Getting it right
We have a social imperative to invest in the environment in which people live.
The key to any successful housing provider is in realising that building good quality homes is not enough if we are to create thriving communities where residents want to live. We have a social imperative to invest in the environment in which people live – amenities, opportunities, initiatives to improve health and wellbeing – and support for residents in terms of employability, training and experience.
Yet, different communities have different requirements; delivering the most effective support means knowing exactly what individual communities need.
This requires residents to get involved in decision making, and to make sure that they know how they can contribute to the success of our organisation’s investments and then enabling them to do so.
For example, we encourage residents to work together to set up a Residents Association in their community. These associations aim to promote and protect the interests of those living in an area by encouraging residents to communicate, take ownership and deal with issues occurring on their estate. Enabling these associations to run effectively means organising training sessions for members aimed at helping to improve their understanding of the role, which in turn increases their ability to affect change in an area.
When community investment is successful, we see:
- Fly tipping and anti-social behaviour reduced, often a result of working closely with our involved residents such as our Community Champions, Resident Associations and Resident Panels.
- Mental and physical health improved, by Resident Associations supporting ideas such as the creation of an allotment, our community Cafes running drop-in sessions for men to socialise, and organising monthly trips and tea and coffee mornings for the over 50s.
- Employment opportunities increased via initiatives such as our two Community Cafés and Employment, Support and Training team who provide residents with volunteering and work-experience opportunities, self-employment training and CV writing to name a few.
- Residents who are better able to sustain their tenancies as a result of support in anything from money management to help with food and furniture provision.
Hard to reach
While community involvement is ideal, getting residents engaged is often challenging. We want to be investing in the right project at the right time so that residents get the maximum impact from an initiative. This means reaching out to our residents in as many ways as possible.
Our work is split into two teams – the Resident Involvement team and the Community Investment team.
The Resident Involvement team ensures residents are involved in some decisions that affect them; where possible residents are our first port of call when considering making changes to something like our payments system or Anti-Social Behaviour Policy.
The Community Investment team undertakes research that informs our decision making. In the past we have used census data and national data, but we realised that in some cases, we were delivering what we thought a community might want rather than what they actually needed.
To avoid this, we now gather our own data by directly speaking with our residents via:
- Door knocking – often results in detailed conversations about needs and issues.
- Email – provides detailed feedback and analysis by looking at open rates to see what people are actually interested in and then building on this to improve engagement.
- Resident panels – provide an opportunity for residents to meet with staff and provide their perspective on the quality and value for money of services provided by Radian.
- Resident Associations – allow residents to get together and discuss their needs and decide on how best to resolve these.
- Community Champions – put forward their ideas to help resolve or reduce common community issues such as anti-social behaviour and fly-tipping.
Making a difference
By delivering projects that a community feels they need, we find that more residents get involved in, and benefit from, the investment, improving their wellbeing, life chances and opportunities.
Community involvement initiatives such as Residents’ Associations, community champions, residents’ panels and face-to-face research result in community-needed projects. These projects, which could include allotments, cafés, food clubs and wellbeing initiatives that increase resident’s happiness, improve their environment as well as their physical and mental health and provide better employment rates and opportunities.
We must keep striving to increase engagement levels. Sometimes people are not aware of how they can get involved and often it’s the smaller things, which can be actioned quickly, that make the biggest difference.
– Steph Dutton, Community Investment Team Leader