Is expecting a contribution to community such a bad thing?

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.

Two things you can’t say on Twitter…..

There are two opinions that are definite no-go zones amongst the liberal left twitterati.

Opinions that , if you were to express them openly , could see you banished to the most remote, uninhabited and hostile parts of the social media planet.(Linkedin…..or even worse, Google+)

What are they?

1 – Saying you think the NHS is a bit wasteful really and maybe reform isn’t a totally bad idea

And

2 – Saying that despite the economy being tough –  you think that there are jobs out there

Well , I feel like starting the week with a bang. So I’m going to say that , I , Paul Taylor , believe that there are jobs out there.

OK – before you press “unfollow” let me explain:

  • There are millions of jobs that have yet to be invented. I’m not going to expand that point here. You can read my previous blog on this. In fact if anyone knows a window cleaner who also cleans the house/irons clothes/and cuts hair please pass on my details.I’m recruiting.
  • There are jobs – but often people don’t feel they have any skills , or feel terrified at the prospect of even applying.
  • There are jobs – but people get fed up of applying when they get zero feedback and never hear anything about their application.
  • And even in the area’s where jobs are very few -there are loads of volunteering and training opportunities that provide people with confidence , and improve their skills.

Very very few people don’t want to work – just sometimes it looks like it’s too much of a challenge. It feels like they will never make it.

Today see’s the launch of a new project that I am proud to be part of.

Connect , as we call it , opens it doors today as a private beta site. It’s a Social Network for Jobs, Skills and Opportunities. A virtual marketplace for the user to share their skills and develop their confidence , and get access to priority work opportunities. And it will also offer loads of volunteering positions, and give access to innovators who might just help people develop the next big idea. The jobs of the future.

We want it to be a supportive community which is about hope rather than despair. It’s about helping everyone be the very best they can be.

Initially all new Bromford tenants and their families will be given access to Connect. Additionally they can access a Skills Coach, whose job it is to inspire them to do the things that they thought they couldn’t. Whether its getting online for the first time , or preparing for an interview – we are hoping we can remove some of the many barriers that people face as they enter or return to work.

We’ll be letting you know how its going here and on the Connect Blog.

If you haven’t unfollowed me, of course.

Relationships that work – Customer Deal Blog

One of our main aims is to have customers who would recommend us to their friends. We put this in place over 7 years ago – as a big unifying key performance indicator aimed at getting the whole organisation behind delivering great customer experiences.

But this can’t be delivered on our own. Relationships are a two way thing.

The landlord / tenant relationship in UK social housing is a curious one. It has no break clause and is subject to no review or even dialogue to see how either party feels.

It has no equivalent in the consumer world, where the concept of walk away points mean service relationships can have an inherent dynamism about them. You satisfy the customer or you are at risk.

What we aim to do with the Customer Deal is to introduce that dynamic quality into the relationship.

So a customer won’t just be handed the keys.

We will get to know them before they even move in.
We will have a welcome visit where we see how they are settling down and what they think of the service so far.
We will arrange relationship reviews , typically every year or two years, where will talk about how things are going for both of us.

And based upon that we will look to tweak our service proposition to the individual customer. This could be incentives and benefits for keeping to the Deal.

I get a better deal out of O2 for being a loyal customer who doesn’t rip them off. Why shouldn’t a customer of social housing?

The end of lifetime tenancies has been painted as a terribly negative move within the housing sector. But , executed well , it brings with it the opportunity to introduce a totally different landlord / tenant relationship. One where the tenant is no longer a passive recipient.

Building Social Good – Customer Deal Blog

What would happen if your access to a product depended on you doing something good for society?

That you had agree to give something back. Would you agree? Would you walk away? Or would you lie?

Well that’s what we are testing as part of the new deal.

All customers will be asked what skills they have to share with their neighbours. And if they don’t feel they have any we will work with them to get them some.

This will involve a referral process – either to a community skills bank , a local Voluntary Service , or in the case of someone seeking work,  to a Skills Advisor.

This should have at least one of three outcomes:

  • We untap skills and opportunities that the neighbourhood might need
  • We support the struggling Voluntary Sector in a time of cuts that threaten their very existence
  • We put someone on the path to employment

I’ll be blogging the experiences of the first customers who go through this – and I’d be interested in hearing any thoughts!