We must not lose momentum on equality, diversity and inclusion in social housing

Colette McKune, 15 August 2022

In 2019, I had the privilege of taking up the role of chair of the NHF’s equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) member group when it was set up.

Our ambition was and is to proactively work towards a more equal, diverse and inclusive housing sector. As a group, we have a real fire in our bellies to make positive changes and get closer to a sector which is representative of the communities we work in.

Little could we have known when we formed that a global pandemic would hit, and a huge collective awakening to social injustices including systemic racism would highlight just how urgent this work is and create a unique opportunity to move forward.

As I step down from this role, finishing up my three-year tenure, I think it’s important to look back and reflect upon our journey so far but also to think about how we keep the momentum going into the future. We can all recognise that we still have further to go.

This work will never be ‘completed’ in our lifetime but the collective impact of the changes we make will benefit generations to come we must keep progressing.

So, what have we achieved over the past three years?

And crucially, how can we take all this learning and action forward to make tangible, positive changes?

Together we have:

  • Published an insight report, highlighting the scale of the problem and providing solid recommendations for change.
  • Created a new Code of Governance, placing responsibility on boards for EDI matters.
  • Built an EDI data tool, allowing housing associations to compare workforce EDI data to the diverse characteristics within communities where they have stock.
  • Published the first national picture of EDI data, with a full analysis and recommendations for how to address problem areas.
  • Developed two national networks:
  • One for CEOs to explore their crucial role in shifting workplace culture to become more inclusive.
  • One creating a collaborative space for anyone working in EDI to share and learn best practice.
  • Collected examples of best practice from across the sector, encouraging collaboration.
  • Hosted a full day EDI event, with challenging speakers and ambitious content.
  • Published blogs by different expert voices across the sector and hosted webinars.

Looking ahead - creating a diverse and inclusive sector

EDI is not just a box to be ticked, it’s not a policy document or a statement on a website. It’s values that must be lived and breathed. Anyone who is part of our sector must feel safe, valued, listened to, and have the same opportunities for growth and progression.

As we have all found, the journey can be challenging and it’s not linear. We have to be open to feedback, genuinely ready to listen and learn, and to have uncomfortable conversations. It’s business critical and must be embedded into strategies, governance, and everything we do.

I passionately believe the housing sector can and should provide leadership on this work to other areas of society that are avoiding this challenging work.

We need to strive for more senior leaders to become representative of our diverse residents and to nurture a culture of inclusion where everyone can bring their full selves to work.

I have taken so much from my time chairing this group. I have met so many talented and courageous people and I have felt the energy and power of what can be achieved by working collaboratively.

I’m delighted to remain a member of the NHF EDI in Housing member group and to continue to contribute through it, and my other roles, to the vital work we must do to help create a world where everyone can thrive.

The housing sector can blaze a trail for change. People at all levels of the sector should drive this change, with leaders and key organisations like the NHF there to inspire and unlock diverse talent and create a culture of inclusion.