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Nothing to lose and a lot to gain: a conversation with resident Mike Shaw

Mike Shaw has lived in his Connect home since 1999. Previously working as a debt counsellor, he wanted to put his experience and skills into something meaningful during his retirement. Now he’s turned his hand to community involvement.

“During my career it was very enjoyable to help people get control back of their lives and get a good understanding of the stresses and problems they are facing.”

Mike’s desire to get involved in Connect was motivated by building stronger relationships between housing associations and their residents.

“Looking at my experience as a resident, you get less than perfect interactions with people at housing associations…I wanted to find a positive way of improving that and getting some two-way dialogue. Getting involved was a natural thing to do for me. When something came up, I knocked on the door and started getting involved.”

Mike first got involved by applying to join Connect’s board. There were only a couple of vacancies and lots of applicants so he was unsuccessful, but the board were impressed by what he had to offer. This is where the idea for a programme to get residents ‘board ready’ was born.

“Because of my interest I was asked if I wanted to help with developing an entry-level program to make it more accessible for residents to join the board. A framework of a program is now in place. It’s quite a broad spectrum. You need a grasp of the policy of housing, what the national and local context is, to understand the finances and be mindful of the HR, the people side of things.”

He emphasised that whilst being a board member is not for everyone, you shouldn’t shy away from applying.

“Nobody is expected to know everything. There’s a fear looking in from the outside in that you do have to know everything, be a jack of all trades – it isn’t the case. Your common sense and personal experience bring a unique perspective. People shouldn’t be afraid of applying. I’d encourage anyone to do so and take it from there. There’s nothing to lose and a lot to gain in terms of building skills. Nothing is ever wasted or lost.”

Mike’s message is clear; residents bring a wealth of knowledge, experience, and by getting involved they bring benefits to everyone involved in Connect.

“We need a degree of cooperation between the people who are using the services as well as the service providers so we can understand and look after each other. Most of us go through life never knowing what we can achieve and imagine the worst – you can’t do this, or that; but there’s a whole mine of information, experience, and feeling inside people. If we can tease that out, it helps everybody.”

We are looking to start recruiting to the board ready programme in 2024 so if you’re interested in taking part
and want to know more then please get in touch with us at gettinginvolved@connecthousing.org.uk or 0300 5000 600.

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