What’s the best way for housing associations to measure social value?

There are many tools out there to help define and measure social value but which is the best one?

David Hoyle is Business Impact and Innovation Lead at New Charter Group

David Hoyle is Business Impact and Innovation Lead at New Charter Group

6 November 2017

In his TED Talk, How great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek suggests inspirational leaders and organisations start from ‘why’, ahead of their ‘how’ or ‘what’.

Social value is the ‘why’ of housing associations – it’s what we do

If we reduce housing associations to bricks, mortar, rents, repairs and relets, we ignore their increasingly important role as anchor institutions in the communities where we operate.

Tenants of housing associations are more likely to experience some form of disadvantage. A home provides shelter, warmth and safety: fundamental human needs. By providing homes, we transform spaces into places and places into neighbourhoods. Often our employees live alongside tenants in these places (or close by) and our considered procurement of materials and services from local businesses stimulates inclusive growth in local communities.

It makes sound social, economic and business sense for housing associations to be able to understand the impact – the difference – our investment decisions make with and for our tenants.

The ‘how’ of social value in the sector

The bad news? Despite what salespeople and consultants might try to convince housing associations, there is neither a magic bullet nor a one-size-fits-all method in measuring the impact of our services or the value in the difference we make.

There are various methods for analyzing social impact and value. These include:

As with any toolkit, housing associations will need to choose a range of tools they are comfortable and confident using to understand the difference they make.  

Housing associations and the ‘what’ of social value

The ‘what’ depends on the aspirations and ambitions of each housing association – and of the sector as a whole. Is your purpose in understanding the impact and value you create to:

  • Feedback to customers, employees and boards about how investments in services and programmes are improving people’s quality of life, health and well-being?
  • Feedback to funders/commissioners on how their investments are making a difference for local people in local communities?
  • Understand the impact and value produced by different services and programmes – as a basis for evidence-informed decisions about future investment?

If housing associations aren’t able to make sense of the impact we have on people’s lives: how can we communicate it to our customers, our staff, resource holders, decision makers, commissioners and politicians? How can we effectively position ourselves to seize the development and business opportunities inherent in our role as anchor institutions in local communities?

It’s that simple; it’s that challenging.

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