Anyone who knows me will probably agree the last thing I need is more caffeine, but coming out the other side after a year on maternity leave, there are few things better than catching up with the HACT team over lots of coffee!
Maternity leave provided more than just time with my little one (which was obviously an incredible experience in all its wonderful, messy glory). Distance from the nine-to-five affords the luxury of time and space to pause and reflect.
A year on, some challenges remain. The sector remains under pressure to do more and build more homes. We haven’t fully reconciled social purpose and business viability. But after a period of intense change in the sector, with countless housing providers going through mergers and/or engaging in business transformation, it also feels like we’re finally coming up for air and reassessing priorities.
It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture in the minutiae of the day to day when we’re focusing on keeping a million plates spinning. But as it turns out, when you’re TUSB (Trapped Under Sleeping Baby), you’ve got some time to reflect.
So, here’s what I’m most pumped about in the coming months…
Five years of the Social Value Bank
You read right: five years! With our partners at Simetrica, we launched the Social Value Bank in early 2014. It’s remarkable to step back and look at how far we’ve come as a sector. Social value measurement is now widely understood, and we’ve worked with housing providers to develop the capacity and skills needed to regularly measure the impact of activities.
But as the saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day. The journey to creating what is now a Social Value Bank that comprehensively encompasses most areas of activity has taken a lot of time, research, resource, and cooperation. Over the last five years, housing associations and other organisations have come together to fund and inform work across a wide range of areas, including activities like training and employment, homelessness, procurement, work around mental health, and bricks and mortar.
Implementing robust and consistent social value measurement of activities across business areas is now more important than ever in providing the tools and resources to continue to fly the flag for investing in communities as a core business principle. I’m really looking forward to seeing this evolve further through the Centre for Excellence in Community Investment as a vehicle for championing this vital work.
UK Housing Data Standard
This mammoth project saw the launch of v1.0 of the standard in January 2018. Over the last 12 months, HACT and deliver partners OSCRE have completed v2.0 and are now starting work on the next version.
Let’s be honest, data standards in and of themselves aren’t particularly sexy. It’s often a fairly specific group of people that get psyched about data consistency. (Shout out to these folks – you’re my people!) But there is a wider group of people who understand that standardising data definitions, as well as having clear and shared understandings about the relationships between pieces of data, enables us to do the really exciting stuff.
With standardised data, we can more accurately understand our businesses, work more efficiently and effectively, share data amongst other housing providers, and make informed decisions more quickly about how to improve our communities and build more homes, all of which helps us do what we’re here to do: ensure our residents have the best homes and communities possible.
Good, reliable data quietly sits underneath these activities, just like the foundation of a home – not visible in the ultimate product, but blindingly obvious when something has gone wrong. There’s more work to be done on current and future versions of the UK Housing Data Standards. This project is absolutely vital to ensuring a resilient and efficient housing sector. I’m thrilled to be able to witness this progress again on a day to day basis and really excited to see how the UK Housing Data Standards will be put to work in the sector.