by Colm Barnes, Circle VHA
When Supporting Communities first came to help us set up the Tenant Advisory Group (TAG), I was quite open with everyone that the idea scared me because I have a tenant-facing role.
I deal face-to-face with our tenants daily on issues that affect their lives and well-being around repairs and facility-related matters, and sometimes that is difficult. At times, my hands were tied in what I could do, say, or deliver. Trying to get the correct balance could be frustrating as I dealt with tenants, staff, assets, local authorities, and management companies.
By the end of the first TAG group meeting, I understood the idea of tenant engagement better. With each session, the idea grew on me. The introduction of April and Gerry (Circle tenants) was again a strange concept. We never said it, but there was that invisible boundary between “us and them.”
As the meetings continued, I was able to talk more openly with April and Gerry. Listening to their input gave me a sense of relief and belief in the TAG. They both acknowledged what individual staff members working within Circle did in our daily roles. To hear the sentence, “how can we help”, was an eye-opener for me. If this was the ‘Tenant Engagement Concept,’ that won me hands down! From now on, I will gladly welcome and support whoever joins the board in a tenant capacity.
Our Director of Services, Liz Clarke, rang me after our last meeting to see how it went. We had been finalising our Strategy document, and as a group, we had read through every sentence, every word, fixing any minor errors along the way. The meeting was thought provoking as always, but we also laughed our way through it. It was my last meeting, but it was at that point that I realised, and said to Liz, that the invisible boundary was gone, the idea of ‘us and them’ was gone. We now talked to each other, not at each other. It wasn’t ‘Circle and tenant’ anymore. We were all equals with a common purpose, ‘A Tenant Engaging Group.’
You ask the question about how Tenant Engagement will benefit me as the Customer Service and Repairs Manager. I don’t fully know yet, but I hope the journey I have experienced so far will continue and that it will be a similar one for all our tenants and all of Circle’s staff.
Based on my TAG experience, I know we can learn a lot from each other, pull on our strengths together when needed, and be open with each other when support and understanding are required. That can only be a good thing.