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February 26, 2020

Eilidh Morrissey

What Works Community pilot: our second residential

Our second What Works Community pilot residential was designed to help our teams consolidate their responses to their challenge to increase the number and duration of successful tenancy arrangements between people affected by homelessness and the Private Rental Sector (PRS). We focused on using data for storytelling and how to run and evaluate trials informed by behavioural science. On the last day we were joined by senior leaders from each local area, who formed part of our Progress Panel, providing valuable feedback on the emerging insights and potential experiments.

Since the last residential our teams have been mapping and analysing local data and carrying out primary research led by design thinking methods. Each pilot team arrived in Manchester with the results of a number of ‘design interviews’ held with a range of stakeholders, from people with experiences of the PRS and/or homelessness to local authority (LA) service managers and private landlords. We helped them to work through their design research to identify key insights that would help move their interventions forward. They had also identified a number of data sets relevant to their challenges, which we used to explore methods of data presentation and visualisation. From these activities, the teams learnt how to create a narrative around their emerging experiments, using data to support their ideas. 

The following day we were joined by our colleague Eva Kolker from the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). BIT, sometimes referred to as the ‘Nudge Unit’, is a social purpose organisation that generates and applies behavioural insights to policy design, predominantly by nudging people towards decisions that promote effective system design and use. Eva led a workshop on Behavioural Insights (BI); its theoretical underpinnings and when, and how to apply BI techniques. The data visualisation and BI methods helped to shape their projects and ensured they were able to make compelling cases for their experiments to the Progress Panel.

On the third day, the LA’s pitched their ideas to the Panel, which drew on its varied areas of expertise (e.g. directors of services, councillors, people with experiences of homelessness and an evaluation specialist) and provided the teams with insightful feedback, and importantly, support for the projects as they develop.

What was striking about each presentation was how varied each approach was to what, on the surface, might seem like similar problems, and how each solution might be tested across all three areas. East Ayrshire presented approaches to increase trust between council tenants and private landlords, Pembrokeshire designed interventions to reduce demand for guarantors within the PRS, and Southend on Sea focused on methods of promoting effective cross sector, multi-agency working to prevent the collapse of tenancy agreements between those at risk of homelessness and the PRS.

The Panel were particularly impressed by the precision with which the teams had identified barriers to sustained access to the PRS, as well as by the potential for inter-agency collaboration that the teams had unearthed. 

The pilot teams are now refining their ideas, and setting themselves clear and measurable goals and target behaviours. This is in preparation for May when the teams will present their final pitches to their LA leadership, detailing the intervention they would like to test as well as their proposed methods of evaluation. 

Over the coming months we’ll work closely with the LAs, helping them achieve maximum impact while also exploring the ways in which their learnings and experiences can be used to benefit the wider homelessness sector. If you would like to learn more about our emerging What Work Community, visit the webpage, or email us at wwcommunities@homelessnessimpact.org.

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