Back on August 27th, 2018 I sent an email to a member of the management team at Toronto Community Housing jokingly suggesting that they "hire me as a media consultant". I would be thrilled to help them formulate a method of highlighting TCHC tenants and events with media releases, as well as, social media posts that distribute positive messaging about life in their hoods.
Little did I know how profitable that could be. Not until they hired their Change Management Consultant for 1.3 million dollars. Admittedly, the Change Management Consultant would be a temporary position ending when the desired change had taken place. A media consultant, on the other hand, would be a long term position as the Toronto Housing Corporation seems to be in need of someone to run triage on the negative publicity on top of formulating some independent in-house content.
Recently, Toronto Community Housing added me to their approved vendors list as a photographer. Theoretically, that's one foot in the door. Unfortunately, I can already feel the squeeze as they lean on that door. There is the desire of some staff to bring me in to the communications department. Not exactly a consultant but definitely up my alley. The naysayers in the organization would ease up on that door if I signed a Non Disclosure Agreement.
Signing on that dotted line is not something I can or will do. But, it does make me wonder if all employees at Toronto Community Housing have had to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement. What about all the peeps on their approved vendors list? Most importantly what about that Change Management Consultant - the 1.3 Million Dollar Man?
Never mind the fact that I believe that Toronto Community Housing is being very hypocritical in hiring him to begin with. Ever since Kathy Milsom was christened the new CEO at TCHC we have heard the phrase ad nauseum "tenant-centric". It's hopeful in theory. Yet misleading in practice.
There are some highly motivated TCHC tenant advocates that have been participating in a number of tenant-centric related events dealing with engagement that I am hoping leads to something closer to tenant empowerment. Tenants have been actively involved in defining what a volunteer is within TCHC and making some thoughtful recommendations when it comes to the Tenant Engagement System Refresh.
These discussions have involved defining the roles of Tenant Volunteers (Tenant Rep Tenant Leader, Key Holder, Community Garden Coordinator … ) - Mind you they stayed relatively clear of any definition of a tenant advocate that would have any teeth.
The dialogue also involved the types of training that tenants felt was necessary to fulfill their duties. Everything from community organization, to marketing, to public speaking, to conflict resolution, to grant writing. - I requested that training sessions be treated as combined staff/tenant learning opportunities. I can't see anything but positives resulting from such an approach.
The final issue was volunteer recognition. Whether that recognition should take the shape of plaques/awards, appreciation dinners, or honorariums among other items. There seemed to be a great deal of hesitancy when it came to honorariums. Staff wouldn't even commit to advocating for positive monetary reinforcement for tenants.
Meanwhile, someone at TCHC signed on the dotted line for an outside change management consultant to the tune of 1.3 million dollars? Shame on Kathy Milsom. Shame on TCHC.
Maybe the next round of consultations could be about defining "tenant-centric". Cuz TCHC doesn't have a red hot clue.