Learning from the best

Our equivalent in the health sector, PatientOpinion have grown into a mainstream operation over the last 9 years.  Phil and I have had the pleasure of talking with Dr James Munro about OurHousing.  It’s clear that despite PO getting a lot of traffic these days, it hasn’t been an easy ride.  Not least, they got railroaded by government who launched an equivalent tool after PO success on their own platform, NHS Choices.   However, now they’re up and running in Australia and have just launched CareOpinion.The insight we got was invaluable.  For example, when is a complaint just negative feedback?  James shared his views about originators’ intention and showed us a devilishly good coping mechanism for dealing with citizen feedback of private sector organisations.  We spoke a little about the new defamation laws, developments in sentiment analysis and natural language processing and how OurHousing might evolve.

It’s clear that PO are special.  They have values which reflect a true intermediary and they know their health stuff, all their moderation being done in-house.  What they’ve done is create a relationship builder in a very delicate marketplace with very little selfishness.

Despite their success, James wasn’t driving around in a Ferrari or wearing a Gucci jacket.  If anything, I would have been a little suspicious about their true intentions if he was.  If social tech start-ups don’t get seed funding or public money investments then the results are going to be shallow.

Conversation brokers such as PO need to survive for the public good but government seems to be pulling in different directions and reinventing the wheel. Let’s hope OurHousing can work alongside policymakers, not in competition with them.

For what it’s worth, here’s a recent response from Kris Hopkins, Minister for housing and communities about our little initiative:-


Thank you for your electronic correspondence of 19 February to Kris Hopkins MP. I have been asked to reply to you. I apologise firstly for not responding sooner.I was interested to learn of your new venture which offers social housing landlords and tenants an opportunity to have online conversations with the aim of improving services.

Government is keen to encourage ideas and initiatives that improve opportunities for tenants to challenge their landlords and drive improvements in the delivery of services. I note that you have received some backing from the Nominet trust. I am afraid that we are at this time unable to offer financial assistance but we would be interested to be kept informed about how the website improves tenants’ experiences and improves opportunities for tenants and landlords to address issues in this way.

We would like to wish you good luck with this project.  

Miss L Storer (DCLG)