Community Investment strategies are now changing considerably. HACT's Director of Communities talks to 15 housing associations to see what's going on in the sector and what needs to be done to succeed in these challenging times.
Since the 2015 rent reduction, community investment activity has been variously reduced, rationalised and refocused in just about every housing organisation. HACT has carried out a small but detailed survey with professionals in 15 housing providers of varying size, scope and location.
All have been through a substantial change in their community investment activity (and, for some lucky – most likely merging providers, it has grown). These changes are not going away and look unlikely to do so. So the question is, what new responses are required in these increasingly challenging times?
The answers are likely to require a hard look at ourselves and others; to ask the difficult questions about why and how we invest in our communities. We also need to question how those based both within and outside the organisation can work with Community Investment teams to best effect. Whatever the extent of the changes experienced over the last year or so, refreshing and refocusing what teams do and how it is implemented is crucial.
The tightening of resources and the need to demonstrate greater efficiency is now imperative. The challenge is to drive more business and social value through Community Investment activity and, in so doing, deliver impact in all service areas.
From the survey and our relationships across the sector, we know what needs to be done to achieve this:
- Refocusing Community Investment to deliver outcomes on ‘core’ business areas, such as housing management and maintenance
- A better understanding of need (in all service areas), through data and information, to target and tailor spending
- Selling Community Investment internally so colleagues, senior management and the Board understand and appreciate it
- Conversely, Community Investment staff need to better understand the rest of the business to maximise both the value of Community Investment and other services
- Collaborating with external agencies and organisations which can fill service gaps and add value
- Measuring impact in a comprehensive and integrated way across the business
At the same time that these are challenges, there are also considerable opportunities presented. There is the potential to reconfigure Community Investment for new times, to reassert its value and necessity and develop a more integrated, coherent and connected approach to maximising social value as part of business success.
Between 21st November 2016 and 21st March 2017 HACT is running five seminars exploring these and other questions. For several years now HACT has worked with housing providers focusing on ideas and innovation around Community Investment activity. We have run events, workshops and research projects, produced tools like the freely available Community Investment Framework and advised housing providers on their community investment work.
The five seminars will tackle these issues head on and equip participants with much of the thinking and doing they will need to design, develop and deliver Community Investment now.
And there is more we can do to help ……………
HACT is developing a number of products to help Community Investment professionals tackle these key issues:
- Using data to maximise the value of your Community Investment activity – how can data be better used to inform, influence and prioritise investment decisions?
- Prioritising Community Investment spend – what do you need to do and what information do you need to take an evidence-based approach to more sustainable spending?
- How to apply the values of the organisation to service delivery – what do you need to do to make sure that your overarching values influence service delivery?
We will be developing further functionality to Community Insight so that current and future users can pull out the data and information needed to make the best investment decisions for impact and sustainability.
Finally, we are also developing a research project on maximising business and social value through the better design, development and delivery of Social Purpose.
If you are interested in being part of this, or want more information about the products, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0207 250 8500.