Innovating to transform social housing
The Housing Associations’ Charitable Trust (HACT) was established in 1960 as a national charity seeking to support the work of housing providers and influence housing practice, primarily in the housing association sector. The charity re-launched in 2012, reinventing itself as an ideas and innovation agency for the social housing sector, operating on a social enterprise-based model.
The reason for this change was due to the changing operating environment for both HACT and the sector it worked with. HACT’s original funding model, which was primarily grant-driven, had ceased to provide a viable source of income and was – increasingly - diverting the company’s attention from its core historic work with affordable housing providers. Furthermore, whilst in the past housing providers had benefited from HACT’s grant funded activity, housing providers were now capable of funding their own activities, and the more urgent demands were around the generation of ideas and innovative practice. A decision was therefore made to move to a sustainable knowledge-based business model, but HACT required academic expertise to develop services that would be beneficial to its target market.
Working with Professor David Mullins and Angus McCabe of the University of Birmingham, funding from Innovate UK (formerly known as the Technology Strategy Board) allowed an honorary fellow from the University, Dr Tricia Jones, to be based with HACT for 2 years. During this time Dr Jones oversaw a project that helped HACT deliver a huge transformation to reflect the equally large changes taking place in its housing-centred marketplace, investigating and developing new opportunities as they arose, with a particular focus on identifying and developing innovative insight and learning from across the social housing sector and beyond. As a result, HACT is now able to translate social science based research into marketable learning packages and disseminate learning with the Housing and Communities Research Group at the University of Birmingham. They have created a new role of Research Manager and annual sales turnover has seen an increase of over £600k as a direct result of the KTP project.
Andrew van Doorn
Deputy Chief Executive, HACT
“The KTP was instrumental in enabling HACT to transform its business… Our partnership with the University of Birmingham and its Third Sector Research Centre has positioned HACT as the market leader for creating new knowledge sharing platforms and new insights for social housing providers.”