Thomas Kuhn, in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, suggests that new ideas, regardless of the strength of evidence that underpins them, are only adopted once they are no longer considered ‘new’. He argues that this requires a change, not in how the ideas are viewed, but in who is viewing them.

It is a rather depressing theory, albeit not totally without merit. There is great comfort in knowing that you are not the first to try something new. That the path you are treading bears the footprints of earlier explorers.

Social Housing is not immune from this phenomenon, and even those who at one time were considered innovators can eventually succumb to the dogma of their own originality in the face of progress.

There is some validity in this approach – it can limit downside risk and can certainly protect us from ridicule in the event that new ideas fall flat. But it also limits progress and stymies our chances of achieving genuine performance improvement/innovation.

While we can all be guilty of taking the safe road, in Social Housing the number of forward thinkers who are willing to try something new is beginning to grow, and it isn’t all down to new blood as Kuhn might expect. As proof here are three new and innovative ideas in the sector that we are aware of:

  • MyPlace – This takes the form of a website portal designed to bolster resident engagement, particularly among harder-to-reach groups. Users would be able to post suggestions for new initiatives or changes within their community, with others then able to vote for the most popular at the click of a button. The argument is that this service would allow people without the time to engage thoroughly with consultations to still have a say in their areas.
  • Flexible homes – a form of building technology which allows homes to be altered quickly and easily over the course of their occupants’ lives. Walls within the home can be moved around to change the shape and size of its layout, while smart technology will advise on possible upgrades. It is intended to ease the ordeal of older people having to undergo extensive home adaptations or moving into sheltered housing.
  • Moving On – Think Rightmove for social housing tenants. The website would list all the available social housing lets in the UK, allowing people to swap homes or move to new areas more easily as their life circumstances change. It would also give ‘aspirational’ social housing tenants help to move into the private rented sector where it suits them, in order to free up space on housing waiting lists.

The desire for improving performance, greater customer service, tenant involvement is driving innovation across the sector. For example, many associations are now routinely using objective analytical insights to help identify and assess performance more effectively and efficiently than ever before. To aid Boards and executive teams to gain greater performance insights/innovation we will be shortly launching our new predictive VFM dashboard which utilises our VFM tracker.

From our perspective, it seems that the conversation is changing, and the old dog is picking up new tricks all the time – our aim is to support those forward thinkers.

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