Tuesday 18th June 2019
The UK social housing sector sits within a turbulent landscape. Significant challenges have emerged in recent years about who social housing is for, the role of the sector in meeting housing demand and our involvement in tackling complex social problems located in our communities and impacting on our tenants’ lives and wellbeing. We are also faced with emerging opportunities of service diversification, increased independence via self-funding and the organisational changes introduced by the digital revolution. This evolving context means many organisations are reconsidering both purpose and the day-to-day ways of working in order to meet the needs of a demanding and complicated present and future.
As part of the my social housing focussed research, I will be meeting with Dutch Civil Servants and housing organisations representatives from June 2019, with a view to organising Dutch and UK based conferences to share innovative practices and cutting-edge research that will help us all to gain a new perspective on our work. If you have innovative ideas or practices to share or just want to be kept informed about this work as it progresses, drop me a message at [email protected].
In the meantime, I am thinking about the benefits of obtaining an international perspective on what may otherwise appear to be local issues, some reflections follow:
Different cultures have different ways of thinking about policy and practice problems. The Dutch have a collaborative, conversational approach called the poldermodel. They start from a position of engaging in deliberation and dialogue with all parties impacted by the problem at hand, often resulting in a reflective and inclusive approach to designing solutions. Exploring how to think in new ways encourages creativity and innovation and helps identify the strengths and weaknesses in established ways of thinking about our work.
Our sector is faced with ‘complex and wicked’ social problems that are defined as: complex in nature, having many causes, existing in multiple environments and involving many people who often introduce further elements of unpredictability. Often people tasked with redesigning and/or evaluating services are located within the problem; this makes it hard to grasp the real complexity at hand, which can mean services can miss the point of what they are trying to achieve, and in some cases, contribute to worsening the problem rather than alleviating it. Comparative work aids deep understanding of complex problems. Engaging with researchers and practitioners experienced in seeing problems in this way can only benefit both the social impact and the cost efficiency of our work.
Our current approaches to working with data and evidence inhibit rather than nurture innovative thinking. We are stuck in a ‘reporting for board’ mindset and there’s a need to find what methods will help us understand, integrate and evaluate innovative approaches to doing our work. Finding out about what both academics and practitioners are doing in this area can inspire innovation and provide a roadmap for transitioning from a present and report mindset to an innovative and evaluative one.
If the tone of this blog strikes a chord, get in touch.