Collecting and evaluating evidence of performance is now central to the job of being a social landlord in England.
Social landlords are being asked to measure their impact on the communities they serve and upon local economies, the return on their investment and their value for money (VFM) to tenants as part of the new regulatory regime introduced this year.
Of course, not all of this is new to the social housing sector. In recent times a number of ways of measuring the impact of social purpose housing organisations have been developed. The National Housing Federation has undertaken two neighbourhood audits of the community investment activities of housing associations, HouseMark has its social investment tracker and others like HACT and the New Economics Foundation are proposing various methodologies to evaluate economic impact.
Yet many of the approaches developed so far have focused on specific elements of social landlord work, such as their contribution to supporting local economies, to environmental sustainability and quantifying their ‘added value’ or community investment operations.
What has been missing is a comprehensive approach to capture information across all social landlord activities – core housing, care and support work as well as social investment – to enable management boards to develop a 360° and top-to-bottom view of the housing, social and economic performance of their organisations.
Over the last 18 months, the HCI has researched and now created an approach which provides social landlords with an all-embracing yet flexible model called ‘Measuring-Up: Evaluating the Social Purpose & Value for Money of Social Landlords’.
The methodology is a synthesis of different approaches already used to obtain data about organisational behaviour and the community impact of social purpose organisations. HCI is currently working with the Trident Social Investment Group and the Matrix Housing Partnership on a ‘case study’ operation of the model.
HCI’s research for ‘Measuring-Up’ has drawn from methods currently utilised by the third sector, and the best of private companies through their corporate social responsibility policies. It not only includes some aspects of social audit and accounting frameworks but also draws from social return on investment theory, enables calculation of social dividend from improved VFM and utilises housing-specific methodologies such as satisfaction surveys and tenant scrutiny panels.
‘Measuring-Up’ includes a means of integrating information from financial inputs and outcomes, return on investment of physical and social assets, wider socio-economic impact, localism, green footprint, equality and diversity and success in enhancing the life chances of tenants.
The approach is a ‘whole organisation’ assessment of activities and impact incorporating the views of tenants and stakeholders as well as wider socioeconomic and VFM considerations.
The methodology includes a high degree of coregulation through the creation and support of audit panels made up of tenants and stakeholders.
The final result of the model is publication of audited social accounts, sitting alongside the financial accounts of social landlords annually or bi-annually. An important ingredient is creating an operating environmental matrix within which to place the findings of the social accounts.
Not all social landlords do the same job and there are ‘varying degrees of difficulty’ with their work, including historic development, the severity of housing needs they meet, the extent of disadvantage of those they house and the quality and location of their housing stock.
So although ‘Measuring-Up’ spills out KPIs to encapsulate performance, the success of social landlords in achieving their social purpose is placed firmly within their operating context to reflect the diversity of the sector and its achievements against a multiplicity of mission statements.