Transparency is nothing to fear 

The Government’s white paper on Social Housing (published this week) mentions transparency nearly 30 times.

If you managed to miss it, take another look: it talks about transparency in relation to culture, regulation, accountability, performance, information provision, charges, decision making, tenant engagement and accessibility.

Transparency is already at the heart of many housing associations, who strive to be as openly accountable as possible.

To many organisations it is old news: the Freedom of Information Act is a teenager, launched 15 years ago. Many public sector bodies have become used to publishing information and responding to requests as a matter of routine.

While the white paper stops short of making the social housing sector subject to the Act, it does propose that transparency will be regulated through a new access to information scheme.

Housing associations will adapt – and it’s worth learning a few lessons from those who’ve gone before.

As usual with these things, it starts with culture – Boards and leaders must be genuinely supportive of openness or it will be a struggle throughout the business.

It can be tough – but it’s easier to learn to love it than try to dodge it.

And now is the time to know and own your organisation’s problems and weak points. Know the story behind them and what is being done to put them right.

Your communications team is your friend when it comes to providing clear, consistent information in a transparent way.

It’s what many of us are trained to do.

So it’s worth colleagues getting together now to work out how your organisation is going to open up, what you need to do to prepare and to learn to love this new regulation on transparency.

 

Susan Fox is the author of “Freedom of Information: is it changing the way we do PR?” in Chartered Public Relations: Lessons from Expert Practitioners, published by Kogan Page.

Would you like some help understanding what the access to information scheme might mean for your organisation? We’d love to hear from you. Contact us hello@houghbellis.co.uk.

Sue Fox