Together with Tenants – why working with tenants is so important for boards

Why is working with tenants so important for boards? There are so many good reasons that it’s really hard to answer quickly!

Mark Lewis, Chair of Trent & Dove Housing

Mark Lewis, Chair of Trent & Dove Housing

12 March 2019

That’s why we’re delighted to be an early adopter of the National Housing Federation’s Together with Tenants project. We’ve seen first-hand the benefits of working with our tenants, how having their thoughts and experiences at the heart of everything we do is rewarding for everyone involved. 

How do we work with our tenants at Trent & Dove?

At Trent & Dove, I’m part of a skills-based board alongside two of our tenants. All of our Board Committees also have tenant members.

In addition, our Tenant Scrutiny Forum undertakes independent deep-dive service reviews that inform decision-making and business planning. So the tenant voice is certainly loud, proud and clear at Trent & Dove.

For me, tenant involvement is a two-way street – we’re committed to supporting our tenants and they’re committed to supporting us.

We believe being a housing association means so much more than providing homes. Working closely with our tenants helps shape our priorities and enables us to truly transform homes, lives and neighbourhoods.

At Trent & Dove, tenants have a genuine opportunity to have their say through an active consultation process. We are committed to providing tenants with the right support and information to allow them to make informed decisions and hold us to account if any promises we make are not delivered. By working together, we are creating a vision that is achievable and benefits the whole community. 

How can we help the tenant voice resonate?

Over the last year, we’ve been working closely with our tenants to develop our Customer Promise, which provides better than ever clarity about what we can expect from one another. We’ve found that a ‘you said, we did’ approach has been particularly beneficial. Tenants can tell that they’re being listened to and that sharing their thoughts and ideas can make a difference. As a result, we’ve simplified our complaints process with the introduction of a dedicated Customer Liaison Officer, who provides support to our tenants and resolves issues at an informal level. Customer feedback on this has been very positive. This is a new approach for us, and I’d love to hear any experiences that others have had in this area.

It’s not just about the high-level decisions though. I’ve also had the privilege of experiencing our community projects first-hand. Our Federation of Residents has the opportunity to influence decision-making in their communities. Each group has its own budget, which helps them to deliver a range of activities. One group that particularly stands out for me is the Kingfisher Project. Starting as a small-scale nature project, with encouragement and support it has gone from strength to strength, making a real impact not just on the community, but on the wider region too. In 2016, the project received a Queens Award for Voluntary Service – which is equivalent to a person receiving an OBE. They truly are testament to the amazing things our customers can achieve when given a voice and an opportunity.

Why should boards engage in this work?

I would urge other board members to explore new ways to engage with your tenants, as their wealth of knowledge and experience is truly inspiring. Who best to tell us what we’re doing well and where we need to improve than the people living in the homes and communities we’re creating?

By becoming an early adopter of the Together with Tenants plan, we are joining a wider movement to share best practice and ideas with other likeminded housing providers, to learn and improve, and ultimately, to work closely with our tenants to ensure they receive the best possible service. I’m excited to be part of something that I know will make the relationship we have with our tenants stronger – and I wholeheartedly encourage others to join us.

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