA and we are extremely passionate about our tenant first approach and strategy. When we look at the ‘why’ we do what we do, our vision is to make a real difference by providing quality homes for people in housing need. A home is not simply a house, it’s more than bricks and mortar, it’s where families grow up, experience memories, it should be a happy, safe, warm and comfortable environment and be part of a community that is welcoming and offers supports where and when they are needed.

As tenant engagement officer (TEO), my role is crucial to the evolution of Circle’s engagement with its tenants. We firmly believe how we interact with our tenants is of fundamental importance. In November 2021, we launched our Tenant Communication and Engagement Strategy (TES). What made this strategy so unique is that at the core of its focus group, alongside staff, was our tenants, who assisted with the development of the strategy and the creation of TAG (Tenant Engagement Group). TAG is a core group of tenants who are the voice for all our tenants, bringing to the forefront ideas and suggestions as to what Circle can be doing to do ‘more’ for our tenants.

One of the actions listed in TES was to hire a dedicated TEO to support the overall goal of tenant engagement and improved communication between tenants and Circle as an organisation. I clearly remember my interview, nervously I virtually entered the room to be greeted by members of TAG on the interview panel, after all, the appointed TEO would be their go to person, the someone who was going to assist them in the implementation of the goals and actions that they and their fellow tenants has set, so of course they deserved a place on the panel, a voice, an opinion…

My role, as TEO, is to listen and to clearly hear the voices of our tenants by outlining various opportunities for tenants to get involved, to ensure that they feel heard and together we work through solutions to issues, plan for community improvements, brainstorm ideas and much more, ensuring each and every time that every tenant feels welcome, to join any of the tenant opportunities listed in the Tenant Engagement Strategy, to not be afraid to have a voice and to understand that at Circle, we genuinely listen and deliver on our #WeHear values, Willingness, Empowerment, Honesty, Excellence, Accountability and Respect for all.

When thinking about AHB’s historically, policies and procedures come to mind. Yes strategies, goals and values are central to how we work, but when it comes to tenant engagement, we are bringing a new meaning to the term. We’ve opened up a direct line to the team here at Circle, by opening the lines of communication and getting first hand feedback directly from tenants, this has allowed us to build incredible trust and relationships, enable real change within the heart of communities and has allowed our tenants to become an extension of our team, they are our True Housing Heroes.

A tenant once said to me in passing “I am here getting involved in tenant engagement for the future of my child. I want social housing to have a better system when she is older”.  The comment highlighted the commitment tenants have to assisting us in improving our system as they strive for a better quality of life for the future. We are allowing tenants to be proactive in their communities, knowing they have our support every step of the way. It’s part of our culture here at Circle. We don’t always get it right, but with the help of our tenants feedback, we are trying our best to improve each day. 

Circle VHA are headline sponsors of the All-Ireland Housing Awards

The All-Ireland Housing awards will take place at a brand-new venue, the Europa Hotel, Belfast, on Friday 27 May 2022 and will allow us to celebrate the sector's successes in person. Let’s recognise the fantastic work and inspirational people seen in communities every day. The evening will include a drinks reception, followed by a three-course dinner and award ceremony.

Written by Claire McDonnell

Claire McDonnell is a tenant engagement officer at Circle VHA