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Insight or evidence-based research isn’t a new concept, but in the housing sector it’s one that’s often misguided. Time and time again providers use case stories to evidence the impact of their interventions or they look at correlations, concluding: “We did X and Y happened, so it must have worked.” But nowadays this isn’t always enough.

At a time when the sector is being squeezed from every angle, it’s more important than ever to evidence the impact of an intervention. It’s vital in ensuring that you are doing what you have set out to do. It’s vital in ensuring you maximise the impact for your customers. It’s vital in driving efficiencies and it’s vital in demonstrating the sectors worth to Government.  

Here Carole Clark, strategic research manager at Bromford, shares her top five ways to improve insight in your housing organisation.

  1. Invest in insight

With the rent cut and other threats to income it’s easy to think that insight is a luxury that can be cut, but without it you’re essentially playing a game of corporate pin the tail on the donkey. Bromford reinvests around 1% of its profits in insight and innovation and this investment enables us to accurately assess whether every pound invested in frontline services delivers the desired outcome

  1. Give it a go

You can talk about improving insight and evidence-based research forever, but my advice would be to just start somewhere. We started by having a folder called ‘Let’s give it a go’ and we did.  Whether it’s something as simple as asking customers how a service had an impact on them, right through to setting up a comparison group alongside your intervention group – it will move it in the right direction once you take the first steps.

  1. Build on skills

HACTs standards of evidence in housing provides a great toolkit for those starting out on the insight journey, but don’t think you need to start big. Do what you can with the skills you have now and then build on skills as you go. I describe it as climbing Everest – at first it feels very daunting, then you climb up and over boulders in embedding effective insight, regrouping now and again to check you have the right tools and skills. Then all of a sudden you turn around and the summit is in sight.

  1. Get buy in from leadership

It can be incredibly frustrating for people who’ve worked in the industry for a while or the real doers in your organisation to be told that they have to now go through a pipeline of testing services – but this is a vital part of ensuring your research and evidence is robust and your leadership team need to know and buy into this. Getting your insight team involved from the start saves time and resources in the long run and ensures that your evaluation is as robust as it can be.

  1. Have patience

Robust research is time-consuming, by its very nature it is not going to appear overnight and in that intervening period there are lots of questions around its value.  We established Bromford’s insight team around 16 months ago and in the first year there was loads of debate about whether it was actually worth it. It’s only now, as we can demonstrate the value of the information and data we provide to the business that the team’s true worth is understood and rated.

Take a look at some of the research projects Carole’s team are currently working on the Bromford Lab or take a look at some of their previous reports here.

Strategic research manager


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