Shaping Strategy as a Resident Board Member
By Steve Bentall, Trainee Board Member and Customer Influence Committee Member at Eastlight Community Homes
“Board Strategy Day” is a phrase that would have many residents rolling their eyes: What does it really mean? What is changing this time? How are they prioritising me?
However, as a resident myself, the recent experience I had attending the Eastlight Board Strategy Day in September was one of passionate discussion and thought-provoking engagement.
The audience for the day was made up of 30 attendees in total, including Eastlight’s Executive Team, Board Members and members of the Customer Influence Committee (CIC), which is made up of ten Eastlight residents.
The purpose of the session was to begin reviewing Eastlight’s current Corporate Strategy. While expected to run until 2026, Eastlight has made the bold decision to review the strategy due to economic and geopolitical influences which are heavily impacting on residents, such as damp and mould and the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
There is also new legislation being introduced that will impact on the way Eastlight operates in the best interest of their customers, so there is a joint view between us residents and Eastlight’s senior leadership team that now is the time to start to review the organisation’s strategic direction.
The day opened with staff presenting the impact that the new Social Housing Regulation Act, Consumer Regulation and Tenant Satisfaction Measures (TSMs) would have on Eastlight. As a group, we discussed how these changes would therefore drive necessary changes to Eastlight’s operating model, corporate direction and governance structure.
It was clear that, in order to drive up standards and ensure resident satisfaction, the CIC are best placed to hold Eastlight to account and provide the insight needed to not only check the boxes when it comes to consumer standards, but to make sure they are actively going above and beyond to give their residents the best possible homes, services and customer experience.
Eastlight has taken great steps in recent years to give the resident voice a platform. The introduction of the CIC – a committee that reports directly to the Board – is a perfect example of this in action. Each member of the CIC brings a different lived experience, skills and knowledge that have been influencing Eastlight’s direction by overseeing key operational activity and instilling greater resident-focus in their decision-making, such as in our estates, across our complaints handling and in their communications to us.
We know that, together, we can do more to represent the voices of all Eastlight residents, and this focus is at the core of what the CIC aims to do. Some of that has been achieved by recruiting three new members to our CIC – but more change is still yet to happen.
There are still some decisions to be made following the Strategy Day, including whether corporate strategies of the future incorporate more varied timeframes, with shorter timespans allowing Eastlight to be more reactive to legislative changes, for example; and longer timespans enabling Eastlight to plan and deliver on its sustainability commitments.
One thing is clear though: Eastlight will continue to keep customers, Eastlight’s residents, at the heart of everything they do, and as a group of determined and influential residents, we can help to drive positive change from within.