Empowerment

Residents can be more or less empowered in relation to their housing, neighbourhoods and life goals.

These outcomes are founded on a number of enablers or inhibitors including: customer services and relationships with service providers (housing and others); community organisational capacity to be both reactive and proactive; and individual aspirations and expectations. Housing improvements and neighbourhood regeneration activities can impact directly and indirectly upon empowerment through these mechanisms.

Key findings to date relating to this outcome are summarised below.

Community engagement and decision-making processes

We have been studying the community engagement and decision-making processes in one of our Regeneration study areas in depth. Our findings led us to question whether sufficient attention was being given to ensuring the ability of community organisations to follow democratic procedures and to represent the diversity of views within communities. We also found that processes of community engagement and consultation were open to manipulation by both sides (in timing, process and reporting) and that there should be more independent advice and scrutiny introduced to such processes.

Source: Briefing Paper 13

The role of Local Housing Organisations

A study of community empowerment through Local Housing Organisation (LHO) management committees showed a variety of types and degrees of empowerment via this mechanism. These variations in empowerment outcomes were explained in terms of three factors: the community context (including the residential conditions in the area, the stability of the community, and the calibre and experience of the available committee members); the organisational context (including the size, ethos and capabilities of the LHO and Registered Social Landlord (RSL) involved); and the networks and relationships that the community and the LHO/RSL possessed. It was concluded that Second Stage Transfer (SST) was not capable of delivering uniform levels of empowerment across communities.

Source:  Lawson and Kearns (2010) (external link)

Master planning in Transformational Regeneration Areas

We looked at the master-planning process which occurred in three Transformational Regeneration Areas over the period 2006-8. We found that community participants in this process felt they were valued, listened to, and had some input to the plans. Against this, however, the communities' empowerment was undermined by the fact that few people had any awareness of either the decision making processes or the implementation processes that were to follow the master-planning exercise.

Source: Briefing Paper 6

Tenant satisfaction with influence

At Wave 2, satisfaction with being kept informed by one's landlord was higher than satisfaction that one's landlord took tenants' views into account when making decisions. However, satisfaction with tenant influence increased significantly in all types of study area between 2006 and 2008, indicating that landlords had improved their consultation processes in recent years.

Source: Progress for People and Places, page 92

Perceived influence and social factors

There was a positive association at Wave 2 between perceived community influence over local decisions, and respondents' views of other aspects of community life such as feelings of belonging, neighbourliness and cohesion. This might suggest that empowerment can be enhanced not only through governance mechanisms but also through social regeneration. 

Source: Progress for People and Places, page 129

Perceived influence over local decisions

By Wave 2 in 2008, perceived influence over local decisions had increased across all types of study area. However, it was still the case that only a minority of residents in the Regeneration Areas (around 30%) felt that they had any influence.

Source: Progress for People and Places, Figure 7.8

Influence over housing vs neighbourhoods

At our baseline in 2006, we found that respondents felt a greater sense of empowerment in relation to their housing than they did in respect of their neighbourhoods. Half our respondents at Wave 1 were satisfied that their landlord took into account tenants' views when making decisions, but only 29% agreed that residents could have any influence over decisions affecting the local area.

Source: The Regeneration Challenge in Transformation Areas, Table 39

Community empowerment beyond regeneration

A qualitative study of residents' experiences and perceptions of the regeneration planning process in three of our study areas undergoing major regeneration, found that community engagement had made contributions to some of its identified aims. Weaknesses were identified, however, in relation to community empowerment beyond regeneration, including in terms of community cohesion and effective implementation. There is a necessity to maintain community engagement throughout the regeneration process, between planning and implementation, in order to ensure that any benefits are sustained.

Source: Lawson and Kearns (2010) (external link)