Tuesday 23rd March 2021
By Helen Greig
‘Are we nearly there yet?’
You’ll recognise that annoying question. When I started at WISH, it felt like I was the annoying child asking it, along with a million, ‘why’s’? The thing is, to know if you’re nearly at somewhere you need to know where you’re going. Which in a business sense, is really answered by, ‘what is our purpose?’
This can be a tricky question to answer for any business because it can get complicated very quickly. If you ask yourself, what does your business exist to do, can you summarise it in 8 words or less? Steve Jobs said that, “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
It helps by starting with the vision – what do we want to be different in the world? Within WISH it was really clear that everyone involved loves the housing sector. We love working in it, we love what we’re trying to achieve in affordable housing, we love the people. What we want is the best housing sector there can be and for that to happen we need everyone who works in the sector to be able to be their best selves. We need people to be recognised for their qualities not their gender, race, sexuality or any other differentiating characteristic – because that mixture of people, thinking and skills is how we get the best sector. So the vision for WISH that we agreed on is ‘A housing sector where everyone can flourish’. The dictionary definition of ‘flourish’ is to ‘grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly congenial environment’ – who can’t get behind that for the housing sector?
With our vision for the sector taken care of, we return to the place we’re trying to get to - our purpose for WISH – so we can know when we get there. There are certain things that are obvious – WISH is a networking organisation, for women in the housing sector. A good purpose statement is clear what an organisation does whilst being simple and memorable. Many discussions took place about what that purpose statement should say, with many opinions given and some disagreements. Yet everyone agreed on one thing – WISH was set up because there needed to be a space for women to network in housing, and that need hasn’t gone away. Too many networking opportunities are either still male-dominated, held at times that often preclude carers (like evenings), or are ‘word of mouth’ and the mouths that pass the words are male to male. Disappointing though that is, it made it clear that our purpose had to reflect the need. If everyone in the sector is going to flourish, we need variety at all levels of businesses to reflect our customers and residents. Equality is the word that describes that – it means everyone is flourishing, being able to be themselves to the best of their ability and contribute to the housing sector brilliantly as a result. So our purpose is ‘using networking in the housing sector to promote equality’. Who can’t get behind that?!
So no we may not be nearly there yet. But we know where we’re going.