Blog July 28, 2021

The Resident Voice Index™ initiative: A ‘Residents First’ approach

By MRI Social Housing

The first results of the Resident Voice Index™ Neighbourhoods & Communities survey are now live and accessible for all to view. We wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the residents involved in our consultation period, those who volunteered to be Resident Ambassadors and the thousands who answered the survey. As such, residents needed to be the first to see our work.

At MRI Software, we believe that continued consultation with residents is central to achieving great things in the housing sector and that by using technology and expertise with data, those messages can be amplified and delivered to the right people to enact change. Before we launched the results of the survey to the sector at large, we wanted to express our gratitude to all the residents that have shaped the project. In early July, we delivered a sneak preview of the data to HQN’s Residents’ Network in two ‘Residents First’ sessions. Doug Sarney, Project Lead presented the data and started by introducing the core values of the Resident Voice Index™ approach.

Resident Voice Index™ values: Independence, Transparency, Brevity, Anonymity

First and foremost, it is important to note that we are not paid by anyone to perform these surveys. The results of the resident surveys are published for free in a transparent ‘warts and all’ fashion for anyone who may benefit from using them. The surveys are kept unintrusive and short by focusing on the chosen topics only and we guarantee the results will not be traceable back to individual respondents.

A ‘Residents First’ approach

We have wanted to include residents at every stage of this project, learning what they want to be asked about, what their limits are as far as topics are concerned and how they want to be spoken to. We made sure all resident events and consultations protected their anonymity, ensuring no landlords were present and no views were attributed to individual respondents. This approach of ‘Residents First’ will continue for all future Resident Voice Index™ project activities.

We have a philosophy of ‘Residents First’ and that philosophy is because the residents took time out to do the survey and engage with the project. It’s more important to share the results with them before we’ve told anybody else.

Doug Sarney, Project Lead, MRI Software

Residents told us they wanted to be kept informed about how the results were published and how we were going to use them. Part of the ‘Residents First’ approach is making all the results free and publicly available to whoever wants to view them – both residents and housing providers alike. Providing access to all the data means the results coming out may not always be favourable but, as one resident said in an early consultation session: “You need to ask uncomfortable questions to get the answers you might not want but you need.”

The views of residents

The purpose of the Resident Voice Index™ initiative is to inform housing providers and policy makers about what residents think could be done to improve lives and communities, and for us to use our data analysis tools to present those findings.

In the Neighbourhoods & Communities survey, we asked the question: ‘Do you feel that the current actions of your housing provider increase your sense of community?’ 16% said yes and 84% said no, opening up the debate into the role of the modern social housing provider.

At first glance, that 84% may seem like a heavy negative. It became clear when we launched the survey however, that part of that percentage included those who don’t expect their landlord to provide anything other than a decent home. As one respondent put it, “I don’t believe it is down to the housing provider to create a sense of community, it is down to the residents to look after and respect the community they live in.”

Data analysis of the Neighbourhoods & Communities survey seeks to discover what could improve the experience of the 84% and identify what’s working for the 16%, putting these potential ‘quick wins’ in front of housing providers in digestible formats.

In the future, we will be investigating the role of housing providers and how, in the residents’ opinion, that role will be defined in the 21st century, gaining insights from those who believe that social housing provision is about no more than bricks and mortar, as well as those who believe that registered providers should play a more integrated role in communities.

The positives are important

One attendee of our ‘Residents First’ sessions spoke about a National Lottery project working with her housing provider to hold community events. She reported that the results of this work improved her mental and physical health.

This comment touches on one of the fundamental approaches for the Resident Voice Index™ surveys. This is not just an exercise in finding out what housing providers are doing wrong; that doesn’t serve the sector and in turn won’t serve residents. We will always ask questions about the positive things happening for residents in their homes and communities, because they will be the best indicators of what the sector is doing right and for those who aren’t doing that just yet, suggestions on how to improve.

[The Resident Voice Index™ is] A holistic project, and for all of this to have benefits to residents it needs some joined up working from all of the elements involved. From where we put houses, to who goes in them. This is bigger than one landlord and even just the government.

‘Residents First’ session attendee

Further questions were asked in this ‘Residents First’ session around digging down into specific characteristics, such as diversity or disability. To answer, in order to align with our core value of ‘brevity’, we won’t generally ask multiple demographic questions during the surveys, however these topics will be explored specifically in a considered manner in the future.

How housing is delivered is generally moving towards opening up processes to ensure increased resident involvement. Technology and great data visualisation can facilitate mass consultation at speed and deliver actionable insights. We are taking influence from the involved residents we’ve spoken to across this process, the great work done by staff and residents alike on scrutiny panels and mixed boards and the new developments across the country actively seeking citizen consultation before they build homes. As one of our Resident Ambassadors said, “Residents are an asset to their providers.”

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