PBHA is a housing association with charitable aims that creates positive change in people’s lives. As well as homes and support, we empower people to learn, access work and discover their creative talents.
Based mainly in Hackney and Islington, we work with people who are homeless, have mental ill health, learning difficulties and multiple needs. We have a radical, long and proud history of tenant action which has involved tenants on the board and as shareholders taking key decisions. They at one point were instrumental in choosing an independent future for the association over merger. However, maintaining the level of involvement if you have multiple needs is very difficult, so we have invested in employing, Lani, our Peer Support and Participation Officer.
Lani has focused her time on building community engagement from the ground upwards to build effective engagement and ownership. The Community Connectors and Timebank projects she has focused on have enabled 20 people to engage in bite size volunteering opportunities to support their neighbours and local community.
Lani is bringing participation alive across the whole organisation. Teams tell us they want to improve relationships between staff and tenants, build a shared understanding of what participation is, and build capacity for staff to implement good participation. Each team develops a participation plan for the year to enable tenants to be involved in decisions whether in the property service or fundraising.
We use the participation ladder to visualise this progression:
We are probably at the second stage of the ladder, Consulted, and will soon move to the Involved stage. Tenants generally help to improve services across all departments. We do involve tenants and in deciding what groups, classes and activities we run fairly well, but engagement is generally low so communicating and marketing activities better is our focus.
Our aim is to move towards co-production by building on and deepening the good work we are already doing and increasing the opportunities for shared decision making at every level.