What should drive community investment?

Wednesday 10th of February 2021

Tpas associate, Pete Davies shares his opinion on what should drive community investment and talks more about his new, 'hybrid' role. 

Two years ago, working as a freelancer for the first time after 9 years in housing management and community empowerment, Tpas gave me the opportunity to survey our members to understand their needs and priorities around community investment to enable us to shape and offer new services, products and opportunities.

As I spoke to almost 50 participants a unique role emerged in smaller, more modest scale organisations of up to 10-15,000 homes, where colleagues in middle management roles are leading service offers incorporating both community investment and tenant engagement.

We noted how this ‘hybrid’ role is often split into two separate roles in larger organisations, how one role might look externally with the other internally and potentially how they might compete for customers, position, impact and kudos.

After delivering a diverse range of freelance work over 18 months, the impact of CV19 moved me towards securing a role as Involvement & Communities Manager with Selwood Housing which owns fast approaching 7,000 homes across West Wiltshire, Mendip and Bath & North East Somerset and suddenly realised I was taking on this hybrid role for the first time.

Our small team sits firmly in the middle of the business and our strategic priority is without doubt supporting our Scrutiny Team to review services from our customers perspective whilst facilitating a range of customer involvement projects aimed at putting the voices and views of customers at the heart of what we do. So where does that leave community investment?

My view, and it’s one shaped after just 4 months in the job, is that community investment for organisations of our scale and geographical scope must be focused on enabling and investing in the efforts of others as opposed to leading ambitious programmes of work.

We’re working to clarify our position within local community networks, offering grant funding generated from social value income, in support of projects that improve our customers communities and futures, whilst also offering colleagues the opportunity to resolve business priorities through community led solutions.

Yet as customer involvement presents an increasingly demanding programme of work through the year ahead, we progress our community investment offer with caution and clarity.

The role takes corporate acumen, community sensitivity and an asset-based mindset where customers are considered equals and potential colleagues whilst all colleagues are considered potential commissioners of impactful projects and processes.

By looking inwards, outwards and upwards for direction and input, the hybrid is a special, challenging and fulfilling role hidden away in the heart of our sector and one that I’m relishing.