Our second Resident Ambassador, Val lives in the North East of England and has been working alongside her housing association and for national resident boards for years. She came forward as a Resident Ambassador for the Resident Voice Index™ project and describes how resident engagement takes dedication and partnership working.
The relationship that Val has with her housing provider is a strong one. “We don’t feel it’s us and the staff, we feel as if we are a team, we work together. If there’s something new coming out, they’ll come to us and go, ‘We’re thinking of doing this. What are your thoughts on it? Do you think this is where we should be going?‘
“The CEO of our housing provider comes and gives talks at our resident groups and goes over what’s happened in the last six months. They say the good stuff, but also the things they’ve not quite got right. It’s honest and open. If other residents don’t get this chance to speak to the board, they should. They’ve got to have more of a say.“
“The more people that have a say in things, the more people like the government will listen to us. If residents sing off the same hymn sheet, we can lobby, saying ‘there’s a load of us here, look at this law, we think this should change.’ You have a bigger voice if groups from around the country and other organisations join together.“Val, Resident Ambassador
How digital has changed resident engagement
For Val, digital involvement from home has made things less formal and more understanding of people’s lives. Resident engagement is now easier than ever. “At every meeting that we have, we have the etiquette slide that comes up. We all agree with the agenda and what everybody’s alright with.
“Sometimes when we are speaking, people have got the children there and they say they are sorry, but of course we understand – it’s the way things are. If you have to go and see to the child, just go and do it – we’ll still be here!“
Get involved however you can
If you’re a resident who either doesn’t have a lot of time, thinks that they don’t have enough time or might not want to be that involved, there are still small ways to have your say. “People can’t get the right information if residents don’t engage with things like surveys. For some residents, it could be that they are frightened to say things to people or direct to their housing provider, but they’re not as bothered when they’re having to write things down.“
“Don’t be afraid to speak out because whatever you say doesn’t go against you. When we get new people during our groups we always say, ‘If you’ve got anything to say, just put your hand up and say it.’ There’s no such thing as a stupid question because other people could be sat there thinking the same.“Val, Resident Ambassador
One of the best things about conducting the Resident Voice Index™ project has been hearing from residents up and down the country. We’ve found that there have been differences; Val and Jim (Val’s husband, who you’ll meet next time) for example, have quite a special relationship with their housing provider, built on strong resident engagement. This should be the universal experience of residents based on working together for the long-term with mutual respect and a shared vision to improve communities.