Aasia Nisar, Head of Resident Engagement

Embracing agile communication to bring our residents the best services

 By Aasia Nisar, Head of Resident Engagement
First published by TPAS

So, for Sovereign, like many other organisations, Covid 19 has had a big impact - not only for the services we provide, but how we provide them, including how we engage with our customers. 

At Sovereign we had to rethink how we could carry on engaging with our residents during this period in a meaningful way, as well as ensuring their contribution was continuing to make a difference to the services we provided. 

For us, embracing the digital platform proved to be the way forward. Our ‘involved’ residents already had iPads, but we needed to train them up so we could video call with them, to continue providing engagement opportunities and hear their views and opinions. This process did not go without hitches! 

We trained about 20 residents, with some finding the technology easier to use than others, offering one-to-one sessions to ensure residents were able to log in and feel confident in using the digital platform. Since then we’ve held three informal Resident Board & Partnership meetings and two scrutiny meetings. 

Though all meetings were a success, we still had a few residents not knowing they were on mute or realising the noise they were making whilst chomping away on sweets and crisps for all of us to hear! To be honest, this made the meetings quite fun and more like the ‘real world’. 

Over the last few months, we’ve had more residents working with us on a number of co-creation projects, including our new Empty Homes Standard and our future homes vision – the upcoming Home and Place Standard. We also completed our scrutiny on non-access and refusals for kitchens and bathrooms. This was all carried out online - something we would not have considered previously, and something we’re proud to have achieved.

During the lockdown period we also took the opportunity to look at how we could widen our digital engagement approach further by utilising Sovereign’s portal. At present, we have around 28,000 residents who use the portal system, so we thought it would be good if we could tap into this resource too. 

We’re still at the early stages – but we plan on using this this platform to help us with our current scrutiny on Anti-Social Behaviour (ASB). Customers will be asked to take ‘pulse surveys’ asking for their views on how we tackle ASB currently and how our approach could be improved, when they log in to complete other actions. 

We absolutely want to build on our digital approach so we hear from a wider group of residents and reach people whose busy lives mean they might not be able to physically attend meetings. However, despite our successes, we don’t, of course, only want to only use digital engagement as we come out of Covid-19 restrictions - we know face to face engagement is important to our residents. It gives us all a sense of togetherness, camaraderie and connectivity. 

Sovereign will never just be about digital engagement - our new approach is all about ‘agile engagement’. We want to make sure that all of our residents can engage with us at times that work for them and on the subjects which are important to them - so we can continue to strive to deliver better services for all.