This month has been all about the housing sector here at Impact. First, we looked at the dos and don’ts of social value in housing, sharing our top tips on how housing providers can better demonstrate their value. Then we looked at how providers can begin broadening their impacts to develop more aspirational communities, boosting quality of life, engaging communities, and looking after the environment.
But today, we’re here to tie up all this housing-related content with a look at some commonly asked questions regarding social value in the housing sector.
Let’s jump in!
Why is social value important to social housing?
In its simplest terms, and looking at it on a whole business level, housing’s ties to social value lies in the provision of homes. Putting roofs over people’s heads is one of the ultimate forms of social value. Like we’ve said before, it touches on almost three quarters of the UN’s SDGs, directly or indirectly.
But, in reality, the relationship between housing providers and social value is much more nuanced than that.
Social value is important to housing providers because it helps them to secure the best possible outcomes for their beneficiaries. Comparing the impacts of different services or interventions ensures all future plans and strategies can be their most valuable and effective, while also ensuring all money and resources go as far as possible.
This is also critical in allowing providers to prove the value of what they’re doing – be that to investors, the government, or the community where they operate. This is critical both in terms of securing more funding and demonstrating good value for money to the Regulator of Social Housing.
Outputs vs. outcomes: which is most important?
Outputs are what you actually do or achieve. For example, putting on a community fitness class, or matching X number of families with new homes.
Outcomes are how your outputs have actually impacted people, the community, or the wider world. What’s the end result?
While it’s important to be measuring both your outputs and outcomes, outcomes should remain the ultimate priority. After all, this is how you monitor the actual value you’re adding to people’s lives.
Do we always have to assign financial values?
When it comes to the success of a housing provider, measuring value for money is a critical component. Before providing funding, people and organisations are going to want to know their money is going to good use.
But, when we lean into financial values too much, we risk compromising on the organisation’s wider social value. For example, axing valuable, effective services simply because they don’t demonstrate as great value for money. We cover this in far greater depth here!
What is a theory of change?
A theory of change is how you can ground your efforts and activities around your intended outcomes. It’s a step-by-step flowchart of how you will achieve what you want to achieve. Here’s an example.
Producing these for each of your intended outcomes helps you clarify and refine exactly what you want to do, identify the steps needed to get there, foresee and overcome any potential challenges, and plan how you will measure success. All of which are critical to the success of your interventions.
What falls under the category of social value in housing?
Anything that in some way improves a life or boosts a community can fall into the category of social value.
It’s so much more than providing homes to families who couldn’t afford one without your intervention.
For example, creating appropriate housing that’s readily accessible for those with disabilities or the elderly; therefore reducing accidents, hospital admissions, and improving their way of life. This is taking your social value one step further. And measuring and reporting outcomes like this shows your commitment to changing lives in ongoing, impactful ways. Similarly, offering a professional skills course to help boost local education, employment, and wider economic development.
It all counts.
Do we need a social value policy?
We’re big advocates of a social value policy. It ensures your organisation is crystal clear on your priorities and long-term goals, as well as clearly demonstrating this to suppliers, funding partners, and your beneficiaries. It helps keep your efforts on course and shows an ongoing commitment to doing better.
Our social value data shows we haven’t achieved our intended outcomes, what now?
Always remember: it’s critical to tell a full story, not a fake positive one.
The negative, positive, intended, and unintended consequences of your actions and interventions all carry weight. Besides, if you dig deeper into the stories behind the numbers, there will still be plenty of progress and positive outcomes to share. It’s why qualitative data is so crucial.
While it’s great to demonstrate you’ve reached or surpassed your social value goals, it’s also important to show where there’s still room for improvement. You can use this ‘negative’ data as an opportunity for further learning and development. An organisation that is readily learning and attempting to improve is equally as important as one who is smashing targets.
Embracing the full picture of your data is also important for sector-wide learning. If housing providers are more transparent, learning from one another’s mistakes, it’ll help to speed up the journey to better outcomes across the board.
For a sector that’s so closely linked to all things social value and impact, housing still has quite a ways to go in terms of maximising value generation and communicating their impacts better. But it all starts with building up awareness! Which is where we’re more than happy to help.
Looking to maximise the social value generated across your projects and communities? Want to more clearly evidence and communicate your successes? Impact can help. To find out more about our intuitive, straightforward system for all things social value, schedule a demo, or get in touch on 0161 532 4752.