Community Investment; Meeting your target but missing the point?

Wednesday 29th of May 2019

High impact community-based practice only works when it's led and driven by communities themselves. Sustaining the impact is much more tricky. Our new associate, Pete Davies talks through the insights that a  new member research project has thrown up.   

A question for those of us working in the field of community investment in social housing;

How sure are you that your strategies, plans and activities are shaped alongside the tenants you’re working for?

Reflecting on 10 years in the profession and a recent survey I undertook for Tpas with over 40 of our members looking into tenant engagement in community investment, I’ve challenged myself and therefore you to answer this question.

A question that I believe is both pertinent and stimulating to those of us who believe that tenants should be at the very heart of community investment and one that’s not so easy for many of us to answer.

It’s acknowledged that impactful community-based practice only works and is sustained when led and driven by communities themselves. Asset based community development (ABCD for short) is built on this principle as are successful community businesses.

The community anchor organisations you work with everyday across the UK are accountable to and shaped by the people they’ve been established to serve and benefit. Without that accountability they’re not rooted in communities and arguably are at risk of ‘standing for nothing and falling for everything’ as Malcolm X put it so well.

Housing providers are changing dramatically and at pace. Tenants appear to be being squeezed to the outer limits of organisations, commercial professionals are being parachuted into executive teams to enable the increasingly digital customer journey and CEO’s worry about community investment offers being too paternalistic in nature as they establish a sharper deal with tenants in the face of financial risks emerging through Universal Credit and Welfare Reform.

Our relationships with tenants are evidently changing yet present wider risks to how and why we work?

If we don’t work alongside tenants through our community investment work is there not a risk that efforts will come and go, perhaps ‘meeting the target but missing the point’ as Cormac Russell, the master of ABCD once posed to me? How can interventions be sustainable without strong evidence of community ownership, capacity building, leadership and advocacy?

Surely, of all the services offered by providers, community investment should be the one most focused on enabling tenants to co-design and where possible co-deliver solutions affecting the communities we serve? It might be that basic principle is an intrinsic given in our work yet ask yourself that question posed at the start of this piece.. how sure are you?

Read more about our Community Development and Community Investment support

About Pete Davies

Pete's a freelance consultant who's recently joined us as our community investment specialist, complimenting his other national Associate roles with the School for Social Entrepreneurs and the National Development Team for Inclusion. Having worked in education, leadership and regeneration, Pete held the lead roles for Neighbourhoods and Communities at Knightstone Housing in Bristol for almost 10 years whilst also chairing a regional fostering panel for the Adolescent and Childhood Trust.