Openness & Transparency: 5 Reasons to Bare All

Openness & Transparency: 5 Reasons to Bare All


During our recent Openness & Transparency workshop events it’s become clear that housing associations in Wales are beginning to explore how and why they should ‘bare all’ to meet new expectations around openness and transparency. The recommendations made by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) following their inquiry onto the regulation of Housing Associations (HAs) in Wales has certainly been a key driver behind this. In recognising the independence and autonomy of the housing association sector – particularly if the reclassification decision by ONS is to be reversed, the committee is clear that it expects associations to be more open and more transparent.

What this new transparency will look like will no doubt vary because you have different types of housing associations serving wildly different tenants and communities. Transparency is a culture thing, it can’t be just be a policy or a set of rules. It’s an approach, an ethos.  It would therefore be no use having a very prescriptive approach which HAs need to adopt. Organisations have to want to do it and see the value in it.  Tenants, Boards and other stakeholders need to have a role in shaping what approach to openness and transparency the organisation will take.


Whatever your approach, it’s worth thinking about some of the real benefits greater transparency can bring. Here’s 5 to start you off……….

1.      Trusting relationships - Housing Associations exist for a social purpose. It tends to say this in some other snappier words in landlord mission statements or it will at least be stated in constitutions. This means that stakeholders: tenants, residents and communities must be at the heart of what they do – they cannot respond to local needs or deliver on customer expectations without an open and honest relationship. How can you build trusting relationships if you’re holding back?  Transparency, openness and accountability are therefore important principles.

2.      Better services - Improving transparency can aid the understanding of tenants and staff about what you do and why, encouraging those stakeholders to scruntise and challenge more which can lead to improvements in services and value for money. Use transparency to share challenges you’re looking to overcome and to look for potential solutions. You could ‘crowdsource’ ideas and work collaboratively with tenants and stakeholders to problem solve.

3.      Better Decisions - Significant decisions are made by Housing Associations that affect tenants lives and communities: what risks to take, what services to invest in, how to deliver services, diversification. Transparency helps ensure that boards and other decision makers are efficient and effective by opening information to public scrutiny and making decision makers answerable for their actions and decisions.  Local Authority council meetings are regularly streamed live and you can see what decisions are made and how. With the low costs involved in streaming information will HAs adopt this approach to open up and be more accountable…….or will the sharing of minutes of Board meeting be a start for many?

4.      Providing reassurance - A lack of transparency about the services you provide and decisions you make can cause: anxiety; uncertainty and misinformation; or tenants to worry about the safety of their homes or what’s happening in their communities. Transparency means tenants and communities know what is happening: that their landlord is compliant in key areas such as fire and gas safety.  This doesn’t happen unless information is shared. What does your organisation currently share with Tenants to provide reassurance?.

5.      Being honest and in control – Transparency means sharing more than just the good news. If there are rumours swirling around about changes to services, or if the company if going through a rough patch be open and address that with tenants and communities. It’s better they get the information straight from the source, rather than hear a different version; plus, it helps tenants feel invested in the company. 


Hopefully you’ve thought of many other benefits. Being open and transparent only works if you see the value in it, not because you feel like you have to do it.

Look out for my forthcoming blog – ‘5 ways to be open & transparent’


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