Creating social impact: 7 impact questions with Touchstone and Brendan Geraghty

Brendan Geraghty interviews Touchstone’s Build to Rent Consultant Kirpal Rehinsi to discover how they deliver social impact across their schemes.

UKAA's Brendan Geraghty interviews Touchstone’s Build to Rent Consultant Kirpal Rehinsi | BTR News

Following Touchstone’s recent success at the Love to Rent’s Build to Rent awards and presentation at Property week’s BTR360 conference, Brendan Geraghty (CEO of the UKAA) sat down with Kirpal Rehinsi to discover how they plan and deliver social impact in Build to Rent.

How do you define social impact and why do you contribute to it?  

For us, social impact is about the positive effect which we have on the communities where we live and operate, as well as the people we interact with. It’s about making a change for the better, by helping our tenants to live their ‘best lives’, while also ensuring that our colleagues feel valued and continue to love the work they do.

Social impact is the right thing to do. We are part of the Places for People group, who are the UK’s leading Social Enterprise, changing lives by creating and supporting thriving communities. Therefore, our business strategy is also shaped by these values.

By creating true social impact and working with a variety of different stakeholders, we have seen the benefits for our customers, whether that is better access to local businesses or improved services, along with more engagement and less turnover when it comes to our colleagues.

How are you delivering social impact throughout the business?

Social impact starts with how we treat our colleagues, and we believe that happiness, security, and comfort can be contagious. So, we support our colleagues to support our customers through our strong benefits packages and by seeking continuous improvement via our annual colleague surveys.

We have also seen this translate into happy customers, meaning high retention rates, strong NPS (Net Promotor Score) scores and consistently high ratings with HomeViews.

We also maintain the Touchstone Fund, which invests in communities where our customers and colleagues live and work, leading to more positive engagement. Touchstone launched the fund in 2013 and we have helped thousands of customers and frontline colleagues to create lasting positive change in their neighbourhoods and beyond.

The support that we have provided ranges from supporting the homeless and refugees in their accommodation and helping them to develop life skills. These range from tenancy and cookery skills to CV writing or providing access to low-cost furniture and food.

By doing more through the business, we are hitting the right notes for our colleagues, which gives our site teams a strong foundation to launch from. Our strong ESG narrative also supports many of our institutional clients as they develop their ESG ambitions.

Does the business contribute to social impact on a wider scale?

Absolutely, each year we hope to do more to realise our ambition.

We have supported Habitat for Humanity for eight years, building 24 homes in Malawi for 96 orphans and vulnerable children, and 27 homes in Cambodia. Several teams from Touchstone have visited Malawi and Cambodia to support the communities there to build and refurbish homes, improve sanitation systems and provide families with microfinancing, financial literacy and livelihood skills.

How are you implementing social impact within your Build to Rent sites?

Our Build to Rent sites are filled with activity. Our fantastic on-site teams take the initiative and ensure that much of the impact we are cultivating is created by those closest to the community.

Our development in Birmingham is located within a large LGBTQ+ community area, so to integrate with our neighbours we sponsored Pride House during the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Their mission is to create a legacy for LGBTQ+ inclusion in sports in the West Midlands. We acted as Gold sponsors by hosting a number of their delegates, supporting them with their accommodation needs during the games, providing them with access to car parking, meeting rooms, and amenity spaces such as the fitness suite. In exchange, our residents were able to enjoy access to the VIP Suite at the game’s grounds, were offered the opportunity to meet the athletes, and were invited to enjoy both the launch and closing parties for Pride House, along with receiving free merchandising.

Due to this success, we have since held other LGBTQ+ events for our customers and invited the local community using our roof terrace.

We also work with The Birmingham Jazz and Blues festival, whose mission is to bring communities together over a shared love of music. We have partnered with them over several years to arrange jazz events for the local community in our amenity spaces.

We involve our residents in community projects, such as supporting The Birmingham Hippodrome by volunteering at special productions which cater for over 1,000 theatre goers who face physical or mental challenges. Our residents can volunteer to attend the events and work alongside the Hippodrome team to create a welcoming, inclusive environment for audiences who find attending the theatre overwhelming.

How do you achieve greater customer satisfaction as a result of your work towards social impact?

Looking at our Birmingham scheme, one example is that we are members of a network of local businesses who aim to drive economic and cultural growth within the local area. Our membership fees help to pay for wardens to patrol the local area, providing a layer of security for the surrounding community.

As members of this network, we work with local businesses to coordinate waste management, which has led to the reduction of bins left out on the streets during the week. We also organise deliveries with the aim to ease traffic and congestion in the local area.

These actions have such a positive impact on the surrounding area, and as our residents are active members in the wider community, this illustrates our dedication to stakeholder engagement, which in turn leads to a better customer experience.

So, what’s next for Touchstone?

We have recently been appointed to manage a new scheme on behalf of a Local Authority. The scheme is designed as part of a much larger regeneration project for the town centre and will kick-start their master plan for the area.

They intend to offer local homes to local people, with an allocation of discount market rent available to those who qualify. The client is keen for the scheme to slot seamlessly into the neighbourhood and act as a place that the community can use and benefit from.

We plan to engage with and sponsor several local events to raise the profile of our new community within the wider area, and our consultancy role has allowed us to design amenity spaces for residents and local people to enjoy. Non-residents will also have the chance to book these shared spaces directly and residents will be able to access services from approved local businesses via our app.

The opening event for our show flats was attended by dignitaries from the local council, while catering was provided by a local tea shop. We enlisted the help of a local service to produce marketing collateral for surrounding businesses, allowing them to advertise and promote their services to residents within the scheme. In future, we plan to use our marketing and social media presence to further collaborate with local businesses to promote their wares. We hope to establish strong relationships with a network of local businesses, to contribute towards the wider economic and cultural regeneration of the town.

How can prospective clients and customers get in touch with you?

For more details about Touchstone’s Build to Rent services, please contact me at Kirpal.rehinsi@touchstoneresi.co.uk

Or visit our website: https://www.touchstoneresi.co.uk/

We can also be found via our social media channels, LinkedIn or Instagram.

We look forward to receiving your enquiries!

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