The language of engagement is changing #tpasconf17

Friday 17th of March 2017

Oh Nottingham I miss you!

I am sat writing this from my office in Manchester at Tpas Towers. Now usually I love both Manchester (rain and all) and being sat at my desk doing all things engagement.  But today I feel out of sorts, restless and distracted.

Why? Because I am missing the fantastic energy, fun, buzz, positivity and excitement that was the Monday and Tuesday of this week at our Engaging Communities Conference in Nottingham.

What a two days shared with over 100 tenant and community professionals.  It was tiring, it was hard work but more than all that it was incredibly uplifting and caught the mood of positive change perfectly.

To be fair that change started way before this week when we took the decision to rename the event from “TP Workers “ to “Engaging Communities”. Far better reflects where Tpas is at now and the work that housing staff are now doing; working to engage everyone in their community be that tenants, residents, leaseholders, private renters and key partners.

And so what went on at the event that made it so wonderful to be part of?

Well quality discussions, learning and workshops are always the main part of a successful event. We kicked off proceedings with two “world cafe” style discussion sessions. One on tenant engagement and one on community engagement. We welcomed Dr Roz Fox from Manchester Metropolitan who gave us all new  food for thought whist reinforcing the principles that all of us know already. For engagement to be effective you have to go direct to the community, really hear what they want and use the strengths they have.

It was great to see how people were embracing change. One of the sessions was looking how the rent cut has been seen as positive for that organisation as it meant they had to refocus their engagement activities in a different way and are now delivering engagement better and more widely than ever. It’s important to share and celebrate that resilience in the sector I believe.

And we had the wonderful  Alison Inman speaking at the evening. Standing between tired conference delegates and their food is never an easy task but Alison had us all laughing and crying in equal measure as she talked about how we should all try and be that little bit kinder to each other. How UK housing needs to remember to be that bit kinder. It really resonated with us all.

For a Monday evening we then all sure knew how to have a good time of dancing, drinking and dining ... but maybe that’s for another blog....

Back to Tuesday

What a delight to welcome Nick Murphy, Chief Executive of Nottingham City Homes as key note speaker. What I think you always want in a keynote speaker is someone that challenges you, teaches you and inspires you to do more. Nick delivered that in spades! Nick heads up a 29,000 homes organisation which has tenant and community at its heart. NCH is pioneering, innovative and clear on its approach to risk and efficiency yet totally combines that with a relentless focus on people and what a social landlord can do; enabling communities to achieve more.

Nick also made a pledge to the conference. That he would do more in his roles on national policy and stakeholder forums to raise the profile of community engagement. That’s a result I’d say!

Proof of change

If anyone wanted proof then that engagement is changing at pace then a quick look at the workshop programme would have told you that Tpas, the housing world and the language has changed. We saw sessions on behavioural theory in engagement, utilising data and customer insight, digital and “gameification”, relevance for the future, multiple approaches to scrutiny and community led regeneration.  It was exciting and fast paced.

But you know, in the end, a great conference is about the people that attend isn’t it. Being with people who want to do work that helps others. I saw amazing energy and creativity. I saw positivity and resilience.  Yet overall I saw a thriving network of engagement professionals, who too often get overlooked in housing. A profession who remain committed to delivering the objectives of their employer whilst delivering the best services for their communities they work in.

It was just brilliant to be around people who really “get” what housing should be about – building new homes yes, absolutely, but building great communities at the same time too.

Read the tweets from the conference

Take a look at the conference in pictures