Maybe the Chair because she or he comes and makes a speech at the annual staff conference. You might need to visit the company website to find out who the others are.
Why does it matter? According to the National Housing Federation’s Chief Executive, Kate Henderson, “the sector needs boards to be open, accountable and transparent and to really understand the experiences of people and the homes we serve”.
But if staff don’t know who their board members are, then what are the chances that residents know?
And if not, how can board members be held to account for the vital work they undertake as custodians of people’s homes?
Kate was speaking in June to the second Raising Roofs cohort on the final day of its programme. She acknowledged that the housing sector is changing and fresh ideas are needed from new talent which is board ready, i.e. equipped with the knowledge, skills and confidence to take a role on a board.
Alison Inman, board member of Colne Housing and Saffron Housing, and former president of the Chartered Institute of Housing recently wrote that being a board member isn’t passive, “we have a duty to be curious about this fantastic sector we work for”.
In recent years we have become accustomed to the idea of shared responsibility known as co-regulation of housing providers by their boards and the social housing regulator (RSH).
On its own, co-regulation has raised the bar for boards and the level of expectation about what it takes to be a board member.
The Social Housing Green Paper 2018 has challenged the sector to re-balance the relationship between residents and their landlords.
Housing associations have begun to look at how to involve their residents in scrutinising performance and decision making, something the mutual and community gateway associations have been doing for some time.
The customer’s role in governance is no longer something to which just lip service is being paid.
What Kate and Alison were both saying is that governance really matters. If residents and staff are to have confidence in how their organisations are governed, boards need to be more visible and engaged.
At Raising Roofs we emphasise the importance of openness and diversity of boards.
We prepare future housing leaders to take their place in the boardroom – we call this being “board ready”.
Participants on the programme say that it gives them the confidence to speak up, ask important questions and to realise that their opinions are valid and valuable.
The programme aims to make governance bodies more accessible to talented, future leaders working in housing and to improve diversity in the boardroom of social landlords.
It includes six workshop days with outstanding facilitators from within and outside the housing sector.
Participants are also enabled to attend and observe a board meeting at a social landlord which is not their place of work, and they receive mentoring and support throughout and beyond the programme.
These participants have reported that the skills and knowledge they acquire on Raising Roofs help them perform their day jobs more effectively.
In addition they become part of a peer alumni group which is supporting each other on their respective journeys to governance committees and onwards to the boardroom.
Raising Roofs starts again on October 30th.