Tenants in Action – how tenant-led small-scale initiatives bring public benefit
LSE Housing and Communities report into the impact of tenant training and tenant volunteering was funded by the Marshall Institute to examine the public impact of private actions. The research aims to uncover the nature and impact of tenant volunteering in low-income communities.
The LSE Housing team spoke to 20 social housing tenant representatives from 24 community projects, all of whom attended self-help training or Housing Plus Academy Tenant Think Tanks at the National Communities Resource Centre (NCRC) at Trafford Hall. Tenants then went on to initiate or become involved in a variety of projects including:
LSE Housing carried out 10 site visits to different projects and conducted 10 semi-structured telephone interviews with participants in late 2017 and early 2018 covering a total of 24 projects.
Several key themes emerge from the analysis:
Volunteering has a very positive impact on the day to day lives of the tenants involved. Participants experienced improved confidence and a sense of fulfilment; learned new skills; became more active and developed a greater ability to cope with challenges in their lives. Volunteers take their volunteering role very seriously, often treating it as a full time job; for one individual it led directly to a paid job after being out of work for a number of years.
Participants have an in-depth knowledge of their community and the challenges that people face, through volunteering they gain information and knowledge on how to support them.
The impact of the work is multifaceted, often tackling issues beyond the original aim of the project. For example, a community garden project which aimed to upgrade a plot of unused land also helped tackle wider issues such as social isolation by engaging members of the community experiencing isolation; furthermore, it improved people’s health by getting them outside and active and the group distributed fruit and vegetables to struggling families who may otherwise have been unable to afford fresh produce.
The projects provided a way to create strong relationships with landlords which has benefits for both tenants and landlords by creating dialogue between them.
Trafford Hall training is crucial to the success of the projects. According to the participants it helps give tenants the skills needed to successfully start and run their projects and gives them confidence in their ideas so they can take action within the community.
The average number of people helped by each project is 198 with 10 of the projects impacting on their whole community. The report's conclusion is that the work being done by the volunteers is extremely valuable to both direct participants and the wider community. This impact far exceeded initial expectations.
This research underlines the real value of allocating resources to tenant training, even at a time of constrained and limited social landlord and local authority budgets.