Democracy Starts At Home

Published by The Democratic Society, January 2019

This report sets out a series of actions that the housing sector in Scotland should take in order to improve resident engagement. These activities include:

  • Giving residents direct powers in choosing how and where money is spent;
  • Using online and offline approaches to make it easy for customers to share their priorities;
  • Co-producing services with residents, and implementing changes iteratively;
  • Focusing on access: sharing information early and making it easier to attend meetings;
  • Creating opportunities for deliberation and discussion;
  • Adopting apps and new technology.

The report recommends four priority areas: 

  • easy sharing. To engage people well, barriers to information and to the data that informs decision making must be removed. All organisations have them, but with the advent of better technology and a more open culture, information can be used to empower not control residents.
  • rapid reaction. In the housing environment, engaging and talking to people is not enough to maintain trust. What works best is a fast, effective response to the questions and requests made – proving the credibility of open engagement with visible reactions. Focus on the micro and build up.
  • customer empathy. It is too easy to only look at the blockages and the problems in sorting out customer complaints. To truly change the dialogue and the quality of engagement, prioritising empathy is critical – frank and fast conversations that deal with the immediate issues will have greater impact on trust than having more abstract, organisational conversations.
  • be an enabler, not a disabler. Shifting the balance of power and control is really about giving direct power to decide how things work. Creating a community that generates ideas and projects, discusses these suggestions and then decides together what happens next is fundamentally liberating for customers and gets better results for everyone.

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