community updates

November 22, 2019

What Works Community pilot: our first Residential

Eilidh Morrissey

Our first What Works Community pilot residential was designed to give participating local authorities (LAs) data and design skills that would enable them to tackle individual challenges in the private rental sector (PRS). Between the 6th and 9th November, we brought our three pilot teams — from East Ayrshire, Southend-on-Sea and Pembrokeshire — together in Liverpool to meet each other for the first time.

The focus of their programme of work is to increase the number and duration of successful tenancies in the PRS to people who are at risk of or experiencing homelessness in their local area. With our support and training in data practices, design thinking and behavioural science, each LA will develop its own, tailored response to the challenge, which will be shared with their senior leadership teams for sign off and implementation at the end of the pilot process. 

When we visited each LA earlier in October, and at subsequent follow-up meetings, we worked together with their teams to explore connections between homelessness and the PRS, and the opportunities available within each authority. As a result, all our LAs came to the residential with a specific area of focus to which their new skills could be applied. We also asked them to complete a data practices questionnaire in advance, to figure out what data systems and practices they have in place so as to identify opportunities for improvement. 

The first day of the residential focused on the results of the questionnaire and we did a deep dive on data practices; how it is captured, assessed, inventoried and utilised within an organisation. The second focused on design thinking; how a design thinking methodology can be used to support the creation of robust programmes and interventions with an LA. 

A journey map of the What Works Community pilot challenge 

It also allowed participants to put their new skills into action, co-creating strategies for primary research and interviewing real-life local landlords, lawyers and people with lived experiences of homelessness. 

Participants left the residential with concrete actions to help them progress their self-identified challenges. This includes plans for how to map relevant data, put together their research plans, discussion guides and early evaluation ideas. They also went away with some ideas for how they might begin to improve some of the data processes in their local areas.

All the teams now have a busy few weeks ahead as they work to deliver their individual plans ahead of the second residential in January. By that point they will have carried out user-centred research that will help them approach their challenges in new, more creative, ways. At the second residential they will learn new skills in behavioural insights and trial design. We will also support them to prioritise and refine their ideas.In the meantime, the key to their success will be to ensure they are asking the right questions by engaging with a wide range of people, working with end users from start to finish, and testing and adapting their ideas.

It will also be important for the LAs to openly share what they are doing with colleagues at their organisations at all levels and further afield. We hope this will help to grow the wider community of practice and over time greatly support ongoing efforts to achieve sustainable reductions in homelessness. 

CHI have arranged a series of touchpoints with the pilot teams between now and their second residential. We’ll also be publishing blogs on the potential for data and design at local authority level very soon. If you’d like to know more about plans for the What Works Community pilot, visit the webpage or email us at

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