Supporting regeneration in Oxford, the city of dreaming spires

May 24, 2022

In July 2019, we agreed with A2Dominion, a housing association with a social purpose, to secure vacant flats on an estate in Oxford during a regeneration project. While A2Dominion were looking for property security, they also needed a strategic partner that would be sensitive and thoughtful when housing guardians, so as not to disrupt or cause difficulties for remaining residents still living on the estate. They also needed to be confident that the security provider would be a reliable steward of their assets and maintain open communication.

Our extensive experience of working within regeneration schemes and our ability to tailor our approach as required meant that we were well-prepared to be the strategic partner that A2Dominion needed.

Providing community-minded guardians to A2Dominion 

Dot Dot Dot’s stringent vetting process ensured that the guardians selected for Gibbs Crescent in Oxford, understood the importance of creating a good relationship with remaining estate residents. In fact, the idea of community and neighbourliness is built into our business model. All of our property guardians are required to volunteer for 16 hours a month for good causes. Guardians who volunteer demonstrate responsibility and commitment and ultimately, make good neighbours.

The (guardians) have made us aware of some anti-social behaviour on the estate and have helped to maintain a number of the small private gardens in the empty properties, even working alongside some of the remaining residents to grow their own vegetables.” 

A2 Dominion

In total, we secured 22 empty units and created inexpensive housing for 32 property guardians who volunteered to support remaining residents and good causes within the Oxford community.

Amplifying social impact across Oxford 

Our guardians volunteered at Gibbs Crescent itself, and with charities in Oxford. We also connected with an A2Dominion partner aligned with our own values, to provide more focused social value – Aspire Oxford. The charity and social enterprise aims to empower people facing homelessness, poverty and disadvantage, to find employment and housing.

Through their Employment Skills Training Programme, Dot Dot Dot employed their tradespeople regularly for property repairs and maintenance. These work opportunities, together with support from Aspire, enabled them to attain secure employment and housing in the long term.

Throughout the two and a half years that we housed property guardians in Oxford, our guardians collectively volunteered for over 8,211 hours for good causes, many of which were local to Oxford. This equates to £101,400* worth of social value. Former Dot Dot Dot guardian, Mori, volunteered with Oxford Community Action:

“Volunteering has provided me with a way to connect more with the people around me, and with people who wouldn’t normally be in my social sphere. A lot of people at Oxford Community Action come from immigrant, working class, BAME backgrounds which, as a middle-class, white student, are different to the people I met at university. It’s allowed me to bridge these gaps and form meaningful connections.”

Demonstrating flexibility throughout the pandemic

The emergence of Covid-19 in March 2020, which brought about new working from home practices and periods of self-isolation for staff, meant that redevelopment timelines for Gibbs Crescent were pushed back. Due to those adjustments, there were extra empty properties that needed to be secured with guardians.

To support A2Dominion we adapted our onboarding and property management process to ensure that we could quickly take on another phase of flats on the estate. In 2020, we started to house guardians in an extra five flats, bringing the total to 17. 

Our experience with the guardians has been very positive. Once the void properties have been accepted there is very little involvement from our side. Having the guardians in the void properties has given us the peace of mind we needed whilst preparing to redevelop the estate.”

A2 Dominion

A successful handback

When vacant possession was required, we were able to move all of our guardians out of Gibbs Crescent within 30 days. As part of a phased handback, we returned the first batch of properties in January 2022, and the second in March 2022, ensuring they were back with A2Dominion ahead of the next stage of their development.

The success of this contract is testament to our model and approach, and desire to deliver property guardianship with purpose.

Discover more about how we can sensitively support your regeneration scheme with thoughtful and community-focused property guardians who will volunteer for good causes.  

* The social value of volunteering presented uses the Living Wage at £12.35p/h, plus 30% for employee costs  (including National Insurance and pension contributions).

Amplifying her volunteering efforts with Dot Dot Dot guardianship: Karin and the Open HR Forum – Students

May 6, 2022

With the added support of Dot Dot Dot guardianship, west London guardian, Karin, has been able to amplify her volunteering efforts to enable students to access mentoring from real world working professionals. Karin’s initiative, the Open HR Forum – Students, operates on an international scale to create opportunities for HR students to become leaders in their field.

Developing a passion for communication skills

“One of my first voluntary roles was supporting students and teachers in Slovakian primary schools to develop their interpersonal skills. Since then I’ve been passionate about improving communications between students and working professionals in order to bridge the gap between learning and practical experience in the workplace.

At the start of the pandemic in 2020, I began a course in human resources with the Open HR Forum, to support my continued learning and development around communications in my home country of Slovakia.

I soon noticed a marked gap in the potential to access career consulting and work experience in Slovakia compared with the UK – the only options were for vast sums of money that were unaffordable for most of the students that I knew, including myself.”

Initiating a platform for students to gain real-world experience 

“I identified the need to establish a sub branch of the Open HR Forum specifically for students to gain practical experience and career consultancy. My main aim was to facilitate opportunities for people to be leaders in their field, something that was driven by students, for students, to dictate their own learning and development.

The initiative I’ve created helps to bring HR students together on an international scale, offering them mentoring and support from large professional organisations for free. Each student is paired with a working professional ‘buddy’ who is able to guide them towards applying their theoretical knowledge to practical scenarios.

They can also receive free advice form HR professionals during webinar sessions which has been really successful in helping to feed international knowledge back into the Slovakian education system.”

Utilising guardianship to re-divert time and energy towards volunteering

“Paying lower monthly living costs as a Dot Dot Dot guardian compared with the private rental sector means that I can afford to spend more of my spare time volunteering.

Dot Dot Dot recognising the value of volunteering is really powerful and was one of the deciding factors for me when I became a guardian in 2021. For me, volunteering comes naturally and is something that I’ve always felt comfortable doing – I’ve always cared about giving something back to my community, but being a guardian allows me to amplify my contributions and the amount of time I  dedicate to my initiative.

Guardianship is not for everyone, but there are many advantages to becoming one. I currently live in a large 4-bed townhouse in Hammersmith, west London, and share the property with a teacher, a human rights lawyer and a scientist. I absolutely love my guardian housemates and am so glad to have had the opportunity to meet them – we all have busy work and social lives, however we still find time to meet and relax as a household.

My relationship coordinator, Dominique, has also been fantastic. We feel supported by Dot Dot Dot and their emphasis on being there for the people as well as the property.”

A guide to Kent’s county town, Maidstone

April 8, 2022

As one of Kent’s most enduring and historically significant towns, Maidstone is ever-evolving to balance new and diverse industries with its historic charm and characterful corners. Peacefully located on the banks of the river Medway, this county town is well worth exploring for its hubs of entertainment, long list of much loved bars and restaurants and leafy aesthetic. We recently visited the area for ourselves – and here are our best bits.

Activities and attractions

The river Medway runs through the heart of Maidstone, and so the town offers a surprising amount of water sports during the warmer months. You can hire out canoes and kayaks to explore the river and even travel out into the pastoral Kent countryside on a day trip.

Cycling is also a popular pastime, and there are plenty of quiet and traffic-free routes to take to discover the county town. You could also head to Go Ape to explore the forest canopies in the surrounding rural beauty spots via zip lines and high ropes.

The Maidstone Museum and Art Gallery, residing within an Elizabethan manor house, hosts the most diverse mix of collections in Kent, and has won acclaim for its ethnographic and ancient artefacts. You’ll find  Anglo-saxon treasures, a chair that once belonged to Napoleon and even a 2,700 year old Egyptian Mummy.

The fossilised bones of ‘Iggy’ the Iguanadon (which can be found on the town’s coat of arms!) were discovered in 1834 during an excavation on Queen’s Road. As a historical find of international significance, they are now housed in the Natural History Museum in London, but a visit to Maidstone Museum will allow you to see a full cast of the bones.

Offering one of the most energetic and varied programmes of art performances in the south east, The Hazlitt Theatre offers drama, comedy and musical entertainment and local community theatre groups.

Where to shop and dine out 

Maidstone offers an eclectic mix of shopping and dining experiences. Amongst the recently refurbished Fremlin Walk, you can find a flagship House of Fraser, H&M, Flying Tiger and Waterstones, to name a few. On the other side of town you’ll find independent shopping experiences in and around the streets of The Royal Star Arcade and Market Buildings, with clothing and homeware boutique, Lottie’s Loft, being a particular highlight.

Restaurants and cafes are in abundance, with the highest concentration of eateries located around Earl Street. Check out the highly recommended Frederik Cafe Bistro, La Villetta, Mu Mu’s and Embankment Floating Restaurant on the River Medway.

In the historic villages in and around Maidstone, top pubs include The Fish on the Green in Bearsted, The Potting Shed in Langley and the Curious Eatery in Boughton Monchelsea.

Mote Park

Mote Park boasts an impressive 30 acre lake offering water sports, a pitch and putt course and a cafe hub. It’s also host to a variety of festivals and events throughout the summer and autumn.

Highlights include Ramblin Man Fair in July, one of the country’s biggest rock music festivals. For three years on the go, Ramblin Man Fair encompasses rock, blues and country, has its own beer festival, and there are options for glamping and camping nearby!

October welcomes the beer and folk music festival, Oktoberfest. Expect Europe’s biggest beer tent with 30,000 litres of Bavarian beer, traditional folk music and a German food market.

How we work with LB Brent to turn empty flats into inexpensive homes in Queen’s Park

March 22, 2022

The regeneration of South Kilburn in Queen’s Park is a 15-year project aiming to deliver over 2,400 new homes as part of a sustainable and mixed neighbourhood. Flats are vacated in phases to prepare blocks for demolition. However, leaving them empty can risk them becoming the target of anti-social behaviour or can mean maintenance issues that could affect existing residents aren’t spotted.

Life for local residents can become worse just when timelines are most critical and when housing teams are most stretched. For Dot Dot Dot, this can be an opportunity to add most value. With a depth of experience in regeneration projects, and a commitment to delivering positive social impact, we work with housing teams to manage voids in a way that maintains flexibility and positivity in the decant process.

Assessing if a property can be used for guardianship

Dot Dot Dot and LB Brent worked together to establish a process whereby properties could be identified as potentially suitable for guardianship and handed over – or returned if unsuitable – in an efficient, transparent manner:

  1. Property in pipeline: LB Brent allocates a property as available for potential guardian use, and invites Dot Dot Dot for a pre-assessment site visit. LB Brent and Dot Dot Dot agree properties which appear suitable for guardian occupation, and LB Brent undertakes any necessary work to ensure that the units pass their EICR and gas safety inspections, are weathertight and have secure windows and doors.
  2. Property ready for triage: LB Brent notifies Dot Dot Dot when they’re satisfied the property is at the handover standard, and sends over gas and electricity safety certs and asbestos documentation.
  3. Key collection and triage authorisation: Both parties agree a timeline for Dot Dot Dot to put the property through triage i.e. assess its suitability for guardianship. LB Brent signs a Triage Authorisation Form and hands over keys. Dot Dot Dot inputs the property and its accompanying authorisation is into a property tracker visible to both parties.
  4. Triage: Over a maximum two-week period, Dot Dot Dot will assess the suitability of the property for guardianship e.g. the amount / cost of work needed to make it viable for occupation in line with our minimum property standards.

Either the property will be accepted by Dot Dot Dot, in which case LB Brent will give authorisation for set up to be finalised and guardians to be housed. Or, Dot Dot Dot will determine that the property can’t be used for guardian occupation, provide the reason for rejection, return the keys and a Property Handback Form to LB Brent, and designate the property on the tracker as being handed back.

Housing guardians to keep properties safe

Once authorised to house guardians, Dot Dot Dot will take on the Council Tax and utilities accounts, add safety certs to our online folder that’s shared with LB Brent, and obtain a selective licence for each property.

Prospective guardians will be vetted, with key considerations being their financial security, ability to move out if given 28 days’ notice, and their desire to volunteer.

Councillor Eleanor Southwood, Cabinet member for housing and welfare reform at LB Brent, explains: “The first temporary guardian was housed in South Kilburn in April 2021, and there are now 19 guardians across four different blocks. They will be joined by dozens more over this year as the regeneration progresses. They have already volunteered over 1,500 hours to good causes, including at local community kitchens, Covid-19 vaccination centres and the Compass network which represents the LGBT+ community within the armed forces.”

The final stage – vacant possession and handback

Using guardians means property owners are able to ask for their buildings back at any time and for any reason – all they need to do is give 32 days’ notice. In turn, Dot Dot Dot will give its guardians the 28 days’ notice required by law.

Once notice has been served, guardians will begin to activate their move on plans, and Dot Dot Dot will offer rehousing options when available and appropriate. The properties are returned to LB Brent in a clean and clear condition, and after inspecting the property, LB Brent will sign a Property Handback Schedule to confirm its return. Dot Dot Dot will close the Council Tax and utilities accounts and transfer them back to LB Brent.

This entire process can occur over a period of a few months to several years, and can flex with the timelines of the council’s regeneration plans. In choosing to work in partnership, Dot Dot Dot is able to provide its guardians with inexpensive homes in a desirable, diverse and dynamic part of the capital, and LB Brent can keep its buildings safe, support its communities and generate positive social impact through volunteering.

Spotlight on: Cate and Charlotte, International Women’s Day

March 11, 2022

This International Women’s Day, we’re throwing the spotlight on two Dot Dot Dot guardians who are doing fantastic work to both support and lead the way for women in their careers and voluntary work.

Discover how our Manchester guardian, Cate, has powerfully forged her own artistic career path in light of an autism diagnosis. And how our west London guardian, Charlotte, who is volunteering with XLP – a charity focused on supporting young people to recognise their full potential – is helping to  create positive futures for women growing up in inner-city estates.

Cate, forging her artistic career path

From our Manchester guardian, Cate 

During the pandemic I was diagnosed with autism and began to find the work I was doing problematic, especially when I had to take on new responsibilities due to Covid. I started to feel that I needed to fundamentally change what I was doing and work on something new, with an emphasis on supporting others.

Equipped with my experience of being diagnosed with autism and the challenges I’d faced in light of this, I left my job to begin focusing on initiating an art agency. My goal was to create a platform for fellow creatives who struggled to gain normal agency representation due to having specific working needs like myself. Through this support, many artists have been able to go on to set up their own websites and control their own publicity.

Knowing Manchester to be a real hub of creativity and so a place where my arts agency could thrive, I left London behind to embark on a new stage of my life in West Didsbury as a Dot Dot Dot guardian. Soon after, I got a bar job in a pub in nearby Burton Road where there is a hive of artisan shops and businesses with whom I could connect and engage with.

This opened up another new avenue for me. The owner of the pub I was working in decided to utilise an empty unit space next door, and so myself and a female friend worked together to bring the space back into use as a gallery. The aim was to showcase art from local talent, many of whom are women, in rotating exhibitions to help them to publicise their work. Since then, we’ve had three exhibitions and have helped to raise the profile of 24 different artists in Manchester to a global audience through social media.

It’s been a huge learning curve for me as I’ve always wanted to do an MA in art curation but was held back by the cost. However, being so heavily involved in the running of the Next Door Gallery means that I’ve been able to gain first-hand experience in curation, practically executing my own MA. I’ve liaised directly with buyers across the globe as well as learned how to properly store and ship artwork internationally – something I never would have had the chance to do in my old life in London where my energy was zapped by other commitments.

Following the success of the gallery, I’ve been able to scale back on the amount of time I spend working to allow myself more space to focus on my own freelance artwork. Transforming part of my Dot Dot Dot flat into my art studio has been a lifeline for me to be able to develop and produce my work. I’ve recently been part of an art show at the Antwerp Mansions in Manchester and am currently in talks to hold my first solo exhibition on the subject of autism and what that means on a personal level.

Charlotte, XLP

From our west London guardian, Charlotte

For six months now, I’ve been volunteering as a mentor to a 14 year old girl with a charity called XLP. They’re focused on creating positive futures for young people who are growing up in inner-city estates in London and facing challenges in their home lives, at school and in employment. I work with young people in my own career as chair of the Women Employability Resource Group with YMCA, and it’s something that I love doing – but I wanted to work with women in a different capacity when volunteering. XLP was a perfect way for me to draw upon my existing skill set in order to support and provide mentorship to young women.

My role is to empower and support the young woman I work with to begin to lead and shape her own future. We do many things together such as grabbing a coffee or going for a walk – anything that facilitates a conversation with her in order for me to provide guidance. XLP are even organising a weekend away with fellow mentors and mentees, and so I’ll be helping to push her out of her comfort zone, giving her opportunities to experience things she wouldn’t have in her everyday life otherwise.

There are challenges involved that relate to mentees socio-economic backgrounds and a lack of positive female role models in their lives, and so my role as a mentee really hinges on building trust and providing a listening ear for her. Specifically as a woman, I hope to have a positive impact in broadening her worldview and demonstrating to her that she is allowed to make space for herself. I am there to help her break a pre-existing bias, encouraging her to realise that she belongs in this society just as much as men and boys, and to empower her to take up space in her community.

For myself, I’ve learnt so much from this young woman – you couldn’t do this role without really seeing and feeling the impact it has for her. It’s a privilege and an honor to have a space in her life and share her challenges and sit with them in those times. I feel incredibly grateful that I am a trusted person in her life, and I hope I can continue to enable her to create positive goals and put her mind to achieving them.

Balance busy city living with peace and tranquility in Croydon

February 3, 2022

For all those searching to exchange the busyness of the city with a leafy retreat, our double room available in a 2-bedroom period cottage is well located within the grounds of Ashburton Park, north Croydon. With its ever growing restaurant scene, abundance of serene spots to unwind and surprisingly good connections to central London, discover why this leafy borough might just be for you.  

Escape to the country park 

In Croydon, you’re never far from a multitude of green spaces and serene spots to unwind. Our 2-bed cottage sits within the grounds of Ashburton Park, with acres of green space to enjoy, including two tennis courts and a basketball court.  But if it’s a real oasis of tranquility you’re after, then South Norwood Country Park offers vast meadows and wetlands to amble through plus an idyllic lake with swans, geese and waterfowl.

Fast growing food scene 

Croydon has some great spots for trying cuisines from all over the globe. Independent and local street food traders offer up their inventive menus – from Egyptian to Caribbean. You can also taste your way around the world at some of the town’s upscale restaurants.

Plenty to see and do

Calling Croydon home means that you’re never short of activities to enjoy. Whether you’re a first timer or a seasoned pro, CroyWall is the place to be when it comes to bouldering. Or to experience a traditional Canadian pastime, Bad Axe Throwing is a must. Take some friends and enjoy an evening blowing off some steam! 

Don’t miss the magnificent clocktower building on the edge of Queen’s Gardens, which is actually the Museum of Croydon. The museum documents the development of the town since 1800, and provides artefacts donated by current and former residents of Croydon.

Well connected to central London

Despite having no tube station, Croydon is surprisingly well-connected to central London with frequent, direct trains to most major inner city stations within 15-20 minutes (or Brighton within the hour if you fancy a spontaneous trip to the seaside). Croydon’s vast tram network makes getting around the area convenient and will even take you towards Beckenham and Wimbledon. Plus the London Overground from West Croydon will deliver you to east London and beyond. 

Discover more about our available double room in the area and how you can apply to move to Ashburton, north Croydon.

How our guardians will be supporting vulnerable members of the community this winter

December 20, 2021

With the arrival of the holiday season it can be easy to forget that for many, the winter period spells isolation and hardship. But there are plenty of ways in which you can help to share joy with others over the coming months. We sat down with some of our guardians to find out how they’ll be volunteering to combat loneliness and poverty, and to get some ideas on how we can all get involved to spread festive cheer.

Spotlight on: Charlotte and Shout, a free, 24 hour mental health text support service

“I’ve been volunteering with Shout for more than two years now and it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve done. People can text into Shout if they have no one else to talk to, are feeling isolated or they have relationship problems. Myself and my fellow volunteers are there to provide a listening ear, de-escalate situations and also to empower the texter to seek the support they need.

In my day job, I co-run a mental health app for the LGBTQIA+ community called Kalda. Its mission is to help people to connect with others who might be facing similar issues and to attend weekly mindfulness sessions via our app, which you can search for on IOS and Android.”

Discover volunteering opportunities with Shout and how you can get involved to support their mission.

Spotlight on: Eke and Connection Support, a befriending service working to ensure no one feels alone this year 

“I’m currently linked with six elderly clients who are at risk of social isolation. I get in touch with them to listen, have a chat and brighten their day. If they ever had a problem or needed help with a daily task at home then I’m always on hand to help them out. Connection Support’s team of volunteers also help out with anything from gardening to shopping to picking up prescriptions.

Volunteering as a befriender means that you build strong relationships with the people you’re linked with and provide vital support to those who don’t have families or are on their own, particularly over the Christmas period. They always say it’s so nice to have someone to speak to and to feel valued. That’s what it’s all about.”

Find out more about Connection Support and their available voluntary positions.

Spotlight on: Jack and the Royal Voluntary Service, providing critical support to the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic

“As an NHS volunteer responder for the Royal Voluntary Service, who collaborate with Good Samaritans, I put myself on duty to take calls and support vulnerable people in England who are at most risk from the COVID-19 virus to stay well. This is to help support the NHS and social care sector during the ongoing pandemic.

Mostly, I have acted as a ‘Check-in and chat volunteer’, providing short-term telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation. I have spoken with mostly elderly individuals who live alone and are suffering from ill health or isolating, giving them an ear to listen to and assuring that they are not in danger and have everything they need.

It is a really valuable experience because often the individuals I speak to are suffering from loneliness and to help cheer them up and offer them a form of socialising, it’s rewarding.It’snice that even a short telephone call can boost someone’s spirits and hopefully make them feel better about what they are going through.”

The Royal Voluntary Service are always in need of new volunteers to join their team. Head over to their website to sign up.

Learn more about how our guardian community is dedicating their free time to a huge range of good causes across the country.

Want to apply to be a property guardian? Find out more.

Move to High Wycombe: a vibrant market town surrounded by the beauty of the Chiltern Hills

November 30, 2021

Our self-contained flats in the Buckinghamshire market town of High Wycombe are close to the picturesque Chiltern Hills and just 45 minutes from central London. From a 700 year old market to the best outdoor swimming spot, discover our top picks in the area and how Dot Dot Dot guardian, Jerry, gained his independence through living alone in his cosy 2-bed flat.

High Wycombe former guardian, Jerry

“When I was sharing a house with other people, even with just one other person, I almost always had someone to distract me. Having the chance to live by myself was the main reason I became a Dot Dot Dot guardian.

There were lots of opportunities to live with other people, but having never lived alone I thought it would give me the drive to focus on myself a bit more, and on my business. I needed to grow up a bit and take some responsibility – and it’s been awesome.”

High Wycombe Market

High Wycombe Market

Since the 13th century, High Wycombe Market has evolved to become a vibrant community of creative sellers, celebrating the diversity of the town. Dotted with street food stalls and independent traders, you can get your hands on fresh fruit and veg, antique wares and home-made preserves. Or visit the mouth-watering food court for options from authentic Jamaican to Greek cuisines that will make your taste buds sing.

Explore the town’s greener side

Rye Park boat hire

Rye Park boat hire

High Wycombe is home to large green squares and spacious parks. Discover The Rye where you can hire a rowing boat for a fun afternoon on the water and spot a variety of wildlife. You’ll also find a working watermill with a café where you can sample cakes made using their own flour. Wycombe Rye Lido offers heated outdoor swimming and is perfect to use all year round.

The Chiltern Hills

The Chiltern Hills

The Chiltern Hills

The town is nestled on the very edge of The Chiltern Hills which you can reach by train in 10-15 minutes. Heading to Saunderton will put you at the heart of the hills where you can explore many footpaths to idyllic country villages and cosy pubs – ideal for a pitstop after a day’s walking.

Discover more about our available properties in the area and how you can apply to move to High Wycombe.

Property guardianship and beyond: working with Croydon Council

November 22, 2021

We started working with Croydon Council in 2017, when we took on a former school-turned-NHS building in west Croydon. Over the course of our four year relationship, we partnered with the council to place 28 guardians across both commercial and residential buildings in Croydon and Coulsdon.

Commercial buildings like these can often change and shift their purpose over time, and although our job is to manage the interim, we also play a key part in our clients being able to move their new plans along. We take a look at how a renewed sense of purpose during a property’s transition phase can lay the groundwork for its new use.

Addressing Croydon Council’s meanwhile needs

Managing an empty, disused asset, especially as a local authority, can become a significant financial burden. This was certainly the case at Tamworth Road, a former school that was taken over by the NHS for mental health services. Cost mitigation was an important consideration when we met with Croydon Council in May 2017, who were looking to reduce expenditure on hard security and void management. Once we had brought the building up to the necessary standard, we placed two trusted guardians into the building early on to remove the need for 24-hour security. We also installed signage at the front of the building to ensure it was clear that the building was occupied and managed by Dot Dot Dot. The council were aware that the building was at risk of antisocial behaviour, so it was important to provide a visible deterrent to avoid future issues.

Similarly, in 2018, Croydon Council had concerns over antisocial behaviour and fly-tipping around a former school in Coulsdon Town. We built on our established relationship, and, in July of the same year, we began to house guardians in the building. Each of our guardians was aware of their responsibilities and was assigned a Relationship Coordinator from the start, which allowed us to pick up on any on-the-ground issues early. Due to its location and size, the site was easily identifiable as empty and was a target for ASB and criminal activity. We worked closely with the council’s assets team to create a management plan that included the need for our guardians to maintain the exterior of the property and ensure it was clearly occupied and lived-in. Our guardian community came together to transform the exterior of the property, from overgrown and dilapidated to neat and cared-for, 

Building a meanwhile community

Beyond property security, Croydon Council were aware of the need to reutilise their assets while they sat empty. They were aligned with our values and understood the potential of their empty and underused assets as an opportunity for social value, not only through creating temporary, inexpensive housing and supporting volunteering, but through creating spaces for like-minded property guardians to come together. 

In 2017, we hosted the Housing Committee of the London Assembly at one of our Croydon properties as part of their research into the property guardianship sector. We welcomed Assembly members Sian Berry, Andrew Boff and Tom Copley to the former NHS building to demonstrate how property guardianship at a commercial property can work. 

At the event, Robert Lines, Estates Surveyor for Croydon Council, explained why Dot Dot Dot was the best option for the building’s interim use: “London Borough of Croydon has an extremely positive relationship with Dot Dot Dot and we are particularly impressed with their careful selection of property guardians who share in Dot Dot Dot’s social values and ethos. This has had a beneficial impact for the local community as well as ensuring the property is in safe hands, and we are very pleased to have the building managed and cared for by them.” Tamworth Road guardian, Kit, explained how she was specifically drawn to Dot Dot Dot because of the focus on social impact. She had previously ruled out being a property guardian due to the idea of living in a big building with a group of strangers, but found that “once I knew that everyone was up for 16 hours of volunteering a month, I felt pretty confident they’d be great, considerate housemates, and they are.”

During the time we have housed guardians in Croydon and Coulsdon, our guardians have volunteered over 3,995 hours for good, often local, causes, which equated to approximately £43,000 worth of social value. Coulsdon guardian Julius, for example, volunteered with Croydon Voluntary Action, who “work to coordinate and improve the knowledge of voluntary sector organisations around Croydon and have especially organised a lot during this pandemic, such as networks for soup kitchens and food banks to deliver food and training for volunteer sector organisations.”

Beyond the partnership

Since we successfully handed back the former NHS building to Croydon Council in November 2018, the site has become home to a nursery, a weekly church group and a small care business. 

In Coulsdon, we handed the former school back in October 2021 to enable the council to pursue its plans to develop the site into a new health and wellbeing community centre. The One Croydon Alliance, a partnership between Croydon Council, Age UK and the NHS, will use the site to provide additional GP services to the area as well as talking therapy, children’s services and housing and benefits advice.

Despite there no longer being need for property guardianship in the former Coulsdon school, the project’s end did not signal the end of our Coulsdon community. Eight of the original ten guardians that were housed in Coulsdon have moved to our building in Bickley in Kent, preserving their guardian community and bringing new life to a new property. They have already established a film night, and we look forward to hearing about what they get up to in the future. 

We have learnt from experience that commercial buildings can have rich and varied purposes throughout their lifetimes; we’ve worked in former schools, offices, family centres and even a former castle. It is through building purpose into all that we do – through providing inexpensive housing for our guardian communities and supporting them to volunteer for good causes – that we can contribute to a building’s next stage of life and, in the case of our Coulsdon guardians, foster communities that exist far beyond it.

Discover more ways we can support your meanwhile needs by signing up for Meanwhile Thoughts, our monthly newsletter for property owners.

Forming meaningful connections in Oxford: Mori and Oxford Community Action

October 28, 2021

Through their regular volunteering, Oxford guardian, Mori, is helping to redistribute food and spread the word about the work of Oxford Community Action in their local community and further afield.

We caught up with them to find out how the organisation supports Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities ‘to tackle and overcome barriers created by structural inequalities’ through grassroots activities and community engagement.

“I started volunteering with Oxford Community Action in August 2020. After I settled into my home, I started going to their Wednesday food distribution operations and became a regular volunteer.

I started off helping to pack up food parcels – we were in the basement of a school and we were packing parcels for close to 300 families. A few months later, I talked to Hassan, one of the leading organisers – he had been looking for someone to take over their social media department. For the last year or so, I’ve been the main person to coordinate social media advertisements, announcements and campaigns. I talk to organisers and think about how we can promote Oxford Community Action on Facebook. 

We used to reach out to people or organisations for support, but through my voluntary social media work we have started to see organisations getting in contact directly and asking if they can join up with us on certain activities. For example, we’ve got connections with Oxford IT Bank, an organisation that picks up laptops from organisations or individuals and drops them off to us at Oxford Community Action to give to families and school children who don’t have access to a laptop at home.

We also have connections with Willow Brook Farm just outside of Oxford, the first Halal and Tayib farm in the UK. They got in touch and we had a family day last summer where we took 80 adults and children to visit the farm. Building connections like these would have been hard before because we didn’t have a social media presence. Anyone who wasn’t friends or directly in touch with us wouldn’t have known about the organisation, but now there’s more knowledge about what we do and more people reach out to us.

There are many personal advantages to my volunteering too. As someone who is in the middle of a PhD I’m really immersed in that process and it’s lovely to have a mid-week break from what I’m doing. It offers me a community to come back to and that was particularly important during times like last winter when I wasn’t seeing many of my friends. 

Volunteering has provided me with a way to connect more with the people around me, and  with people who wouldn’t normally be in my social sphere. A lot of people at Oxford Community Action come from immigrant, working class, BAME backgrounds which, as a middle-class, white student, are different to the people I met at university. It’s allowed me to bridge these gaps and form meaningful connections. 

We’ve done so much work over the last year that has been a pleasure to be part of. Quite early on, we had an online event where we brought together a lot of BAME doctors and nurses to give community members a chance to ask them questions. Government efforts to provide equal access to and information about the vaccines are still sorely insufficient as unequal vaccination uptake data tells us, so to be able to bring together over 100 people to ask questions that they wouldn’t usually be able to ask a doctor or nurse, was an important moment. They could address some of the community’s anxieties and empower them to protect themselves and the people around them. We also recently started an event for BAME mothers, where they can talk about their experiences of maternity.”

To find out more about Oxford Community Action, visit their websiteYou can also keep up with our #10years celebration where we’re highlighting guardians from the past ten years and the voluntary organisations our guardians give their time to. 

 

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