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A “Big Conversation” in Lyon

Social Housing staff pays a visit to the association’s tenants

Lyon, 15 October 2015 | Social
Cédric Van Styvendael with his colleague, Naïma Hamed during one of their 4 visits
Cédric Van Styvendael with his colleague, Naïma Hamed during one of their 4 visits

On October 8th EST Metropole Habitat employees visited 500 tenants, re-launching thus their relationship with them. We’ve "overheard" their "Big Conversation" and found out more about this innovative initiative.

Social housing is not just another service. Through their mission associations that provide an affordable home to a family play a decisive role in its life. This relationship does not end once the tenants receive the key to their apartment. Other support and domiciliary services are also part of the equation. However, due to the large number of the housing stock and the relatively limited staff it’s not easy for a personal relationship between tenants and employees of the housing associations to be established. EST Metropole Habitat, one of the members of our French member organisation, USH in Lyon made the decision to change this…

All 300 employees of the association spent their day on October 8th visiting 500 households that are hosted in the EST stock in the third largest city of France. The “Grande Conversation” (the “Big Conversation”) is an initiative inspired by a respective project that was launched in London 8 years ago. Since then the Shepherds Bush Housing Group (SBHG) staff members, led by their Chief Executive Paul Doe, meet residents in their homes to listen to their views which help to shape and develop the organisations service.

“I wanted to show to our staff how kind and loveable people are tenants are. My purpose is that the “grande conversation” is just the first step and a solid foundation for a new kind of more dynamic relationship we’d like to establish with our service users.”, explains EST Metropole Habitat Director, Cédric Van Styvendael with a smile on his face.

The overall feedback was more than encouraging, since staff members were warmly welcomed by all residents. This is particularly important, as Cédric confesses that during the preparation of the event there was a sort of fear of the tenants’ reactions.

The visits were rather informal; EST workers, broken into groups of two, brought a small present to all tenants and had a casual discussion with them about their living conditions but also asking them for any problems or issues where there is room for improvement.

Shall we already save the date for the “big conversation” of 2016? Cédric is convinced that this is going to be part of the regular activities of EST, since mainly the employees were absolutely happy and excited and are looking forward to doing this again. “It was really great” was what most people were saying when they returned to the EST offices. Apparently, apart from deepening their relationships with tenants, the “big conversation” offered EST staff members a unique opportunity to come closer to each other, too.  

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