There is no doubt that the housing sector is well positioned to coordinate and facilitate youth engagement activities.

Notice I said coordinate and facilitate, not deliver.

Youth-Engagement-Image-

Why?

The housing sector is an organisation with a vested interest in the development and sustainability of the local community it serves.

The housing sector not only has an interest in the betterment of the physical community, but also the betterment of the people of that community.

As a housing provider, young people are your future tenants, so nurturing and sustaining a positive relationship with local young people has an extremely high future return on investment.

If it is not already, Youth engagement should be a corporate priority for every housing provider, no matter how big or small the organisation is.

It’s clear that there are inconsistencies across the housing sector related to the approach and attitude toward youth engagement.

Some housing providers have a youth engagement strategy, a dedicated team with a dedicated budget.

Others have the capacity to do very little youth engagement at all.

Regardless of your current position, there is something you can do to improve your relationship with local young people.

Here are a few ways your resident engagement team can build better relationships with local young people.

 

Talk to young people

I’ve been delivering youth engagement training in the housing sector for a few years now, and I’m always surprised at how many resident engagement officers struggle and even fear to talk to young people.

They ask;

  • What do I say?
  • What if they tell me to [obscene alternative to go away]?
  • What if they blank me?

My response is, so what?

At this point, you’re not trying to get into a long conversation with them.

You’re just acknowledging them. So don’t worry about their response.

Here is the secret step by step process I teach.

Ready?

  1. See the group
  2. Approach the group
  3. Get within talking range
  4. Say Hello, Hi, How you doing? or any other appropriate greeting
  5. Keep walking

Yes, it’s really that simple.

I guarantee you, if you do that every time you see the group, eventually, you will be in a position to have to longer, more constructive conversation.

 

Learn the names of local young people

Your name is important to you. It identifies how you are.

When someone calls you by your name, immediately, it grabs your attention and causes a connection with that person.

When you see a group of young people hanging around in the community, it is very easy to just label them as, “that bunch on the corner” or “those kids”.

If you can learn the name of just one of those young people, you are starting the process of building a better relationship.

How do you learn their name? Simple, just ask them.

You might see them by themselves or in a smaller group.

Because you have been following the first tip, of saying hello every time you see them, it’s not such a massive step to follow up with, “What your name again?”

Once you have it, remember it.

Every time you see that young person, greet them using their name. even if they’re in a larger group of young people.

In fact, that’s even better, because when you’ve gone, their friends will ask “Who’s that?”

“ahh, it’s just Tony from the housing group”

Boom – You’ve got a connection!

 

Initiate Positive Engagement

Unfortunately, my experience has been that many resident engagement officers only really engage with young people when there have been issues.

Usually a complaint from another resident about nuisance or antisocial behaviour.

Straight away, this puts a negative label on that engagement, which then causes the young person / group of young people to associate you and your organisation with a negative experience.

I teach that resident engagement teams should make every effort to do the opposite.

If you can be proactive in initiating positive engagements, even very small ones, this will contribute to the nurturing of a positive relationship with you, your organisation and young people.

Some quick wins are;

  • Ask young people for their help / opinion on matters
  • Invite young people to contribute to a decision-making process
  • Recognise, acknowledge and celebrate young people’s achievement

More Practical Ideas:

  • Ask young people to manage your social media profiles
  • Ask young people to design your marketing materials
  • Give young people an agenda item at an important meeting
  • Give young people ownership of a dedicated page on your website
  • Sponsor a young person each month to do something important to them that also has a positive impact on the community
  • Interview and feature a local young person in your newsletter.

 

Establish working partnerships with existing youth organisations

Like most successful projects, partnership working is a key factor in achieving successful youth engagement within the housing sector.

Most resident engagement teams are not youth work trained and have very little dedicated youth engagement experience.

Neither do they have the capacity to invest the time and attention required to really cater for the needs of local young people.

By establishing a working partnership with local youth organisations, you can leverage to skills and resources that organisation already has. And more importantly, you can leverage the existing relationship that organisation has with local young people.

Conclusion

The housing sector has a great opportunity to nurture positive relationships with its future tenants, the young people of today.

That positive relationship with local young people will give you a high return on investment.

It doesn’t take that much to start to build those relationships, but it does take consistency and some tenacity.

These few simple and practical points can help you begin to build better relationships with local young people.

Remember, an investment in young people is an investment in all of our futures.

If you would like more useful tips and advice on how to engage young people effectively, or if you would like to find out about our dedicated youth engagement training workshops specifically for the housing sector, then click here:

AGENCY-CONTACT-BUTTON