So I was asked to speak at the Housing Scotland 2018 Conference on reaching out to people to get them involved in the use of digital pieces of kit. This followed work I’ve done in Haddington on getting funding for a literacy expert to spend time in our housing offices, being there for people to talk to. I followed Maya Christova, from Digital Unite, who did a brilliant job of hitting the audience with facts and figures. I knew my job was to talk about emotion, not data, about fear, not fun, about overcoming barriers and getting past challenges.
So I started out with talking about a group of people just like them – the East Lothian residents panel, whom I’ve had the privilege of working with for the past few months. I told them about a meeting I’d had with the panel when I was talking about online payments – how the chair had been worried for the older women he knew who would struggle with online payments. I said nothing as one by one, the formidable women on the panel told him how they paid their rent. Online, it turns out!
He made the mistake of thinking he spoke for them when he clearly didn’t and we as organisations and councils and housing associations make a similar mistake in assuming our chairs also speak for their members when the evidence for that is extremely sketchy. Given that most people are too busy working to be on representative groups, you should know straight away that your panels will be unrepresentative. People are engaging with companies, councils and other organisations online – as long as they have compelling reasons to do so. East Lothian Housing Association have the right idea – it offers discounts for people choosing to interact online, and not getting any paper. Anyway, I did my spiel – which boils down to “what is it in for me?” being the single most important question you need to answer when persuading someone – and people seemed to enjoy it.