Digital Engagement

After a year that brought with it a range of operational challenges, the final day of NHC 2021 turned to digital engagement. Housing associations have had to move to a system of home-working, remote service delivery and digital engagement which provided an opportunity to review and challenge traditional methodologies and introduce innovation at all levels of housing businesses.

Blackwood Group have been at the forefront of technological innovation for a number of years and Debbie explained that this put them in a strong position to digitally engage with their customers, who were already familiar with it, as well as having staff work flexibly. The next step is to use digital channels for managing repairs.

Laura Vernett, the Marketing Director at Harper Macleod, highlighted the volume of information that people are receiving and the challenge being to cut through that noise effectively and not simply add to it.

Paul Hillard talked about measuring customer satisfaction and the level and types of engagement that they want. A crucial element going forward is to ensure that things don't revert back to what was done before but the best aspects are taken forward.

A key theme was some of the unexpected positive outcomes of the lockdowns.

Other issues that were covered included:

• Unexpected positive outcomes
• Internal engagement
• Remote support for vulnerable tenants
• Safeguarding
• The human touch

Watch the full sessions

In conversation with Tom Thomas and Anne Jenkins

Roundtable session

Anne Jenkins

Anne has over 15 years’ experience in social housing in both local authority and RSL across a range of disciplines from housing needs assessment, tenancy support, homelessness and tenancy and estate management. She has been with Blackwood for 7 years, initially overseeing the north housing region before moving to her current innovation role. She is responsible for the delivery of innovation and digital projects, developing ideas into products and services and exploring emerging technology and solutions.

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Guest Speakers

Debbie Collins

Debbie is a Chartered Management Accountant with over 20 years’ finance experience working across many industries, most recently as Finance and Commercial Director for SB Cares an adult social care provider in the Scottish Borders and as a non-executive Director for Trust Housing. Debbie brings a breadth of experience in particular financial management, a strong commitment to innovation and the ability to build strong relationships.

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Laura Vernett

Laura Vernett is Marketing Director at Harper Macleod and has overall responsibility for the creation and implementation of the firm’s marketing strategy.

She has extensive experience of professional services marketing and is responsible for the development of the HM Brand to reflect the quality, personality and imagination of our people. This is done internally through creative colleague engagement programmes and externally by aligning the brand to key market sectors, executing an ongoing programme of client feedback and activating strategic sponsorships (including Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and Glasgow 2018 European Championships).

She works with the Marketing & Business Development Team to consistently deliver high quality, professional support to the firm. The team has previously been awarded the accolade of Marketing Team of the Year and Support Team of the Year at the Law Awards of Scotland and Scottish Legal Awards. 


Paul Hillard

As the Managing Director and Secretary of Irvine Housing Association Paul has direct responsibility for advising the Board on strategic issues, ensuring the Association is governed appropriately and providing leadership to the staff team. He also has overall control and management of the Association’s operation, ensuring all activities are carried out in an effective and efficient manner consistent with the Associations values. His role also encompasses being the lead for Riverside in Scotland and he is the internal business lead for people issues across the Group

Paul is a Corporate Member of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and is a Master of Business Administration. He commenced his career in housing over 30  years ago. He has worked in a range of roles and has experience in housing management and maintenance, supported housing, housing development and estate regeneration.

Paul is also a Board member of City of Glasgow College and is a previous recipient of the Sunday Times Best Leader of a Not For Profit Organisation Award.

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