Motivation is key to driving forward a programme of work around digital participation, and it needs to be present at every level of the organisation, from senior management down to frontline staff. There are many drivers for social housing providers to embrace digital, and these factors can vary from improving the lives of tenants:

 

  • Tackling social exclusion;
  • Improving the economic prospects of tenants;
  • Using automated services to free staff time to focus on those who most need support;
  • Meeting expectations for how tenants access services;
  • Efficiency savings for the business.

 

“There’s an argument that supporting digital inclusion goes to the heart of the social purpose of housing associations. It can have a marked impact on the lives of customers and benefit the communities that we serve. If this wasn’t incentive enough, there are clear, tangible business benefits. Customers with better employment prospects, greater ability to manage their finances, and a stronger support network of friends and family are likely to be more resilient.”

 

Chris Milborrow, Southside Housing Association

 

In our work with the housing sector we created the role of the ‘Digital Motivator’ (DM). The DM is someone who has an excellent grasp on what their customers need help with whilst being able to lead, influence, shape and flex within their organisation to help make digital inclusion part of that support offer. They are catalysts for changing the way their organisation does things and provides services. These individuals do exactly what they say on the tin – motivate.

 

There are no hard and fast rules about who is best placed to be the DM. Across our programme of work we had a variety of role profiles acting as DMs: Community Regeneration, Financial Inclusion, Housing Services, Business Support, Community Engagement, Welfare Benefits and Digital Participation. 

 

Our cohort of DMs were primarily motivated to undertake a digital participation project as they could see the potential for digital to address social exclusion:

 

“We have always seen Digital Inclusion as part of our wider Community Inclusion programme. Although it is important as a business for us to encourage people to engage with services online because of the financial benefits it entails, we have always been more interested in improving our tenants quality of life. Digital is only one aspect of life and we wanted to provide a holistic approach to inclusion.”

Rory Brown, Govan Housing Association

 

“My motivation is to improve the ways we work as an organisation and promote digital opportunities with our tenants. My hope is that Hebridean Housing Partnership and the local community will embrace the opportunities digital participation offers to make lives easier. From the weekly shop, to paying bills to sourcing more affordable utilities.”

 

Chris Morrison, Hebridean Housing Partnership

 

“I am passionate about equalities, and was saddened to learn that 20% of Social Housing Tenants are lacking in essential digital skills.  As Registered Social Landlords who try to tackle social exclusion and promote Community engagement, it is our responsibility to use our position to help break down the barriers to the Digital World.” 

 

Charly Lynn, Partick Housing Association

 

Social exclusion wasn’t the only motivating factor. Most of our DMs could also see the benefits to their organisation by empowering tenants to improve their Essential Digital Skills (EDS). Improved EDS are necessary for tenants to be able to use automated and online functions:

 

“Our current Housing Management system is to be replaced with a totally new cloud based platform, and one of the major changes will be the ‘customer portal’.  This portal will allow tenants to see and edit the personal details that we hold, to pay their rent electronically, report a repair, arrange an appointment and monitor the progress of the repair, etc. all at a time that suits them, and not be restricted to the office hours.  Sounds great, but to do this our tenants will need to be able to use a digital device, and many of our tenants can’t.”   

 

DM name, Albyn Housing Association

 

“Remember that digital is not about finding new ways to do everything, it is about making lives easier for staff, tenants and anyone else you engage with by reducing paperwork, reducing time spent n repetitive tasks, promoting more engagement with each other across social divides and making life fun.”

 

Chris Morrison, Hebridean Housing Partnership

 

“If our customers have the means, the skills, and the knowledge, to engage with us in more digital ways, we can create the tools for them to do things like self-service, update their own contact details, pay bills etc.  This will reduce transactional processing time for staff and allow them to spend more time on things like tenancy sustainment and support.” 

 

Charly Lynn, Partick Housing Association

 

Another driver was the rollout of Universal Credit (UC) which requires recipients to complete online journals, which can be a barrier to someone with little or no digital confidence or skills.

 

“With the roll out of UC in September 2018, it became necessary for jobseekers have adequate digital skills to fulfil their commitments or to make claims. The IT system places the onus on tenants to make their online claim; initiate their "Claimant Commitment"; upload supporting evidence; report changes in circumstances, including the annual rent increase. In addition we conducted a tenant’s survey in 2018 which indicated that 87% of persons aged 65+ have use of no digital media for communication. This unquestionably poses an issue with more and more services (both statutory and third sector) becoming “digital by default”. We want to support our residents to make the best possible use of services that are available.”

Debs Allan, Linstone Housing

 

Understanding motivation is important as it helps build the business case for undertaking digital participation work. An awareness of different drivers is essential in leveraging support from different levels of organisation.