No going back – how engagement has changed forever!
Tuesday 20th of April 2021
Head of business services, Louise Thompson reflects on what Tpas members were talking about at our recent national member event.
Having worked in tenant engagement for many many many years, it’s safe to say I have seen my fair share of change. Whether it’s a new approach that was going to change engagement forever, (tenant compacts anyone??) to old favourites that are given a whizzy new name (think partnership working and co-production), I have embraced it all and rolled with it.
But this last 12 months, wow! Unsurprisingly, I have never experienced anything like it and probably never will do again. Two giant thunderbolts, in the form of a global pandemic, and the White Paper have created a seismic shift in engagement as we know it, and there’s no going back.
So what are these changes?
Well, this is the exact question that we explored at our at national members event in April (you can listen back to the session here) and we concluded that there’s been three huge changes
First up and probably the most obvious change, is to how we “do” engagement. It’s gone from minimal digital engagement, to full on, totally out there digital! The switch has been pretty much wholesale too with Local Authorities, Housing Associations and Tenant led organisations all making the switch. When it comes to tenants leading the way, Riverside Customer Voice is a great example, and it was fantastic to have Vic Andrews, Chair of this group, describe their digital approach at our national event. Do check them out on Facebook.
The second big change is the fall-out from the digital switch. On the one hand we heard positive outcomes, with PA Housing observing a younger demographic now getting involved, and also Derwent Living talking about how recruitment to their residents’ complaints panel was massively oversubscribed. But on the other hand, we also heard concerns about those residents, who aren’t digitally enabled, being lost voices, which is clearly a huge concern. But the good news from our landlord members is that they are already working to improve digital inclusion with training and IT loan schemes on offer. It was great to hear that face to face community engagement is still thriving, with residents from Fulmer Close Residents Association in Richmond highlighting some of the great work have been doing in their community over the last 12 months .
So to the final change. Well this has to be the rapid, maybe even meteoric, rise of the profile of engagement within the UK housing sector. The white paper put it front and centre, and we now see the sector moving on from just talking about the need for meaningful engagement (some have been doing that for years right!) to actually making it happen, knowing that if they don’t the Regulator and the Ombudsman will be breathing down their neck! Engagement as a housing profession is also, at last, getting the respect it deserves. Hands up if you’ve recently seen many more jobs in engagement, and even more striking, is that that these jobs are at last paying the same salaries as similar roles in income collection, repairs or voids!
Overall then, the session captured a real positive vibe from members, with most welcoming big reach, digital engagement mixing it up with the traditional stuff. (One of our members described this as tradigital, which I love) and many agreed that engagement was in a better position than ever to deliver business improvements, community support and landlord accountability.
It would be great to get your thoughts on this too so why not take 10 minutes to complete our 2021 member survey and give us your views on where engagement is at, and how Tpas can support you in the coming 12 months.