Beacon authority – London Borough of Croydon
Theme: Community engagement
Case study 5 - Organising Tenant Conferences, Fun Days and other
In order to raise the profile of resident involvement in all areas and at all levels, it will
become necessary to arrange large events and conferences. These may be used to:
promote a new initiative
increase interest in existing activities
to provide a platform to discuss issues with a large number of residents or
gauge their views or priorities
improve knowledge and understanding of a large number of residents
provide an opportunity for residents from a community to get together with
their neighbours and have some fun.
A few resident groups in the Croydon area have always arranged local community
based activities from time to time, such as fun days, outings, parties and other
activities. These activities often involved a lot of hard work from a fairly small number
of residents but the events were a good opportunity for local people to get to know
their neighbours. This in turn would often improve the feeling of “community”, even if
just for a short while.
In the last four or five years, more groups have realised the potential benefits of
organising various community activities and have expressed an interest in operating
similar events in their areas.
Limited support was provided for such events from the resident participation team
and as a result, some (though by no means all), were not as well run as they could
be and were not always considered completely successful.
The provision of “fun” or “family” days was, until recently, left primarily to the local
resident groups, with minimal support from the resident participation team. The
opportunity for the housing department to use such events on a strategic basis, in
order to promote services or market new ideas, has only been realised in the last few
Croydon have used conferences as a way of speaking with large numbers of
residents for many years and at one time these were organised annually.
However, the standard format became rather tired and interest in these events was
primarily from the same residents each year.
Four years ago an attempt was made to work a fun element into the annual
conference, resulting in a more informal event. Adult residents could attend
workshops around housing and associated issues, while, some limited activities were
provided for younger attendees who were able to go to workshops in drama, circus
skills and dance, etc.
Key issues / problems
It is relevant to separate the various community events and activities into two
categories. Those that are resident led and those that are housing department led
Resident led community events
Some resident groups were very keen to arrange events and activities for their local
communities and local knowledge meant that some had good ideas of what would be
popular or suitable for their local members. However, a number of concerns arose
the lack of expertise and understanding around how best to organise a large
the lack of awareness of health and safety issues, the need for insurance, etc.
limited access to equipment, relying on borrowing equipment from neighbours,
local Scouts and similar organisations.
staffing on the day was often entirely down to a small core of local residents
who would often not get any breaks and would be ill prepared for any
problems that may arise.
The local resident participation officer would provide some advice and support but at
that time even Officers were not always fully aware of the best way to arrange such
events, having had little or no relevant training either.
Until three or four years ago, the RP team felt that all events arranged by the
department should have some “strategic goal” and include some opportunity for
residents to discuss issues of common interest, or to undertake some informal
training during the event. As noted above, the idea of using events as a “marketing”
tool was not realised.
Residents who were already involved in RP for some time, were keen that formal
opportunities to discuss relevant issues and undertake training would be provided by
way of a conference type event on a regular basis. However, there was limited
interest in such formal events from other residents who were not already involved.
It was agreed from a business point of view that it was important to engage with
residents who were not “known” to us. However, efforts to mix the formal with the
informal activities were not considered to be very successful and the resulting events
were no more popular than a conference, particularly to the many residents who
were new to resident participation.
What we did
Resident led community events
With the benefit of the experiences of both officers and residents who had arranged
successful events in the past, a brief procedure guide was produced which would act
as a “check list” for anyone arranging an event or activity. This was found to be
useful by residents and officers alike.
Officers were supported and encouraged by managers to provide more help and
practical advice to groups. As time progressed, the resident participation team
undertook on-the-job training and became more experienced and as a consequence,
their support became more valuable to groups.
Around 18 months ago it became apparent that residents who were arranging local
events and activities should undertake some form of formal training. This should
provide them with, at least, some key information about how to arrange activities and
an increased awareness of relevant issues.
We now operate and monitor a training programme which is mandatory to 3 or 4
residents from any group who arrange a community event or activity with any support
(financial or otherwise) from Croydon housing department. The course covers topics
that can be applied to a variety of activities, including family days, community parties,
trips, bring and buy sales, sports events, etc. The course covers the topics shown
child protection, what is it and what can groups do to minimise the risks
food hygiene awareness
basic information about planning and operating activities
the need for and benefits of Insurance
risk assessment, what is it and how to carry out
who should be informed and who can help
To support the course, which is currently run as a full day session, “A guide to
arranging safe events and activities”, has been produced, along with a variety of
other supporting information from the Environmental Health Section.
In many cases, more residents are prepared to come forward to support local events
in the knowledge that the events are better organised and that there would be clear
direction on the day.
The remaining problem was perceived to be around access to equipment and some
groups were finding that hiring or borrowing things like tables, gazebos and sound
equipment was problematic.
The resident participation team had similarly found hiring certain items of equipment
was problematic and over a period of time, a stock of robust equipment has been
built up. Recognised resident groups who are providing some form of community
based activity, can borrow any items from the team free of charge.
Since attendance from at least one officer is also arranged, assistance with, or
supervision of, the equipment can also be provided.
Each year, for the past three years, the resident participation team has met with
residents and agreed a programme of events that would be primarily arranged and
operated by the housing department. The principal aim of these events would be to
promote opportunities for participation from residents who are not currently involved.
Varying strategies relating to timings and location have been used during this time to
maximise attendance at the events. However, the common factor has been to take
the work of the department out to the local estates and engage with the residents
who live there.
This would be done within an event that would be attractive or interesting to all
members of the community, and would include some or all of the following:
some form of family entertainment or music, (so not loud rock music etc.)
activities to interest children and young people
a display or exhibition (not housing based) of interest to a broad range of
local councillors or another local dignitary invited (can ”open” the event)
the local police should also be invited.
light refreshments (never alcohol) are available – could be served by members
of a local resident group.
Council officers need to be encouraged to go out to speak directly with the residents /
visitors, as experience has shown that residents will rarely go up to speak to an
officer standing in front of a display (no matter how interesting the display).
This base format has generally resulted in a well attended event which provides the
department with a platform to engage with a diverse section of the local population
and often provides the estate / community with an enjoyable event where residents
can mix socially with their neighbours.
The exact content is changed from event to event, in order to keep them interesting
and popular, with the 2005 events being sponsored by one of our major works
contractors, allowing us the opportunity to buy in a tethered hot air balloon for the
Some specialist equipment / provision may need to be procured from time to time
(such as bouncy castles, climbing towers, video recording operatives etc.) but many
of the items that are routinely being used by the resident participation team and
resident groups alike, have been purchased by the team and can be used at events
(see above and case study – Supporting Resident Involvement for more details)
Whilst Croydon have not arranged formal conferences on an annual basis for a
number of years, a variety of formats are being used for events where residents can
engage with one another to discuss common issues and concerns.
Most popular are the “networking” events, where residents from Croydon are able to
meet with residents from other boroughs. We have “visited” another borough in the
past but this was improved on recently when we met with residents from a
neighbouring borough on “neutral” ground at a mutually agreed location away from
This particular event proved that well chosen venues and settings can be as
important as the agenda, as residents like to feel they are valued and being taken out
for the day is something of a treat. The venue in question was a well presented
village hall which was inexpensive to hire and in a very peaceful setting. External
caterers provided lunch and other refreshments were provided internally and the day
was agreed to be successful.
Regardless of the style of the event, residents should be involved in choosing the
venue, the content of the day, refreshments, the content of the discussions, speakers
etc. Consider inviting a well known and interesting key speaker and give the event a
common topical theme.
Any conference type events properly promoted, giving an opportunity for as many
residents to attend as is practical. Croydon has been operating such events for a
while and many residents are keen to attend as they know there will be a benefit.
However, it is not always enough to promote such events only to those who are
In all cases, regardless of the style or nature of the event, thought must be given to
ensure the venue is accessible and appropriate. Where food is provided, residents
with dietary needs must be able to select a menu to suit their needs.
Events must be properly planned in advance and well run on the day, with plenty of
trained staff who know where things are and have an understanding of issues around
health and safety etc. It is advisable to have a couple of planning meetings with all
officers who will be working at the event, to ensure they are familiar with their roles
on the day. A de-briefing session a couple of days later provides a very useful
opportunity to look at what went well and what did not.
Croydon residents have been able to access information about the services the
housing department provides through various informal events which are inviting and
at the same time interesting. Through these events, over the last couple of years,
the housing department have met many residents that were not otherwise involved,
often providing a valuable resource for consultation and decision making.
Many more resident groups have the confidence and skills to arrange community
events as a result of the increased support levels provided by the department. These
resident led events often result in an improved level of community cohesion and as
local residents are often made aware of the support being provided by the
department, this can improve the relationship between residents and officers in the
The improved levels of training and support has meant that all events, regardless of
who they are organised by, are better planned and organised, safer and as a result,
better attended and generally more successful.
The capital cost of much of the equipment available has been spread over a period of
four years or more and is in the region of £10,000.00. This is considered good value
as most of the equipment has a life expectancy of 5 years or more with correct use.
The provision of the twice yearly safe events training occupies two officers for the
whole day with a specialist from Environmental Health for around 2 hours. The
supporting “Guide to arranging safe events and activities” took the equivalent of
around a week of officer time but most of the content will remain relevant for many
years, with occasional updates following changes in legislation etc.
Providing additional officer time and support for individual group events is relatively
high as it can take officers away from their other duties for up to half a day attending
planning meetings etc. and a further day attending the event. However, this is
considered good value in that it improves both the general and safety standard of the
event and can provide a good opportunity for the officer concerned to undertake
An annual budget for conferences and other events has been agreed and for
2005/06 this was £13,000.00.
Who was involved
The level of practical support in terms of equipment has been detailed in Croydons’
Resident Participation Compact.
The Croydon Residents Development and Training Forum (CRDTF) is a resident led
group whose remit includes discussing and commenting on all aspects of training
and other development work related to resident participation. This includes looking
at arranging large promotional events and conferences as well as considering how
best to support resident groups arranging their own events and activities.
Membership of the group is open to any resident from a property that is managed by
Croydon housing department and who has an interest in the work of the group.
Meetings are chaired by a resident and the group works in partnership with officers
from the resident participation team, who attend meetings.
Officers respond to requests from resident groups for support with individual events
and will then meet with the committee or planning group to provide advice and
support as required.
How would we do it better
The department led events on local estates should be arranged with some degree of
local resident involvement as those where we work in isolation have, in the main,
been poorly attended.
Increasing the level of attendance is always a key target and as noted, the content or
detail of events is constantly changed to maximise attendance.
We have also tried “piggy backing” existing larger events such as local carnivals, etc.
The problem here is often around the limited numbers of attendees who are housing
We have worked with a number of other local housing providers on a few occasions
and we could operate more events in partnership with these organisations, in the
Tim Nash - Resident Participation Co-ordinator
e.mail email@example.com tel: 020 8726 6100 X 62954