Housing Captivity

At some times of the year you can barely drive down a country road around my town without taking out a few pheasants who just decide to run into the road. Over the years you would have thought these animals would have evolved to recognise dangers and be a little less stupid.

Pheasants are mostly bred in captivity. Kept in pens and catered for by humans. They experience very little danger in captivity. Then during the hunting season thousands of them are released into the wild. These birds have never experienced fast moving vehicles or predators. Because the breeding is done in captivity the ability to evolve and pass on the instinct to avoid traffic are limited.

Over the last 18 months I’ve been to a number of housing events, conferences and have followed a lot of housing talk on twitter. One of the things that has become really apparent is that the housing sector is in many places living in captivity. It rarely exposes itself to anything outside of the sector.

During a recent conference I followed on twitter there was a session on building websites for mobile. Specifically mobile first. Conjuring my inner flippant character “2008 is calling”.

But I should not be too dismissive. The conference did have speakers from outside the sector. This is a great way to bring in external views. Just be warned some of those speakers were from the enterprise sector. Housing Associations do not necessarily need enterprise software.

Change is happening across the sector at board level. I can see many adverts are looking for non-execs from outside of the housing sector. This is great to see. Be prepared however that if this is their first experience of the housing sector they will look on in astonishment at some of the ways things are done. The rest of the board needs to be open and listen. Just as the newcomer needs to be prepared to understand that things do not change overnight.

But we also need to encourage employment into the housing sector from outside. It is great to see the celebration of young leaders and that more younger people want to be involved in the sector. The organisation culture needs to be such that they can thrive and not be stifled with the “because we have always done it this way” attitude. Culture trickles down from the board.