Wednesday, 19 August 2015

False dichotomy

You know that familiar part of radio interviews where some musician is posed contradictory alternatives and asked to choose quickly between them?  “Meat or fish?”; “United or City?”; “books or movies?”.  

picture showing one way signs pointing both left and right
Only two choices?
Of course, the answers are just what passes for entertainment, and while everyone knows that the real world is more complex, nobody is going to be amused by an answer that goes “Well, I love a good novel on a wet Sunday afternoon, but Orange Wednesday’s were fabulous and the cinema seats are so comfortable these days, so can I have both please?”

Celebrities have learned to play the game; it's called “False Dichotomy”.   And so it seems have we. You may have noticed that what passes for a row has broken out in the social housing world. 
Positions are being taken – with reported comments from Genesis and Aster on the one hand and SHOUT supporters on the other; views are being aired and shared; perhaps even destinies are being forged.

Strident headlines proclaiming that market-facing solutions are the only solutions are followed by equally vehement commitments to the values of social housing.  Of course, these respective positions stem from viewing our world through the always distorted lens of our binary-based political system.
Now don’t get me wrong, political parties are very important, especially ones in Government with every prospect of a decade of power.  So, practically, embracing their new agenda is a necessary step to secure organisational survival into the future.

A necessary step, yes.  Because Government holds, and can therefore withdraw, our licence to operate.

However, if the government lens is the only one through which we seek to develop our organisational strategy, then we are in our own minds already public bodies, just as, perhaps, we will be in the eyes of the Office for National Statistics once details of the Right to Buy are known.

And doing what is necessary is not the same as doing what is sufficient and right to develop a clear and lasting strategic direction.   Good strategy is derived from multiple perspectives and has a complexity and nuance that neither plays well into any political narrative nor is easy to portray clearly in the full glare of modern media – social or otherwise.

At Trafford Housing Trust we know we can and must up our game in the media if our great work is to be recognised and valued.

More importantly we have to have the right strategy to work to, one that balances the conflicting interests of current customers and those of would be customers; of those who view social housing as a springboard to something else, and those for whom it is a vital safety net; of those who want the right to buy their own social home and those who want to leave adequate social provision for the next generation. 

We know our strategy has to change if it is to remain relevant.  The questions we are asking are: how should it honour our heritage, respect our own values, acknowledge our context, articulate our charitable intent and paint a compelling vision of the future.  We know these can’t be answered satisfactorily by the false dichotomy posed by “social housing or market housing?”
Let’s all stop pretending that it can and move towards a positive debate about the essential part for both within any sustainable ‘one nation’ approach to housing in the UK.  

No comments:

Post a Comment