August 14, 2020

Accelerating impact: reflections on the Impact Festival 2020

Dr Lígia Teixeira

When we set out to deliver our first ever Impact Festival, we wanted to create a space to meet, explore ideas, learn new skills, and to build a shared sense of what we ought to achieve in homelessness over these coming months and years in order to accelerate our impact, and, by engaging sector leaders, people with lived experience of homelessness, and the frontline workers delivering services every day, we have collectively achieved that.

Over 5 weeks, we explored how public policies and programmes affect homelessness both directly and indirectly, the importance of good quality and secure housing, what it means for us to all be in it together, the importance of connecting with people and places, and how services can work together to create an effective and person-centered ecosystem, and of course the prevention imperative. 

The theme of this year's Festival was ‘accelerating impact.’ 2020 has changed how we all live our lives, but the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the homelessness sector has been significant. Governments across the UK took quick and decisive actions to house over 16,000 individuals who were relocated to hotels and other types of emergency accommodation. This was something deemed impossible before the pandemic, and has drastically reduced the number of people with long histories of street homelessness who are rough sleeping whilst also helping to contain the number of infections and deaths from COVID-19. However, a new challenge awaits: the recently released CHAIN data did reveal a steep increase in the total number of people experiencing street homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We have made so much progress in only a few short months by all coming together, we must now use this as a launchpad towards a sustainable end to homelessness. We cannot return to the old status quo, which we all know was not good enough.  

Throughout the Impact Festival we explored the importance of data and evidence at all levels of the system, the importance of listening to people who have experienced homelessness firsthand, and the fact that the homelessness sector cannot end homelessness on its own – all things that will need to be considered and actioned if we are going to create real, long lasting change in homelessness.

I want to give a big thank you to all of our 159 speakers - we’ve been overwhelmed by the time, energy and wisdom they have shared, and for the time shared by many hundreds of people who made the space in their busy diaries to join us.

We think it’s vital that we hear from the people who have experienced homelessness first hand, which is why we are delighted that experts by experience were represented in 21 sessions. You can read our Lived Experience Specialist, Hannah Green’s reflections on the festival here. 

I also want to give an especially warm thanks to those who partnered with us from across the globe and sectors to produce 1 or more of the 53 Festival sessions:

Organisations working in or around homelessness: Bloomberg Associates, Crisis, Homeless Network Scotland, Big Society Capital, Chartered Institute for Housing, Catch 22, Mayday Trust, NRLA, St Mungo’s, Camerados, Institute of Global Homelessness, Shelter Scotland, Cymorth Cymru, Homeless Link, National Alliance to End Homelessness, Funders Together to End Homelessness, Community Solutions, Cardboard Citizens, Beam, Shared Health Foundation.

Government and statutory bodies: Department for Communities Northern Ireland, Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government,  Scottish Government, Welsh Government, East Ayrshire Council, Southend Borough Council, Newcastle City Council, Pembrokeshire and Monmouthshire County Councils, New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle Human Services, and Administrative Data Research UK and Office for National Statistics.

Universities and What Works family: Harvard University, Oxford University, London School of Economics, Campbell Collaboration, J-Pal, Heriot-Watt University, CaCHE, University of South California, New York University, University of New South Wales, University of Ottawa, Centre for Evidence and Implementation, King's College, UCL, Trinity College Dublin, Queen's University Belfast, What Works Children's Social Care, Research in Practice.

And everyone else who took part in, or contributed to, the Impact Festival. 

The Impact Festival may be coming to a close for 2020, but the Centre is not slowing down. Here’s just a little of what we’ll be doing in the coming months:

  • Publishing our first three systematic reviews that focus on access to healthcare, discharge from institutions and the effectiveness of accommodation-based interventions
  • Beginning our newest systematic review looking at support for people who struggle with substance misuse 
  • Convening, growing and developing a a COVID-19 Research Network in partnership with MHCLG, PHE and ONS,
  • Launching our #EndItWithEvidence campaign for our first book, Using Evidence to End Homelessness
  • We’re mobilising change-makers and growing a movement of learning by launching our new What Works Community: Local Government initiative.

If you’d like to get involved or know more about any of the projects just mentioned, please email us on

More than anything, we want to end this Festival with you: by thanking you for joining us and coming on this journey with us over these 5 weeks. We want to know how you experienced the Impact Festival. What inspired you? What did you like, and dislike?

Help us by completing this short, five-minute survey. 

We learn by doing, and will use your response to refine our plans for the months ahead and shape an even better Impact Festival that we will bring you in 2021.

Just one of the things we’ve learnt over the past five weeks is that you do not need physical nearness for social closeness. I’d like to thank everyone who brought their social selves to our first Impact Festival. We look forward to staying close over the coming months.

More updates
Back to all updates
manage cookies