A residents’ conference can be a great way to engage with your residents in interesting and innovative ways, helping put faces to names and improve communications. We think conferences can also provide an excellent opportunity for residents to express their views on services and their relationship with their landlord. If they are well designed they can be used to capture really useful additional data to inform your service improvement plans and other customer satisfaction research activities.
In helping Mount Green Housing Association with the design and delivery of its 2009 residents’ conference, we were given a brief to ensure that the event explored three themes chosen by their Residents’ Forum, and provided data to inform service improvements and the development of local service standards. Of course, we were also told that participants must find the conference interesting and have an opportunity for some fun.
Working closely with Mount Green’s Director of Operations Hugh Wagstaff, we designed the conference around a questionnaire that delegates completed in stages during the event. In the opening session, participants heard from speakers on customer service and resident involvement, and answered some big questions on satisfaction with services. They then had the opportunity to join two of three workshops, in which they shared experiences and expressed their views on repairs and maintenance, estates services and communications with their landlord. At the time of writing we are waiting for the formal feedback but we did hear a great deal of applause throughout the day (not least in appreciation of a very decent lunch!) and the buzz of new connections and engagement at the closing session was plain to see and feel.
Around ten percent of Mount Green’s tenants attended the conference along with Board members, members of staff and contractor representatives. The data from the questionnaire will provide Mount Green with a valuable insight into how its new maintenance partnering contract is working, help identify sheltered residents’ priorities for improvements to their homes, provide feedback on the association’s new neighbourhood standards, inform its customer service strategy, support the development of choice at a local level and much more.
We will be very surprised if the conference does not encourage more residents to get involved and more specifically leads to the recruitment of a new Tenant Board member. We think it was also a great team development experience for everyone involved in the design and delivery of the day.