How can we make full use of the data revolution?
Government has released a huge amount of data over recent years, conscious of the benefits to society of open-access. Housing associations also find themselves sitting on a wealth of data representing everything from energy ratings to the number of people who feel good about their area. Unfortunately, the sheer quantity and poor quality of much of this data has reduced this potentially invaluable resource to unhelpful noise.
HACT have been supporting housing associations to make better use of data, through web-tools like Community Insight and Value Insight that use visualisations to help interpret a huge variety of numerical data available. We’ve also been working hard on projects that seek to show the valuable insights that can be gained when analysing good quality data from housing associations. For instance, we’re researching how community investment activities like employment interventions can have an impact on the bottom line.
However, to fully realise the benefits of data analysis, the housing sector needs to address the serious quantitative skills gap. There are simply not enough people working in social housing that have the skills to collect good quality numerical data and analyse it to produce insight. This is problematic for a sector that is being asked to do more for less. Of course, there are other barriers to quantitative research. As HACT’s data analyst wrote about in a recent blog, there is a need to establish a standard for data, but it is hard to see how this might achieved without a greater understanding in the sector. With cost cutting ahead, and quantitative skills in such high demand in the UK, it seems the social housing sector will miss out on the transformational capacity of numerical data.
Luckily, there is a major untapped resource of affordable quantitative skills: graduates. University of Manchester have been involved in £19.5 million programme to improve quantitative skills and create pathways to employment for its students through work placements. Graduates often find the world of work unfamiliar and unrewarding. Finding a job that pays well enough to live, whilst also feeling as if you’re making a positive contribution to others can be a challenge. Social housing can provide an answer to both making the Q-step programme a win for all involved. If you’d like to explore getting involved in the programme, email firstname.lastname@example.org