Blog | housing

The feeling’s mutual – mutuality and collective decision making

In his latest blog, Co-op Housing Project Manager Dave Palmer, in his role as a co-opted board member for Trivallis, explores what is needed for the board of a Community Mutual to make truly collective decisions which reflect the members’ views and benefit the residents by improving their prosperity.

By Catherine Evans · December 10, 2018

When we think of the Wellbeing and Future Generation Act’s five ways of working (Long term, Prevention, Integration, Collaboration and Involvement) we can see that the final three can be neatly summarised in one word – co-operation. It is a simple way of looking at it but it helps us more easily define the space where communities and Board members can work together. This is where ‘top down’ successfully meets ‘bottom up’ – in the middle through co-operation.

This middle-ground is the most valuable space for an organisation like Trivallis, and of course to others who are aspiring to become a Community Mutual model. Collective decision making is key to success and it includes democracy and consensus in equal parts. Prosperity for both the community and the individual can be measured not only in strict economic and financial terms, but in terms of  Cohesion and Resilience, how well connected they are to trusted networks and how future proofed these decisions are in terms of sustainability.

Individual Board members, residents and even whole communities have to make decisions mutually, by thinking collectively about each other and what actions the organisation should take that would benefit the wider community. This process isn’t just about a simple majority, but consensus gained through reasoned discussion and listening to each other’s views. This is where the power of the Mutual lies as it is enshrined in its rules, and it should have systems established to ensure that all members can contribute equally and equitably to their shared prosperity.

For many this is about getting the culture right – creating a way of working where the customer view is the first thing on people’s minds. This does not just mean at Board level but needs to be something that runs right through the organisation. As Board members, it is absolutely vital that we have assurance that our colleagues running the organisation day-to-day have the customer at the forefront of their minds.

For things to work at Board level they have to work at ground level and I am glad to say that my experience of this at Trivallis has been positive. Yes, we are on a journey, we are doing a lot but we can certainly do more. There are plans to mainstream customer involvement within the organisation so it is part of everybody’s role. Most recently our Fair Rent Review project has gained record customer engagement both on and off-line and a new customer involvement team is being established to drive this forward.

All this makes our life easier when those big decisions have to be made, knowing that the customer has been considered from the start of any project and that we are doing what we can to ensure they prosper.

As a Board, you become the conscience of the organisation and ensure that the right questions have been asked. The test for any Board member then is whether you can look in the mirror every day and ask yourself if you have reflected upon what the collective has said, and in terms of governance, that you have done ‘ The Right Stuff’, with tenants taking part every step of the way!?

That answer, of course, should always be, YES.

David Palmer, co-operative housing manager at the Wales Co-operative Centre

David Palmer

Co-operative Housing Manager