The view from London

Oct 31, 2018

By Jahkeita McHardy, Digital Communications and Events Officer, HACT

We’re making our way around the UK and visiting seven cities to develop the Centre for Excellence in Community Investment. On Monday we hosted our third roadshow and got the view from London. 

With this being our third roadshow, we still didn’t know what to expect when we started setting up the room. Just like the other two roadshows, it was an opportunity for those in and outside the housing sector to discuss how they wanted the Centre for Excellence in Community Investment to help them. 

We didn’t know what to expect as there are a multitude of micro-communities within London, each facing different challenges. As people started filling the room, attendees welcomed colleagues and familiar faces with open arms and empty chairs. Just under a hundred people turned up to tell us what they thought. 

After HACT’s Head of Communities introduction, each table settled into their discussions and conversations about different aspects of community investment. The most common themes that echoed around the room were communication and direction. 

One big threat to community investment identified by people was the lack of clarity about its purpose, which may be the reason why it’s one of the first things to lose out when it comes to budget cuts. The need to clarify what exactly we as a sector mean when we talk about community investment would ensure that we have something tangible to measure progress. The definition wouldn’t just be for community professionals but for everyone, so that everyone from the finance department to the receptionist knows how their role influences community investment. 

An issue that flowed from this was how people inside the housing sector can communicate progress and evidence their impact to people in senior positions within their organisation. 

Communication and the language we use was another key aspect that continually came up throughout the afternoon. There were two sides to this discussion; one participant said we needed to streamline the language we’re using when we’re talking about community investment. They argued that the correct language isn’t being used which has resulted in marketing and communication teams being unable to tell the correct stories. 

On the other side of this conversation was a possible solution. How can we ensure that the language is palatable to those outside the housing sector, especially when it comes to research and evaluation projects? How can we ensure what we share gets the same reach and engagement as a cat video? Will streamlining the language that we use isolate anyone who doesn’t have such a background in housing, or will it trip up a resident who wants to be engage but is not as academic? 

Another participant mentioned that we should looking a mentoring program which would help build a nationwide network of community work. Is this something that you’d like as well? 

One final takeaway. Thanks to London being such a large city, there we people in the audience from all kinds of backgrounds, including music, the arts, youth work and horticulture. Some weren’t from the housing sector at all, they just wanted to know our approach to community investment. The variety of backgrounds of the audience are exactly the mix of people we need in co-designing the Centre for Excellence as a central hub of those want to invest in communities. 

We’re visiting as many main cities as we can this time to get a feel for the key take away from all around the UK and would love to hear your thoughts. We want to ensure everyone gets the benefit from what we’re going to invest in and we want to ensure we invest correctly. 

Our next roadshow will be in Birmingham on 1 November. 

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