This week we meet our third Resident Ambassador for the Resident Voice Index™ project, Jim. Living in the North East of England, he’s a no-nonsense stalwart of local activism and contribution. From being on tenant advisory panels, becoming a town councillor, contributing to national think tanks on social housing, to helping us with the Resident Voice Index™ project, he’s passionate about improving his local community and the interests of social housing residents.
Jim is so involved with volunteering groups he has probably spoken to a tenant from your housing association – at this rate, he’s probably spoken to you! We met him at the Resident Voice Index™ focus groups back in April and when we caught up with him, he chose to encourage all of us to get involved with our local community and reap the benefits.
“I’ve been involved for 20 years, long before my housing association was formed (as part of a merger), I was a board member of it for 9½ years. I like to think I’ve got a little bit of insight. When the merger happened, the new organisation got together with the tenants and asked us what we thought and needed, and it worked. We review it every so often and it’s worked. Now there’s a resident involvement panel, with over 350 people involved and there is an active core of us who attend meetings.”
Has technology made a difference in the last year?
“Definitely. But I’d still rather have face-to-face meetings. I’m a town councillor as well and I’ve had to conduct all those meeting online, but from now we have to meet in person.
“I do like the remote meetings at times though; it means you don’t have to get ready and I don’t have to drive!”
Challenges to getting involved
One of the barriers to being regularly involved that Jim brought up was digital literacy and digital inclusion:
“We’re talking now digitally, it would be great if everybody got to do this and had the ability to go online. Our housing association is working with an organisation called City Fibre to try and get everybody in the local area digitally included. It’s up to individuals whether they take advantage of it, but the infrastructure’s going to be there. This is a big thing and I do think people can be disenfranchised not having digital inclusion.”
Give back, get back
“I first got involved at a housing association open day. We put our names forward, never looked back and have been involved ever since. I speak to people who say things about the housing association online and I ask them, ‘have you reported it?’ Get involved to make a difference, I do honestly believe that.”
“One of the things I say and always will say is if you want things to change, get involved to change it. Don’t expect other people to do it for you. Don’t tell somebody down the street you want it doing and then not tell anybody else. You’ve got to get involved to get it done. It’s as simple as that. That’s the way we’ve always looked upon it.”
It doesn’t matter how big or small the action is, in Jim’s opinion: “Everybody’s got an hour, or a couple of hours to give at least one night a week during the week. You can’t be busy all of the time. Have at least a little bit of time to give to your neighbourhood.”
“It’s always something to look back upon and be proud of what you’ve done. I think a lot of people don’t realise if they volunteer, the things that come out of it. You can be really proud. For a residents’ group, it might take an hour meeting a week. Just do it!
“My main message is, you do have time – an hour a week’s enough, but you do have time.”
In the future we’re going to speak about the biggest project Jim and his wife, Val – who we met last time – worked together on, transforming part of their local environment for the whole community.
To read more about how resident scrutiny panels work, click here.
The first Resident Voice index™ survey has now closed and the team are working away to crunch some numbers to feed back to you what we found out about the attitudes of social housing residents in the UK. Stay tuned!