Change in action: Promoting digital engagement at Ongo

19 February 2024

At Ongo, we have always offered a wide-range of opportunities for our customers to shape, influence and improve our services. These include traditional meetings and focus groups, along with digital engagement opportunities in the form of blended meetings, online surveys and social media. 

However, we wanted to enhance our digital offer, to reach those who were unable to attend meetings and had limited spare time. We found we needed to reach people who worked full-time, had children to look after or other caring commitments, and often those who lived in rural areas with limited or no digital experience.   

How did we make a change? 

After several planning meetings, we launched a new Digital Tenants group in November 2019. Successful applicants received a free tablet device in return for their commitment to take part in quarterly online feedback sessions over a two-year period.  

Our aim was for our Digital Tenants to provide their experiences of using our resident portal, My Home, and tell us how it could be improved, along with the other digital channels we offer.   

Within two weeks, we had over 100 applications, which was a huge and unprecedented response for a new scheme.  

 We received applications from residents of a variety of ages from 25 up to 80, from different employment statuses with some working full-time, and from locations. Over half were based in rural locations, and together the group delivered a more diverse and representative voice.   

Sessions were held via a closed Facebook group. Over the course of a week, we posted one question per day and members had until the end of that week to provide answers at a time that suited them. Some live Facebook Room sessions were also held, including on weekends, for members to meet, provide ideas and ask questions in the video chat. We provided relevant training to those who needed it to help improve their skills and knowledge.  

An action plan was created following each session. This was shared with the group and regularly updated so members could see the impact that their suggestions were having on our digital channels.  

100 applicants

We had over 100 applicants to the scheme in two weeks, an unprecedented response. 

25-80 years of age

We had applicants from a diversity of ages, from 25 to 80 years of age. These represented a variety of employment statuses and over half living in a rural location.

What impact has the project made so far? 

Due to its popularity and significant positive impact on digital services, we began a new programme in January 2023 with five new members, taking overall membership to 19.    

Creating the Digital Tenants concept ensures we’re more inclusive and get real-time feedback on digital services and improvements.

At Ongo, we’re really glad we introduced this method of engagement as it means we’re now getting an increased level of input and influence from more residents without them having to dedicate too much time. It has also allowed us to reach people we might not have otherwise heard from previously.  

Our main achievements so far:  

  • Adding more repair appointments that tenants can book through the app. 
  • Making rent statements clearer to understand and easier to access. 
  • Influencing and testing a new ‘Report Anti-Social Behaviour’ function.  
  • Developing a new ‘In your community’ section that provides tenants with updates on activities and events taking place where they live. 
  • Being involved in changes to the recently refreshed Ongo website. 
  • Providing suggestions on the annual My Home and digital roadmap of improvements. 
  • Testing and establishing a new chatbot function. 
  • Highlighting extra security features to be added.  

What’s next for the Digital Tenants Group? 

This flexible and formative group continues to go from strength to strength, and they are an important part of our ever-evolving digital journey. Recently, we began piloting a virtual assistance service. Residents using this system can show us a repair or issue through a live video or image-sharing feature, leading to increased first-time resolution and clearer diagnosis.  

We have also embraced a new surveying platform which has allowed residents to provide feedback at the touch of a button through text messaging surveys. We have more exciting digital plans for the future, but we’ll continue to make sure that nobody is left behind as part of the journey and that everyone can access and influence services in a way that suits them.   

For us, this doesn’t hinder other forms of engagement or services that we provide – it enhances them.  

Change in action 

In December 2023, the National Housing Federation (NHF) and Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) published a joint update on our work on the Better Social Housing Review, one year since the independent panel made seven recommendations for the social housing sector.    

Our ‘Change in action’ series of case studies highlights best practice so far from housing associations navigating the changes set out in the BSHR.

If you have a question about the recommendations, or want to get in touch, please contact us.