The best way to predict the future is to create it

We’ve laid the groundwork through Owning our Future; now it’s time to build on it. Because in an uncertain world we don’t just need to own our future – we need to create it.

James Green is Futures Programme Director at the National Housing Federation

James Green is Futures Programme Director at the National Housing Federation

30 August 2017

It’s striking how the National Housing Federation Annual Conference often feels like a cross-roads moment for the sector. In three years we’ve gone from launching Homes for Britain, via negotiating a voluntary deal on Right to Buy, to marking the culmination of a sector-wide effort to own our future. That there have been so many defining moments in such a short period is a reflection of the times we live in. Disruption is now the norm, with an operating environment increasingly defined by uncertainty, disorder and change.

It was against this backdrop that we launched Owning our Future. Since then we have worked together to build relationships that influence our political future. It’s had a real impact, transforming perceptions of housing associations amongst politicians. Now we need to build on that great work and go a step further, because in an uncertain world we don’t just need to own our future – we need to truly create it. That’s why at Annual Conference this year we’ll be launching Creating our Future – an ambitious programme we want you to get involved with.

We live in challenging times. Rapid technological change is transforming the way we interact with the world, disrupting everything from transport to banking. Globalisation continues apace, bringing the world closer together, while at the same time sowing the seeds of division. Scientific advances mean we’re living longer, but we haven’t created societies designed around the needs of an ageing world yet.

As successful social businesses with strong roots in our communities, housing associations are uniquely placed to respond to these changes. Innovation is part of our sector’s DNA. Many housing associations were founded by social innovators; many more have consistently found new ways to improve people’s lives. Through Creating our Future, we want to tap into that pioneering spirit and foster even more innovation and collaboration across the sector.

We’ve developed an 18 month-long process to support that. We’ll be running ideas labs across the country – facilitated workshops to generate and capture new ideas from staff at all levels about how the sector might respond to these challenges. We’ll bring housing associations together to incubate the best ideas and ensure they can be effectively implemented and scaled. All of this will culminate in a Futures Expo, where we’ll roll out five ideas to change the world – ambitious, impactful and innovative ideas that can be scaled across the sector and make a real difference to people’s lives.

They say the best way to predict your future, is to create it. As we stand at yet another cross-roads, that’s exactly what we’re going to do.


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