"All of a sudden it clicked. Involvement is back!"

Wednesday 7th of December 2016

Dean Slavin, Senior Housing Manager at Wythenshawe Community Housing says 'Involvement is back! But did it ever go away?

I’m writing this still whirling from the buzz of our recently held and always inspiring Annual Tenant Conference.  Following the event I always reflect on what it was that made it so successful and the answer is always the same; our residents create the magic simply because here at WCHG, tenants are at the heart of the business.  This year’s theme reflected this in “Customers at the Heart”.  This has never been and never will be just a fancy slogan…  that feeling of celebration is always in the bag; because it’s all about the difference that true coproduction creates

But still this year felt like some extra energy had been injected into the day, it was difficult to pinpoint it down to any one thing, but I knew it was different.  The annual conference to me represents a celebration of the previous 12 months and the start of the next chapter – as always it leaves me feeling energised, refreshed and chomping at the bit to get going.

Back to that feeling of extra energy… Of course some of that can be attributed to the launching of our brand new 2 years Tenant Involvement Strategy, which our involved residents, led by the Chair of Tenant Committee, Eric Smith started to coproduce back in early Spring.  This project launched with myself, Executive Members and 20 residents, taking ourselves away for the weekend and building a robust vision that continues to safeguard our residents’ voice as the centre piece to the success of what we do here – we are fanatical believers and cut no corners!

Our strategy was shaped by over 120 residents in all.  We decided to out of the office and talk to as many residents as possible.  We knocked on doors, talked to customers via our Contact Centre, held tailored events, and visited TARAs.  We found it refreshing, exciting and tenants were clearly engaged.  We learnt a lot!   The future of involvement and engagement is all about getting out there and speaking to tenants where they live! 

A good proportion of our involvement has been based on a traditional, meeting based, structure and it works fantastically well.  But we found this could be strengthened with so much more influence from other tenants by getting out there and capturing as much feedback as possible.

Our new strategy allows us to continue involving tenants as we have before, but also allows us to talk to uninvolved tenants and use that “everyday voice” (as we call it), to help improve services.  By listening to all tenants it enables us to meet our corporate objectives and ensures we have up to date information that we can act upon and respond to. 

There will be a huge focus on getting out in our neighbourhoods and talking to residents and we’ll be increasing our profile on social media.  In short we’ll be meeting all our tenants’ involvement needs, not just a select few.  This is a strategy written by tenants; for tenants and it is important we deliver on their behalf!

The “Our Manchester” City wide strategy is all about having strengths based conversations with as many residents as possible.  This is music to an involvement professional’s ears and we’ve been able to shape our own strategy around this same ethos.

In recent years it’s saddened me to see tenant involvement fall further down the agenda within the housing sector.  Gladly I’ve worked for a landlord in WCHG who has always remained at the forefront of involvement.  The excitement and buzz around involvement is integral to the business and we remain committed to an organisation that works hand in hand with its tenants and residents. 

But nationally is it coming back?  Some great things are happening at the moment.  This year has seen the 4 national tenant organisations launch the Investing in Involvement Statements, centred on making the case for involvement and WCHG are proud to be part of the pilot who worked on these statements.  We’ve also seen the new Tpas National Engagement Standards released!

Our conference is an annual celebration of everything that has been achieved by our tenants and residents, including this year, our CEO, Nigel Wilson and Tenant Committee formally launching our Involvement Strategy.  Also launched was our coproduced Integrated Neighbourhood Management work / Real Benchill.  I look forward to telling you more about this in the future.

Continuing with the celebrations, the Deputy CEO of Manchester City Council, Sara Todd, launched the new City Wide Strategy, “Our Manchester”.   Gill from Tpas introduced the National Engagement Standards to our tenants and we look forward to evidencing how we go above and beyond these standards in Wythenshawe.

Our Service Review Group of tenants also received an accreditation in Scrutiny, awarded by The Scrutiny and Empowerment Partners.  This was clearly the most rewarding aspect of the day!

All of a sudden it clicked.  Involvement is back!  For me it never went away.  But a clear focus regionally and nationally of breaking dependence, doing more for each other and listening to residents more than ever, has created that buzz.  The buzz was back!

Over the next two years we’ll involve more tenants than ever before, see a wider range of involvement across more channels than previously seen. 

I’m excited… so should you be!