Taking a place-based view in supporting neighbourhoods

This blog post was originally published by the National Federation of ALMOs as part of their annual conference held in July 2015, where Glass-House Strategic Projects Manager Maja Luna Jorgensen was a speaker.

ALMOs are special in their long-term investment in the places they own and manage. They are uniquely placed to deliver change and support communities to flourish.

Constructing new homes comes with a complex set of relations, strands of work and engagements with local people. Faced with managing these complex challenges, some housing providers unconsciously retreat to more silo-working as a way of meeting immediate targets, which again effects the quality of work delivered and the neighbourhoods in question.

Taking a creative and collaborative approach to managing and investing in places holds the potential to deliver a raft of benefits, and can:

•    Increase efficiency in the long term
•    Build skills and capacity in staff
•    Lead to better places that are better managed
•    Empower residents, leading to improved wellbeing, more employment and greater social capital
•    Lead to places that people feel proud of and feel a sense of ownership of.

So who takes the place-based view? And how do you join up practices and make that place-based collaboration a success? In our work with social landlords, housing associations and local authorities who are delivering homes and regeneration, we have inspired and activated a range of innovative responses to common challenges. Here are a few reflections on some of them.

•    “Working to meet day-to-day targets means there is rarely time to explore synergies.”

Taking a strategic view and investing in joining up teams and efforts can lead to greater efficiency and more creative ways of tackling issues.

•    “We don’t have enough time to work more collaboratively.”

What if spending time cleverly upfront reduces the amount of time spent throughout the lifetime of the project? How can this improvement be captured and documented?

•    “We don’t have the skills to work more collaboratively.”

Investing in skills development can take place through project-based learning. You can build in exposure to new expertise and enable staff to take an active role in the application of it to develop new ideas and skills – and make sure to reflect on and capture learning.

•    “The community is fearful of changes in their neighbourhood.”

Consider how investing in building good relations with residents can impact on your work. By engaging them respectfully in the change process with transparency and honesty, you can use the project to improve relations and build a group of local people you can have a dialogue with.

•    “No matter how many times we invest in challenging places, they keep coming up again.”

Strengthening communities through an investment in residents to develop skills, resource and local pride can enable local people to take ownership of their place. Could a challenging moment be an opportunity to build community resources?

Thinking creatively and beyond the brief can deliver phenomenal benefits – to people, places and the organisations innovating.