Resident Ambassadors | Val & Jim on the importance of resident inclusion
Some social housing landlords around the UK actively involve residents when they are hiring new people. This kind of co-working and resident inclusion brings the views and needs of residents to the centre of how social housing is delivered.
Val and Jim are two of our established Resident Ambassadors for the Resident Voice Index™ project. For many years now they have been actively involved with how their housing association is run. They also put in a huge amount of work in their local community in the North-East of England. Following the Community Support & Life After Lockdown survey, they spoke to us again about what, in their experience, good practice looks like from a housing provider.
The right person for the job: the resident perspective
As an honorary board member for her housing association, Val gets called in when they are trying to find new members of staff. “I started right at the top interviewing the director, then the manager and I got all the way down to frontline jobs with them.”
Along the way there have been some really impressive and some not-so-impressive candidates:
“Some of them are thinking about what they’re doing but there was one who I asked, ‘what would you call good customer service?’ and the candidate knew what was involved with the resident panel and the residents’ framework and they answered, ‘we need to educate the customers.’”
Having gauged Val’s negative reaction to this answer, her housing provider knew that this candidate would not be the right fit for working with the rest of the resident population. Needless to say, they didn’t get the job! The approach of bringing residents in right from the beginning can save everyone time and effort if the relationship isn’t going to work out.
“I think anything like that should always have a resident on it. When I did it, I was called Simon Cowell because nobody got top marks. You can’t give top marks because where’s the room for improvement? They’ve got to have room for improvement, you’ve got to have that bit of room to learn things.”Val, Resident Ambassador
The board of Val’s landlord, “Just had an appraisal for the interviews, and one of the things that came out is that I’m on it and I’m not a nodding dog. Anything I want to say, I’ll come straight out with – I’m not shy, which the board really liked. I’m not there just to agree with everything they say. If I don’t agree with it, I’ll put my hand up!”
Resident inclusion: Bringing more residents along on the journey
Val and Jim travel all over their area to speak to existing residents, as well as those that have recently joined the association. From Middlesbrough to Hull, they’ve been given an insider’s perspective on how to work with landlords to improve how housing is delivered. To help convince new homes to join the association, Jim went to tell them all about the work they do.
“The residents had to vote to say whether they wanted to come to us or not and I was the resident who pitched to them. I gave them the spiel and we all said that we would look forward to welcoming them into the family.”
As the new residents were welcomed in, Val spoke to them about what they could do to be part of shaping how their housing and community is run. “Anyone can just dip their toe in, just do a little bit or once they get started, they could just do as much as they want – it’s up to them! I always say, ‘come and watch us and if after 10 or 15 minutes you don’t think that’s for you, that’s quite alright, just say ‘I’m sorry’ and leave. We won’t be bothered, and you might come to another one.’ It all depends on what they’re really interested in.”
Having opportunities to be involved and have a say are what’s really important and for Val and Jim, what really sets their housing association apart. As they have shown, when there are roles available in housing associations for residents to take up, the running of an organisation can directly benefit from their input.
What resident inclusion does your organisation have? What kind of involvement would you like to have? We’d love to hear from you! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org