In social housing there’s been a debate over the last forty years about how the cost of managing the privately owned housing estate can be efficiently run, supervised and scaled as well as working out how new kinds of social and health services can be implemented.
As time has gone on, however, we’ve realised that if we know the people in our organisation better, if we know the people who work with us and on our behalf we give them a motivational boost that builds capacity inside and outside the organisation that reaches deep into a lost history a bit like archaeology.
Knowing that the people who work in an organisation have high hopes and aspirations, that they want to share, collaborate and build something great for themselves and others is one of the goals in all organisations just now. We’re digging for it.
It’s an opportunity for levelling up: recognising how only having one type of person in the team holds back the much wider community who want and need to be part of social change.
For Richard Blakeway the Housing Ombudsman, it’s the culture that housing associations and social landlords need to create and foster so that people can work together: neighbourhoods need to support the teams who work in them, the teams who work in neighbourhoods need to feel valued, motivated and that they’ve done something useful that’s really appreciated. A culture that encourages young, middle aged and older people to be part of the regeneration solution we all need: restoring the relationship between landlord and tenant in a new, participative, engaged way. Everyone is a contributor.
We need to reignite our desire for 100% achievement, 100% inclusion in everything with everyone so that everyone knows and values the local, appreciates it, supports it. We need to re-invent the ‘neighbourhood’.
In all its positive and negative manifestations it’s in us, in every part of our organisations and work culture it’s just that we haven’t acknowledged or valued it for much too long. The neighbourhood isn’t deliveroo, pizza, uber, or places where you go to fill your stomach and drink too much: we all know that but we’ve forgotten how to make it more diverse, greener, with beautiful streets, pavements, shop signs: individual businesses, micro businesses, smes need to be valued, nurtured, grown, not just seen as good marketing for more inward investment of corporate chains.
To me the ‘neighbourhood’ is the physical expression of the archaeology of all we do and don’t do with and for each other. It’s got us all in as much forensic detail as a spreadsheet out of which algorithms are shaped to prioritise and privilege some people over others.
Our loss of connection to the neighbourhood in our cultural preference for spreadsheets and being in control of data has led to a culture where education and learning is on the margins of educational organisations and institutions.
Over the last forty years when you applied to a nursery, playgroup, school, college, university you were beta testing access routines that were often based on assumptions about privilege and underprivilege made by people with vested interests in maintaining social separation. How many people ask you about the things you love, the things you’ve learnt, your values, your ethics, what you want to learn. How often in all your millions of transactions did you feel a sense that any of those transactions were helping the human?
The idea that working class curiosity, desire for the same lovely ideas and things that they believed everyone else wanted has been turned into an online behaviour that might lead them into gambling, addiction to gaming or any old bad thing. The culture of exclusion affects everyone: middle class people have had to work just as hard to prove they can survive inside an information spreadsheet.
We know that we need to know the local better, respect and nurture the local: we realise now that everything we do, every effort we have made and make is important. That the local and its potential hasn’t been properly valued, written into the fabric of the world we see around us shows us that we’ve only valued and created assets around a tiny proportion of who and what we were, are and can be.
Every single life matters: we need to learn to breathe with others, for and with others.