Using technology to help social housing residents
Melin Homes has been supported by a grant from Y Lab's Digital Innovation Accelerator to invest in low-cost tablets for new residents, as part of their lettings process.
Social housing residents are the least likely tenure group to use technology, and this hinders them in all sorts of ways. The way that concerns us most is claiming benefits under Universal Credit, as they are required to do so online. Our new lettings service would aim to address this problem by providing a device with every new tenancy, along with advice on skills and internet access if needed. This is not a new idea, but it is innovative for our organisation and we hope it will create a new channel for staff and customers to engage with each other.
At the Satori Lab workshop, we discussed our problem, our project idea, and our vision with the other attendees. The facilitators, Esko and Jo, encouraged the group to fire us with as many questions as possible. Even though the findings from our test pilot last year allowed us to answer most of the questions we were asked, we did realise a few assumptions that we were making, such as ‘Can your residents pay rent on their Xbox?’.
We also had questions that we couldn’t answer, yet were very thought-provoking (for instance ‘What will “online” mean in 5 years time?’) And then some questions that hurt, like ‘Is your organisation capable of designing good online services?’ This activity was so insightful because there were many different organisations in the room and so many different perspectives. This also meant that we really had to cut down on the jargon. It was a good exercise because if our idea wasn’t relevant to our non-housing colleagues, why would it be relevant to our customers?
The workshop definitely made us clearer on defining the problem we want to solve. But it also convinced us that we have chosen the right battle to fight, because digital exclusion is a problem that cascades into others for individuals and for businesses like Melin. Due to our test pilot, we have a reasonable understanding of how our residents will react to their new tablets, and how it will positively impact on their lives at home.
By taking this opportunity provided to us by Y Lab, our redesigned online services will hopefully deliver benefits to us as an organisation as well. If delivered successfully, our project has the potential to kill many birds with one stone.
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