Accelerating Housing for 2015

Here’s a guest blog by Paul Taylor, Innovation coach at Bromford Lab, reflecting on the Accelerated Housing Day we had last month and what lies ahead for Housing for 2015.

With Housing Day just around the corner, his insights are especially timely:

“Housing is interconnected with all sorts of problems in all sorts of complex ways. That makes the story difficult to tell. But until it can be told in a way that means a substantial proportion of voters take notice then it is not surprising that politicians obsess about other things”

– Alex Marsh

Over the past three years we have seen a seen a huge change in how we handle digital communications in housing. So, what’s the reason the message isn’t getting heard?

It’s largely accepted that housing will not feature as a Top 5 issue at the 2015 election. Despite some wonderful campaigns the people we need to be shouting about the sector – the tenants themselves – are notably absent.

One of the reasons for this is we’re still in the pre-digital habit of communicating at people rather than connecting with them.

I recently spent time with members of the Connected Housing 2014 project, which exists to enable organisations to compare the facts and figures of their digital activity with their peer group and accelerate the learning.

Brands-pic

Here’s the bit that stood out for me: compared to the organisations above, not one housing association comes close to the online engagement of these brands.

Not one.

Just Eat can create advocates out of takeaway food fans with a beautifully simple online offering.

Devon County Council use social media not to broadcast but to share others content in a way that makes users lives easier.

Kent Police have created a substantial following who act not just as promoters but also as an extended family of crimestoppers.

These are organisations that understand how a highly engaged community is not just an extension of the brand – it is your brand. They get that handing over power to the community isn’t a risk – it’s a necessary business activity.

The social space is increasingly crowded and getting our signal to stand out from the noise will be difficult. We won’t do it without blurring the lines between our organisations, our colleagues and – most importantly – our customers.

The organisation of the future won’t be a strategic plan and a structure chart that exists in an office full of people. It’ll be the business that opens itself up across the social web forming an extended network of influencers who identify with the purpose and values of the organisation.

It’ll be the business that sees those influencers as tangible assets – as important as any colleague or board member.

At the Connected Housing Accelerated Housing day, Anne McCrossan called for a “doubling up” of our engagement efforts in 2015. I couldn’t agree more. In fact it needs doubling up year on year from now until the 2020 election.

Many will look at the huge resources of a Sainsbury’s or an O2 and convince themselves we could never be like them.

Instead we should marvel at the fact there are nearly 4 million people living in social housing but we never really hear from them.

Our connected housing of the future means us so–called professionals have to stop doing all the talking.