Workshop Context

Back in September, Following the publication of the Government's Housing Green Paper,  Nick Atkin, Neil Tamplin and Philippa Jones were involved in a twitter discussion around the topic of league tables. The conversation was a result of Nick posing the question - ”Are satisfaction league tables the answer or do we need a Tripadvisor or Glassdoor equivalent for housing across all tenures?”

Since then we have been giving some thought to this question. On Tuesday 27th November we hosted a lunchtime twitter chat which we also live streamed. We were lucky enough to be joined by colleagues from other housing associations as well as other stakeholders and most importantly tenants of a number of housing associations. You can find a round up of the #blabchat here: How can we build trust and accountability between landlords and tenants?

During the hour long conversation we posed four questions around the theme of trust and accountability. In short, participants felt that the following were important overriding factors: collaboration, co-design, true resident involvement and doing what we say we will; with any platform built to support this needing to be open, independent and transparent.

We used the output from the twitter chat to help us design a workshop for internal and external housing colleagues, stakeholders and residents of social housing. We held the workshop he in the Lab on Tuesday 4th December and we were pleased to be joined by Neil Tamplin from Cadwyn HA,  Phil Murphy of Real Voices and Rhys Moore of NHF as well as colleagues and most importantly two Bromford customers. The workshop focused on two main questions:

  • How might landlords and tenants openly collaborate and share ideas - genuinely engaging people in the design and evaluation of services at a housing association?

  • What might an alternative to league tables look like that is built on measures that matter to customers and is ranked by residents themselves?

Alongside the ‘physical’ workshop we opened up a ‘virtual’ room for tenants and stakeholders and asked them  - What might an TripAdvisor platform for housing look like?

Workshop Provocation

Never afraid of using a little design fiction to open up thinking and spark discussion, we showed participants a clip from the film,The Circle. In the film an employee of a technology company (not dissimilar to a well known fruit related brand that rhymes with mapple) announced to the world that she is about to go ‘fully Transparent’ - ‘Meg will use cameras to stream every aspect of her life’.


Click here to watch this clip.

The point of our provocation wasn’t to determine if we want to implement this level of ‘openness’, or plan a set of actions to move our Executive Boards towards it. What we wanted to do was provide some inspiration to enable us to think about transparency (good and bad) in wider terms than simply publishing board minutes (which does of course have its place). I think it worked. . .

Workshop Output

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Question 1 - Highlights

  • This means democratising the organisational strategy; enabling communities to have their say on how money should be spent.

  • This means starting to talk in terms of ‘collaboration’ rather than ‘engagement’.

  • This means depersonalising ‘transparency’ - this isn’t about individuals, it’s about the organisation. This is about transparency with action - what’s the point in being ‘transparently bad’?

  • This is about being openly competent and building trust through relationship building and positive action, not marketing and spin.

  • This means visibly doing something with the feedback we get from tenants, although this doesn’t always mean we need to give people everything they want.

  • This means doing what we say we will do and being open and honest when we get it wrong.

  • This means challenging how UK Housing work ‘as one’.

  • This means introducing peer review.

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Workshop Notes 04 December 2018 (2).png

Question 2 - Highlights

  • This means that any platform needs to be run by an independent body who is not controlled or influenced by HAs.

  • This means that everyone is able to have a voice.

  • This means that rules need to be fair and co-designed with the people who will use the platform.

  • This means that relevant content should not be censored.

  • This means operating at a neighbourhood level, not just organisational level.

  • This means recognising that different neighbourhoods will have different priorities.

  • This means building a relationship with customers so that they feel heard and understood and if they don’t get the outcome they desire, they at least understand the decision making process.

  • This means recognising the expertease of your tenants and providing them with opportunities to get involved in ways which make value of that expertise.

  • This means understanding the critical mass of HAs ‘bought in’ to the platform in order to make it de facto - Tripadvisor works because all hotels are on it.

  • This means understanding what the platform is there to achieve - there is perhaps value in providing a space for people to let of steam, but how does this lead to positive change?

  • This means giving people choice and recognising that there is no silver bullet.

  • This means go to the platforms that people are already using i.e. Trustpilot.

  • This means recognising that there is no ‘lift and shift’ solution - this platform won’t be TripAdvisor for housing.

Fundamentally this is about building relationships with open and honest two way dialogue.

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Workshop Summary

We would like to thank our participants for providing such rich conversation during the workshop. It feels like both formal league tables and people populated forums come with their own set of risks, benefits and limitations. But it also feels like the government will be introducing league tables whether people like them or not - but those will be most useful for the regulator, not the tenant. There is therefore perhaps a balance to be struck and a space for an independently run platform which allows tenants to comment. However, the success of such a platform depends on how widely it is adopted and how well landlords respond to the tenants who take the time to participate. Transparency without action is not useful - What’s the point in being ‘transparently bad’. Democracy doesn't mean being given what you want, but there has to be an open and honest dialogue which enables both landlords and tenants to arrive at an understanding together or else trust and accountability is lost. Perhaps the answer isn't to create something new, but to go where tenants already are.

Ultimately we need to find a solution which will lead to most change.

Following the workshop Philippa Jones and Neil Tamplin provided their key takeaways. You can see what they said by following the links:  


Click here to watch this clip.


Click here to watch this clip.

We’ve started to pull together a set of ‘how might we’ questions which could form the start of further design work. One of the most fundamental questions emerged from the virtual room, but was also echoed in the conversation in the physical workshop - How might we close the Gap between customers and colleagues? It feels like this is an important question we should all be asking ourselves.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to the sessions. This is just the start of the conversation. We will be looking to build upon the workshop and look for opportunities to work with partners to test some concepts in the new year. If you are interested, please do get in touch, it would be great to hear from you!

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