A challenge to the existing housing establishment

By Matt Leach - on 10/06/2014

HACT's Chief Executive Matt Leach discusses why HouseParty delivers an opportunity to a new generation of housing innovators.

There’s a bit of a revolution going on in housing, although you might not have noticed if you’re not on Twitter.

And it certainly isn’t quite big enough – yet – to have much impact on the 24housing ‘Power Players’ list (although a fair few may make it onto Paul Taylor’s alternative power list out this month).

But if you come to HouseParty – the first ever fringe event in Manchester – you’ll get a window to something new and important happening in UK housing.

The last year has seen the emergence of a new generation of housing innovators and influencers, the rapid growth of informal digital enabled networks, and the launch of new, cross-sector but grassroots-driven initiatives on a scale never seen before. It is not hard to find examples:

  • Adrian Capon – a member of Yorkshire Housing’s communications team – was the driving force behind #HousingDay in November last year, bringing housing staff across the country together to share their stories through social media.
  •  The recent #CouncilHomesChat campaign has provided a fantastic, bottom-up riposte to media negativity about social homes.
  • The launch of the Urbanistas, a technology-enabled network of women in housing and regeneration, supporting one another in getting great projects off the ground.

What makes them (and many others) stand out is that, in conventional terms, they are unlikely housing leaders – they’re not (usually) speaking from positions of significant organisational power or within recognised frameworks. Indeed most are in relatively junior roles. Rather, they are gaining attention as a result of the quality of their ideas and message, the excitement they can generate and the people they can mobilise in support of their initiatives.

It’s a challenge to the existing housing establishment, and the conventional ways it seeks to do business. What we are seeing is a new wave of experts, influencers and ideas unmediated by organisations or hierarchy, sometimes anarchic and unpredictable, but capable of influencing thinking faster than the conventional routes – old style publications, reports and best practice guides, conferences and seminars that have typified knowledge sharing in housing in the past.

HouseParty – as a fringe counterpart to its unofficial big sister across the road – is looking to capture some of the energy and share the ideas and innovation of this new, exciting and growing part of the housing sector. Over two days of fringe events, the focus will be on new and disruptive ideas around housing and communities; tech innovation; and social enterprise. There will be workshops on new and innovative approaches to service design and masterclasses on the latest in thinking on social enterprise; opportunities to share your worst failures and new approaches to achieving change. There will be sessions to build new networks and an open space for delegates to contribute their own content. The biggest speakers will be speaking to the smallest audiences, and new faces to housing will be given the biggest platforms to share the best of their ideas.

The focus and energy of the CIH’s annual event – three days in which housing takes over Manchester – made it the natural place for the first ever HouseParty to be held, bringing the new wave of housing influencers closer to the wider housing establishment.

You don’t have to attend the main conference to come to HouseParty and tickets have been pitched as pay-what-you-can-afford. HouseParty is taking place from 24-25 June in Manchester. 

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