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The Chartered Institute of Housing is the independent voice for housing and the home of professional standards

Leading the way on diversity – Wulvern Housing Association

27/08/2015


Wulvern Housing Association is just one of the dedicated organisations that have signed up to our Presidential Commission on diversity and the ‘10 by 20’ challenge. They talk fairness, inclusion and leading by example as they explain their reasons for getting involved with this CIH scheme.

Wulvern Housing Association is a stock transfer housing association based in Crewe and working across Cheshire. We have over 5,500 homes and an active development programme, and we specialise in older people’s housing options, including extra care.

At Wulvern we believe that everyone matters and deserves to be treated fairly. We actively promote equality, diversity and fairness, and embrace people with diverse backgrounds, skills and cultures – and we want to challenge behaviour which does not align with Wulvern’s values. It’s important to us that we uphold these standards for everyone who comes into contact with us, whether it’s someone who’s applying to us for housing or support, a customer, an applicant for a job or a member of staff.

Wulvern’s executive team is made up of four women and one man, which is surprisingly uncommon in the sector. Our deputy chief executive, Sasha Deepwell, is a member of the CIH North West regional board and was made aware of CIH’s Presidential Commission on leadership and diversity through this.

Equality, diversity – and inclusion

The way way we see it, with issues such as financial inclusion, digital inclusion and loneliness, inclusion should be as high up the list in terms of importance as equality and diversity are. We now refer to these three as ‘EDI’ and hosted a competition where we asked 7-16 year-olds to create a character named EDI. The winner was a superhero design, and EDI the superhero is now a part of the Wulvern family. EDI as a concept is now embedded in everything we do.

We also embarked on a programme of unconscious bias training for managers and are now rolling this out on a mandatory basis to everyone in our organisation, including all board members. We wondered, what stops us from behaving in a certain way? Is it a result of an unconscious prejudice or bias? The training our staff received was powerful and encouraged us all to challenge any existing misconceptions or bias we may have. We know that if EDI is our superhero, then our kryptonite is unconscious bias.

Everyone’s business

When it comes to diversity, we aim to lead by example – we hope other housing organisations will feel inspired by our work and encouraged to get involved with CIH’s 10 by 20 challenge. Top of our list is making the most of our internal coaching programme, as well as contributing to external programmes such as Glass Forward and the Housing Diversity Network mentoring schemes. We believe that making best use of these kinds of programmes is vital to achieve progress and support talent development for everyone, particularly under-represented groups. Our commitment to equality and diversity is something we think will improve not only our internal make-up but also our service to customers.

Diversity is everyone’s business, and the more groups that get involved with the 10 by 20 challenge, the greater results we’ll see as a sector. As housing organisations digest the budget implications, it’s even more important that they don’t ‘drop’ their planned actions to promote equality and diversity. These actions are not ‘nice to haves’ but are vital in building genuinely contemporary, fair, value for money organisations.

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