With it being over a decade since Wales’ first community housing mutual was formed in the South Wales Valleys, our Co-op Housing Project Manager Dave Palmer reflects with Trivallis’ Chief Executive Ian Thomas, on what matters the most as a community mutual in 2020.
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As a board member for Trivallis, Dave Palmer sees that having the right approach to involving tenants is integral to living the values of a mutual:
Being a community mutual enables a stronger role for tenants in decision making through both its constitution and set of rules as well as the culture that should be nurtured and developed overtime. As a membership based model tenants, if they wish, have the option to be a shareholder member, giving them rights to a greater say on the things that matter to them – i.e. the management of their homes and broader services that are on offer.
As a board member of a community mutual, you want to see that tenants, as members, are not only at forefront of everyone’s mind, but are closely involved in the decisions that affect them and their communities. You want it to become the norm and part of the culture within the mutual. But this doesn’t happen overnight and does need thought and vision to ensure the offer to members remains relevant and continues to develop. I’m glad to say I’ve seen the hard work play off since Trivallis introduced a new strategy for involvement, supported by a dedicated team of involvement officers. There’s always room for improvement and I’m excited by their plans to reinvigorate their membership offer alongside their approach that’s mainstreaming involvement, which Ian explains a bit later.
Of course, all housing associations regulated by Welsh Government, not just community mutuals, must “demonstrate how tenants are effectively involved in strategic decision making and shaping services in ways appropriate for tenants and the organisation”. But through embedding and embracing the principles of mutualism, this can ultimately develop a real sense of belonging, participation and ownership within communities, which brings many benefits to the mutual and its members.
Here’s what matters the most from the perspective Ian’s perspective:
I’ve been at Trivallis for just over two years now as its Chief Executive, and even during the recruitment process I could see tenants have a strong voice. The questions they asked me showed they have the best of interests for their families, neighbours and communities at heart.
From being on recruitment panels, scrutinising our performance to being part of our working groups looking at important issues like decarbonisation, Value for Money and tenant satisfaction, these are just a few of the ways we ensure tenants have an important role to play. And as Dave rightly says, we are always looking to do more and find new ways to make sure the hear voices of that represents our tenants. In particular, we recognised our offer to our members needed to be reinvigorated and aligned with our approach and the opportunities to get involved.
Trivallis’ Scrutiny Panel kicked things off earlier last year by reviewing how we’ve done things in the past and what lessons we can learn from that as well as others such as Merthyr Valleys Homes who have been really helpful by sharing some of their own experiences with our panel.
As a mutual organisation, we have over a 1000 members who make their vote count at our annual general meetings, which is really important to us. We also have a number of tenants who get involved more regularly and give up their time to volunteer and help us improve.
Our scrutiny panel, which is made up of tenants and residents, has reviewed our approach to way we make our membership offer more meaningful. Based on their recommendations, a working group, made up of staff and involved customers, are now taking things forward. Over the coming months we will relaunch this offer to our members, which we’re committed to making sure it’s what they want and works for them.