The norm at a housing conference is to see what others are doing, how they have developed something that works and for them to share it as ‘best practice’.
But how much do we really learn from this? After hearing about something that is can possibly help our organisation to grow do we then just go and do that and not think about other options or the pitfalls? Do we know everything that went wrong before it went right?
Jayne Hilditch (Corporate Services Director at Thames Valley HA) and Rachel Fisher (Head of Policy at NHF) decided that we’d heard enough of ‘best practice’ and needed to see what we could learn from others mistakes.
To do this they created and ran a session billed as a confessional of sorts. All chatham house and all very funny despite serious mistakes and lapses of judgement being confessed.
So many mistakes are brushed under the carpet and never shared for fear of reputational damage. No-one wants to hear how public monies may have been misused; 6 figure websites have not been fit for purpose; systems purchased are too complicated and no one uses them; or how prizes have been rigged.
The thing is, these things do happen and it is not the intention of any organisation to go and waste money; to do over the public or to screw things up. At the time, people think they are doing the right thing, the best thing and it is only with hindsight that you realise the huge mistake you have made.
Housing Organisations are run by people and people make mistakes. It doesn’t mean they are bad people. It just means they are human.
Around the room there were so many nodding heads for each ‘confession’ that it was clear if only these mistakes and errors of judgement had been shared sooner that they would not have happened over and over again.
I am reminded of this by the clever placement of the Craftivsts Protest Banner at HouseParty. Buildings should serve people, not the other way around. We need a level of humility in our work too.
This session highlighted how important it is to share not only the good things we do, but the mistakes we make too. But we can only do this is we leave our egos and competitive natures at the door, open ourselves up and start confessing.
By Jude Cross
Associate of the Social Change Agency, and 2013 Clore Fellow.