The Hyde Group has a strong tradition of delivering social investment activities to support its core business objectives. We also have a solid track record of monitoring and evaluating these activities to ensure they create positive outcomes, both for our customers and for the wider business.
The evidence agenda is gaining steam in the housing sector. Increasingly, people in housing associations and the wider sector are approaching us to discuss the possibilities of conducting studies to establish the effects of various activities, projects and services. This growing appetite for evidence-based housing is why we have published the Standards of Evidence, to help the sector answer these questions.
In his recent blog post, Professor Shaun Treweek provided an excellent introduction to the principles of RCTs – randomised controlled trials. (If you've not read it yet, go and do so now – any blog post that seamlessly links lethal naval scurvy in the 1700s, Donald Rumsfeld, overweight Scottish football fans and innovations in housing has to be worth a read.)
We now know that the social housing sector faces a time of tightening resources over the coming years. The changes to policy announced in the July 2015 Budget will have a significant impact on housing providers’ businesses. The desire to deliver the maximum value for the money that remains will be high up the agenda of every board and executive team. Some organisations will respond with diversification, continuing to seek opportunities in new fields. Others will aim to maximise their impact in the areas they know best.
In my last blog post I talked about the constraints on housing providers if we do not know what really works: we will not have the information available to focus our efforts on those things that deliver the most impact. Whilst this is problematic in all areas of housing providers’ activities, it becomes a particular constraint on business improvement and development when the growth opportunity is in a sector that places higher emphasis on evidence in its decision-making.
What works? It is a simple question, yet it is one that the housing sector asks all too infrequently. Its more nuanced cousin, ‘what works, for whom, in what circumstances and at what costs?’ sees the light of day even less often.