Community | 06 May 2020
Lesley Watson, MTVH’s Regional Manager, Community Investment (Midlands and East Anglia) shares some of the remarkable work Community Investment is doing to support our residents and communities who need it most.
1. Can you tell us something about yourself?
I’ve worked for the organisation for 17 years in roles that have all been customer-facing – supporting residents and communities directly. I’m one of three regional managers and there’s plenty of synergy in what we do (we’re standardising processes so outcomes are well informed and we can demonstrate them clearly), but, we recognise communities are different and one size doesn’t fit all.
2. Can you tell us a bit about how the Community Investment team works?
We’re enablers that support communities in most need – we dip in and out depending on the situation – but residents and what they want for their own community is really key. Some team members work one-to-one with individuals on a journey that is unique to them. We have to be flexible and adaptable and work at a pace that suits our customers as they set goals and prioritise what is important in their lives. Our new Resident and Community Empowerment strategy focuses us on doing more of the right stuff, for the right people, for the right reasons.
3. How are things now with Covid-19?
I’m one part of the team; there are a number of colleagues who contribute in very different ways. I have to ensure I have a really good understanding of what it is the organisation needs from us and the direction the business is going in… so I can support colleagues to prioritise the right things. Our team members are really flexible, adaptable and creative. And, especially at this time, they’re not afraid to ‘give it a go’ and try something new – even if they don’t always get it right. Some things we’d do normally, but what’s different now is the way we have to do them. It’s these skills in the team that are invaluable, and that is what’s making the difference to the work we’re doing.
4. Are you working differently?
The current situation is not natural for us; being out-and-about is second nature to us. As a team we want to do the face- to-face, we want to have that contact, be where our customers are, see and feel that environment…we’re itching to get out there, but obviously we can’t. Personally, I’m a calm and chilled person, but I can’t say I’ve enjoyed working from home (in a forced way)…
5. You seem to be a team of innovators? And now is absolutely a time of innovation and to be bold. Can you give examples of the kind of things you are doing?
We are showing the range of adaptability we have in the team. In North and South London we’re working with colleagues to call customers identified early on as being at-risk and see how we can support them. The Midlands team is working with the Income Team to contact customers who have made new Universal Credit claims. This often leads to broader conversations about the situation they are in. It’s our job to listen to what they are saying and equally to what they’re not saying. We have to dig, and ask probing questions, so we can work together to find the best long term solutions for them.
Some team members are working strategically – nationally with bigger partnerships like local authorities and foodbanks (and other food providers) to address some of the systemic issues. Others are working with Finance and Procurement to find ways to make things happen quickly such as accessing electronic food vouchers for residents.
6. How are customers reacting to MTVH’s proactive approach?
Residents are really grateful. Often we’re told: “You’re the third person from MTVH to call.” And this is really positive – it shows we’re an organisation that cares. A Coronavirus Support Hub has also been established to manage any referrals for customers who need support relating to Covid-19.
7. Your team does a lot of partnership working. Are you forging new partnerships now?
Partnerships are important; we can do so much more by collaborating especially in a time of crisis. We’ve forged partnerships at national level, at local level (e.g. local authorities) and with counterparts in other organisations. We’re doing things like partnering with StepChange, a leading debt charity, so our residents can access advice quickly, and we’re utilising money from our Migration Foundation to support smaller charities which may have taken a hit as a result of the pandemic. There are many more examples…