The work of housing associations and related organisations across the country shows some of the ultimate forms of social value. Improving individual lives and opportunities as well as bolstering communities and building resilience in areas of deprivation, there’s no denying just how impactful the housing sector is.
It’s also one of the sectors that has the most to gain from handling their social value right. Yet research by Mazars shows that nearly 80% of organisations believe the housing sector isn’t doing enough in terms of demonstrating its social value – despite all the incredible work they’re doing for people, communities, and the planet.
Let’s look today at how you can change that.
Don’t rely on financial metrics
In the research mentioned above, 80% of respondents – including directors, managers, and officers from housing associations and local authorities – believe the sector focuses too much on financial value, and not enough on social impact.
Financial metrics can and should play their part, of course. But a blinkered focus on value for money also threatens to overshadow a lot of social good.
For example, we hear about organisations axing services or initiatives that have demonstrated significant value for their tenants in the name of them being bad value for money. We can’t help but feel this relentless fight to demonstrate value for money is severely impacting the social value HAs are currently generating.
Similarly, there’s an over reliance on monetary values for evidencing social value itself. Housing is incredibly monetary value-focussed at the board level, and the very same perspective is taken to showcase social value performance.
But in doing this, we’re left overlooking the critical, qualitative side of our efforts and impact. We end up missing out on so many nuanced, human-level outcomes that could demonstrate your true value most.
Do test-drive future services and initiative
In a sector that notoriously finds investment and resources hard to come by, it’s essential to become more risk-averse, taking a more proactive approach to future development.
This might involve creating annual materiality matrices to help ensure any future services and initiatives are in keeping with what’s most impactful to your organisation and end-users. It would allow you to get your priorities in order ahead of time and reduce the risk of investing in projects that end up falling short.
Similarly, a robust strategy for measuring and reporting on the social value of your existing projects will help you make more informed decisions in the future. By visualising positive and negative impacts, as well as intended or unintended consequences of your decisions, you can better refine your approach for next time and minimise risk across the board.
Don’t restrict yourself within a specific framework
Many housing providers find themselves limited to a specific framework, using the same system they always have. However, any one system is going to be limited in its approach.
What can tend to happen is that organisations do something that generates social value, but find there isn’t a relevant measure for it in their chosen framework. They then try to force a measurement to suit, which hardly ever works. They do an entirely different activity that they can measure (but might not be as beneficial to their tenants). Or they just don’t report it at all – meaning there’s no way to evidence their efforts. None of these options are ideal.
Instead, organisations – in the housing sector and beyond – should look for social value tools and systems that enable greater flexibility in their approach. It’s always worth looking around to assess your options.
Do look beyond individual homes or projects
The work of housing providers is so much more than providing homes for those in need. And your social value process should reflect this.
Organisations like yours are responsible for developing aspirational communities. Maximising quality of life, health, and wellbeing, as well as bolstering economies and reducing the effects of climate change. So much more than putting a roof over someone’s head.
When it comes to your social value, make sure you’re acknowledging this bigger picture, recognising your individual- and community-level impact. Rather than focusing on the monetary value of finding X amount of people homes, look at all the more complex, incredible ways you’re making a difference and incorporate that into your social value strategy, too.
Don’t ignore the user’s voice
Social value puts people and communities at the centre. Therefore, any housing provider that doesn’t regularly collaborate with their users is missing out on a major source of insight and experience.
When it comes to future projects, you want to have as big an impact as possible. You want to address the most pressing issues of your local area and community, and best serve your tenants and their families. So why wouldn’t you want to speak to the people you’re trying to help?
Accurately capturing the voice of your tenants, and using this input to shape your decisions and actions, will ensure you’re creating as much value as humanly possible. And that you’re investing your time, resources, and focus into the right areas.
The housing sector is one that stands to gain so much from upgrading their approach and understanding of social value. Well-versed to change the lives of a large proportion of our population, and positively impact communities now and long into the future, it’s so important for housing providers to look for ways to maximise their value generated, and find the right tools and systems to clearly measure and evidence their value to aid in decision-making and investment.
The Impact platform makes it simple for housing associations to quantify the unquantifiable. Our intuitive, easy-to-use system makes it easy to capture the raw data and real-world outcomes to evidence your impact to investors, inform future decision-making, and continue to change lives. If you want to find out more, schedule a demo, or get in touch on 0161 532 4752.