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Guest Post: Let’s not make whistleblowing as difficult as possible

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This is a contribution from Frank di Mauro, the founder of HaYa, an app and platform that facilitates whistleblowing and discrete communications. The Blind Spot has no stake in HaYa. The two entities are benefiting from cross promotion and access. (Frank gets promotion, The Blind Spot gets enterprise access to the HaYa platform.)

In the last few years whistleblowing has exploded in the public consciousness and yet it is still impossible to easily find an anonymous whistleblowing channel in any organisation. There is a good reason for that. When it comes to whistle-blowing, management gets what I call ‘ostrich syndrome’: bury your head and hope the issue goes away!

I never set out to create a whistle-blowing solution, it sort of happened by accident. When I first launched HaYa Chat app it was designed as a safety app by allowing people to keep in touch with new acquaintances without having to share personal or traceable details.

It was during an amateur Jazz night in Miami after I met a couple of DEA agents (who were taking part as musicians) who suggested HaYa Chat could be usefully transformed into a whistleblowing app. From this idea I created HaYa Org, a platform for organisations to receive anonymous contacts, via the HaYa Chat app, for the purpose of whistleblowing, reporting bad practice and getting support.

Why does the HaYa app work better than email, webforms and telephony?

Put yourself in the shoes of a whistleblower; you are nervous, stressed, unsure and, most importantly, don’t know who you can trust. If you are emboldened to act, you might start off by filling out a long-winded corporate form with lots of potential clues as to who you are. Alternatively you might email in (and if you have time you might create a temporary email) or make a phone call where you will most likely be recorded.

The reality is that the majority of people will not come forward for fear of being identified and suffer repercussions. In an NHS survey 64.6% of staff don’t raise a concern for fear of repercussion. In the same survey 68.9% of staff said they would raise concerns if they could do it anonymously. This report was done in 2015 and still the NHS doesn’t offer an anonymous channel.

This is where HaYa Org comes in. The way we built it is to make it as quick and secure for the whistleblower to come forward. By simply scanning a QR code with their smartphone camera they can connect, truly anonymously, and chat to a dedicated specialist in the organisation. Because HaYa Chat requires no personal information or profile they can be reassured that no identifiable information is passed on.

Great idea right! Let’s make it as easy and comfortable for the whistleblower to contact us and in that way we can manage situations before they escalate and crucially we can manage them internally.

Apparently not. Being a new service, we are doing lots of demos to introduce the HaYa platform to various organisations and most of the time their reaction has three phases:

  • Phase one – trying it for the first time – “Wow this is so easy!”
  • Phase two – realising the potential – “Anyone in the organisation can contact us at any time!”
  • Phase three – thinking about the potential – “How s***t, anyone in the organisation can contact us at any time!”

And it is at that third stage that they put on the breaks.

Let’s be honest, if you are an organisation, especially a large one or governmental one, your “whistleblowing” department is going to be the department that you never want to hear from. After all, what manager wants to hear that there are issues within their organisation and, more dauntingly, having to resolve them?

Admittedly, on many occasions, the wrongdoing is done at the top. But even in those cases, if the “oversight” bodies had simple whistleblowing procedures, those situations might be nipped in the bud.

So what is the solution? For starters there are many independent third parties who want to help whistleblowers. They can use HaYa to assist whistleblowers on what to do and offer them emotional support through the process. At the same time “oversight” bodies can add HaYa to their reporting channels to make it easier for people to contact them and report wrongdoing.

This is the beauty of HaYa as the whistleblower can be reporting to the organisation’s internal channel and at the same time be getting support from an external organisation.

As more independent supporters of whistleblowing start using a unified platform like HaYa the more this forces organisations to sort out their own internal procedures and make it easier for whistleblowers to report internally. And if the organisation fall short of their responsibilities then the whistleblower can always turn to a third party by scanning their QR code.

I am sure that if the Financial Conduct Authority were to have a HaYa QR code, within hours all financial institutions would have their own and take whistleblowers seriously.

To see how HaYa can benefit your organisation visit hayaorg.com and try it out (its free to try).

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