Yesterday ,on the Guardian Housing Network , I asked whether it’s right that a Housing Association should expect a resident to make some sort of contribution to the community they move into.
That we expect , as the default position , that everyone makes 5% extra effort to help their new community be the best it can be.
Is setting out this expectation inherently unreasonable?
Stating explicitly that there is a “something for something” around here. That the community expects a code to be followed.
Is that unfair? Or just common sense?
In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” he describes a study of a small town, which for some unknown reason started bucking the health trends occuring in the rest of the country.
Basically people had stopped dying. They just kept going until they died of old age. No-one could find any explanation.
Then one day two doctors doing a study finally figured it out. They found that the things that contributed to this phenomena were:
- Families looked after each other
- Different generations mixed
- There were lots of social organisations – people were very engaged and volunteered time to help others
- And people looked after the poorer members of society with encouragement and support
And this had resulted in people living longer and stopping dying.
That sounds like a pretty cool deal to me.
I’d live there. Imagine the Mission Statement.
“We create communities so good that our customers refuse to die”
It’s obvious that any community that cares about its other members is going to be happier and healthier. That’s not rocket science.
It’s why we worked with our customers to make it part of the Bromford Deal. We expect people to contribute to the community.
So why is it that every time that I’ve mentioned this over the past few weeks that some people have taken a sharp intake of breath? Saying it sounds like Big Brother. A Social Housing Stasi.
What’s the problem in overtly saying you expect a contribution to the community? Surely most people would agree?
It’s early days but we are finding that most tenants do agree. They don’t want to be passive recipients of a service. They actually get a kick out of the fact someone is interested in them.
People we are speaking to are not trying to avoid contribution – they actually like it that someone asks them what skills they have.
Examples of what people are doing? Setting up a community Facebook page, helping out at a mother and toddler group, learning how to get online. Every little helps.
As one of our customers said to me last week:
“ I wish I’d have had the Bromford Deal. I’d have welcomed someone asking me what I wanted to do with the rest of my life”
I don’t think we will ever be able to claim that we helped people stopped dying.
But I reckon we will be able to tell some pretty good stories about what people did with the rest of their lives.