Still early days for social impact measurement in housing sector

14/03/2012

Key findings in a report commissioned by HACT highlights opportunities to improve understanding of social impact measurement among housing providers.

15 March 2012.

Research conducted for HACT by the Third Sector Research Centre (TSRC) at the University of Birmingham has shown wide variations in the approaches used by housing organisations to measure the social impact of community investment activities. The research concludes that there is considerable impetus amongst housing providers to measure their impact, but little standardisation of practice or approach.

‘Community investment by Social Housing Organisations: Measuring the Impact’ was commissioned by HACT as part of a longer-term partnership with TSRC. The report, written by Vanessa Wilkes and David Mullins, was based on telephone conversations with 34 social housing providers, and targeted organisations who are currently using, or are exploring the use of, social impact tools to measure their community investment activities.

HACT’s CEO, Matt Leach believes that this provides a considerable opportunity to improve understanding. ‘Housing providers are doing some fantastic work within their communities but this report demonstrates that the sector as a whole needs to develop a greater consensus around how it measures and evidences its impact. It’s still early days for social impact measurement in the housing sector. But it will become increasingly important as housing providers move from an era of top down regulation, and embrace a wider diversity of business models and approaches.’

David Mullins, Professor of Housing Policy at the University of Birmingham adds that these initiatives come at a very important time for the sector. ‘There is a clear benefit in more collaborative sharing of ideas on how to measure impact. At a time of political scepticism about the role of social housing it is important to establish what evidence there is of a wider community impact’.

Key findings of the research further reveal that this is a complex area with no easy choices. Organisations struggle to develop appropriate outcome measures which they can monitor. Those that do have found that they need to be constantly revised. There is strong interest in measuring joint outcomes, but very little existing practice. The work that HACT does will be key to facilitating learning in this area in the future.

This report and survey results are published ahead of the launch of a new programme of work by HACT which will focus on the role of housing providers in communities and neighbourhoods. In January, HACT launched a programme of work with over 20 housing providers to explore the potential to develop a common strategic approach to community investment by housing providers, which is due to report later this year.

If you are a housing provider and are interested in participating in HACT’S ongoing work around social impact, and in finding out further details about our new activities please contact John Coburn or find out more details on the HACT website.

Links

Read ‘Community investment by Social Housing Organisations: Measuring the Impact’ by Vannessa Wilkes and Professor David Mullins.

Read the HACT summary report: A shortened summary of the full report which highlights the main research findings of the commissioned TSRC report.

Find out more information about the HACT Social Impact project