Supporting housing association boards to embed equality, diversity and inclusion

Bethan Buck, 15 November 2022

For the past 18 months, we’ve been working with a group of 20 board members to develop tangible outputs to enable board members to embed equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) into their practices.

Our 2020 Code of Governance placed a new emphasis on EDI, and boards are now required to take an active lead in committing to equality of opportunity, diversity and inclusion in all of the organisation’s activities as well as in their own composition.

EDI is an important theme that should not be siloed. It extends across the principles within the code, for example relating to the increased requirement to be accountable to residents, and on organisational culture.

Requirements of the code of governance include:

  • Reviewing the selection and recruitment of board members: board composition must comprise diverse backgrounds and attributes and reflect the communities the housing association serves.
  • Ensuring EDI is embedded throughout the organisation.
  • Publishing annual information about equality, diversity and inclusion.       
  • Reporting regularly against equality, diversity and inclusion priorities and objectives to provide assurance on implementation and progress.
  • Creating equality, diversity and inclusion policies and statements.

Since 2020, the NHF has produced resources including our EDI Data Toolkit, as well as blogs, webinars, networks, events and case studies of best practice to support housing associations on their EDI journey. We’re also working with the 20 board members to develop a challenge for chairs, a recruitment toolkit and research on associate board member schemes.

The role of board chair is crucial in driving forward change with EDI. The Chairs Challenge is a public pledge to be made by a chair who will be committing to work with their board to develop a vision for success, and a roadmap for how to achieve it.

We know that many boards don’t currently collect their own diversity data. The Vision Toolkit will be a suite of resources to support the chair in creating a vision for success, including encouraging them to use the NHF EDI data tool to understand how representative they currently are of the communities they work within.  

Recruiting board members in traditional ways often leads to people from a similar background and with similar experiences and skills being recruited. The Recruitment Toolkit will be a suite of resources to help boards rethink and recreate their approach to recruitment and on-boarding.

For example, many housing associations are creating new non-voting board positions to encourage and enable people with no prior board or executive experience to explore what it’s like to be on a board, often improving the quality of conversations happening in the board room and resulting in a diverse and dynamic succession plan. We are compiling research to discover how different types of housing associations are approaching this, and the challenges and successes they have had. This report will be available to housing associations to be able to develop their own schemes.

Together these resources aim to empower boards to make tangible change in their organisations, and better represent their local populations. We’ll have more information on all the support outlined here at our Board Excellence in Housing Conference, which will be held in Manchester on 2-3 February 2023.