Equality through Strategy- the current state of the sector

    As HDN and our partners have said before and no doubt will say again, while culture may eat strategy for breakfast, you need both to succeed. We recommend that housing organisations have them as a way of mapping their direction of travel and assessing progress. But what do the strategies currently out there actually say? Are there any common themes? Is there anything missing?

    Ultimately, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion strategies should act as frameworks, solid foundations on which you can build and propagate a culture of inclusivity. By clearly outlining commitments and how organisations intend to achieve them, strategies should also be seen as anchor points; tangible benchmarks against which organisations can hold themselves accountable. The best EDI strategies will even encourage a culture of equality and inclusion by seeking the involvement of diverse perspectives from across the organisation and reinforcing a sense of collective responsibility for EDI.

    In other words, the true value of a strategy is dependent on its contents as well as its implementation. It’s for this reason that HDN decided to conduct a baseline study of the ‘Top 100’ largest housing providers in the country in order to get a feel for the state of the sectors strategic approach to equality. Capably spearheaded by HDN’s summer Research Intern Greg Collier (University of Sheffield), this research project involved the collection and statistical analysis of strategies to identify the most commonly occurring themes and strategic approaches to EDI, as well as establishing the level of public accountability across these organisations in the sense of whether their strategy was openly available to access.

    Our findings indicate that the sector still has some ways to go. First off, an underwhelming 42/100 organisations had their EDI strategies available online, and a significant proportion of the strategies that were accessible were vague when it came tangible targets and timeframes. Despite the prominent rhetoric coming from many organisations about being committed to advancing EDI, to hold weight this must be substantiated with unambiguous, transparent measures of success.

    The prominent foci of EDI strategies were largely similar across organisations- covering things like refining data collection and usage, implementing inclusive recruitment and development, improving customer engagement and service accessibility, and diversifying boards and leadership. These are all important issues, which most definitely should be addressed in EDI strategies (if your strategy doesn’t cover these issues we would strongly recommend you write it again).

    However, there are a number of areas that do not appear to be as widely covered, or given adequate attention considering our current socio-political climate, which we would encourage organisations to pay heed to as part of strategy reviews. This includes the centrality of race/ethnicity which has been highlighted in the Better Social Housing Review as a prominent factor contributing to poor housing provision, and the increasingly apparent impact of socio-economic backgrounds on inequalities.

    The full report- Strategy Matters: An Analysis of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategies in the Housing Sector- was launched at HDN’s third annual conference, and is now available to view online here.

    Post by Josh Neary-Pegler,

    Research and Policy Lead

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