Taming the information jungle

TonyphotoIn the latest of our series of posts looking at the work of housing associations, Tony McLaughlin explains how managing information supports activities across the Wheatley Group.

By Tony McLaughlin, Research and Policy Officer, the Wheatley Group

Comparing the volume of information we come across as a ‘jungle’ may seem a little hyperbolic, but for my colleagues and I in the Research and Development Team at the Wheatley Group, Scotland’s leading housing, care and community regeneration organisation, it can certainly seem that way.

Managing information on behalf of our colleagues in other parts of the business to ensure that they have the data and information they need at their fingertips is a core part of what we do. However, keeping on top of the information we are bombarded with can be a task in itself.

In keeping with the jungle analogy, the sources where we get information from can be quite different beasts. A quick survey of our team found that collectively we are on the mailing lists of over eighty organisations, including many specialists beyond our core business of housing, care and regeneration. These mailing lists are just the tip of the information iceberg. If you take into account social media, the number of information sources would be likely to multiply several times.

We are responsible for supporting activities across a large organisation which provides services to over 100,000 people, and employs more than 2,100 people across Central Scotland. With a team of seven people, and many competing demands on our time, we have to be smart about what we focus on. We appreciate services that cut down the amount of time we have to spend identifying useful resources. It’s important for us to provide information that is specific to the needs of our business and which supports excellence in everything that we do. We do this in a number of ways, two of which are given as examples below.

We produce an ‘Insight’ bulletin, which is aimed at leaders and is a short themed think-piece which informs strategy and service development. Recent editions have focused on diverse topics such as customer segmentation, value for money, working with communities and employment trends. We are planning editions on digital inclusion, care and support, challenging poverty, and innovative funding.

We also organise a series of seminars for staff at all levels of our organisation and for relevant people from our partner agencies. These are typically hosted at our purpose-built learning and conference centre, The Academy, which is located at our Glasgow headquarters. Our most recent seminars were arranged as part of the corporate partnership which the Wheatley Group has with the professional body for housing, the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

The first of these was a visit by CIH Chief Executive, Grainia Long, to address our leadership team on the challenges faced by the housing sector in the coming years. The second was a presentation on our innovative ‘Frontline Futures’ research aimed at frontline staff, which examines the role of the frontline housing professional in light of new challenges facing social housing providers and customers.

These seminars are part of a coordinated approach to supporting staff CPD. Our membership of IDOX Information Service contributes to this, as it allows our colleagues who undertake academic study as part of their professional development to access a range of resources to help them achieve their qualifications.

To sum up, our team should not simply navigate through the information jungle for material that we find interesting – everything we do should have a purpose in promoting excellence within our organisation; the information that we disseminate should always help drive innovation and improvement.

I would be happy to discuss any ideas with other like-minded organisations. Please drop me an email at tony.mclaughlin@wheatley-group.com

For more information about what we do visit www.wheatley-group.com


 

The Wheatley Group are members of the Idox Information Service. For the past 40 years, the Information Service has been the first port of call for information and knowledge on public and social policy and practice.

Our previous blogs on housing associations include:

 

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