The Head, Heart and Hands of Community Investment
Many housing organisations have a desire to make, and to keep, the places in which they own stock as desirable as possible.
Many have straplines that involve investment in communities, neighbourhoods or something to do with transformation of place.
I know from previous experience and now from working to help others with this goal, how hard it is deciding where to begin, where to invest, who to invest in and to measure the impact of any investment. I have always believed, like many others, that providing a wonderful, warm and affordable house is a beginning, not an end.
We can only build thriving and sustainable communities where people have opportunities to fulfil their potential and to do this they need to be well physically and mentally. It is not enough to just provide work, training, learning and enterprise opportunities and hope that the right people will turn up and embrace them. Often, as most of us know, those who need our assistance the most are the last to ask or are the most fearful that it’s, “not for the likes of me”. Considering lack of aspiration or fear to engage through a health and wellbeing lens really interests me, as I think it means we are enabled to do more in place and reach those that need the most support. I firmly believe that everyone and every place has assets to protect and build on, but if we are not as well as we could be we can, in some cases, fail to see them and therefore not build on them.
However, we live in increasingly difficult times with complex wicked issues facing decision makers inside and outside of housing organisations, not least that we have a housing crisis on our hands. We simply do not have enough secure, affordable homes in the right places. It is entirely fair, therefore, that housing organisations are challenged on where they spend every penny. Investing money in communities and not just in building more homes is a critical decision that needs focus not just on measurement of return but on who is benefiting and why.
More than ever before, housing organisations need to be able to answer the following questions to be able to justify their investments, particularly when it comes to health and wellbeing activity, which has traditionally been difficult to track and measure:
- Who is benefiting from this activity?
- What value is this activity adding to the person and the place?
- What is the activity for?
- How can we ensure the quality and Value for Money of the activity?
- Is the activity achieving its goals?
- What is the return on the housing organisation’s investment?
- How will engagement in social prescribing enhance links to health?
Elemental’s social prescribing platform helps to answer all these questions and therefore brings much needed precision to community investment.
The software can help housing organisations monitor and track the journey of residents that are engaging with their community projects, whether it’s a debt advice or employment skills programme, a healthy cooking project, a lunch or gardening club, and much more.
It provides them with a valuable tool to assess their progress, identify who is benefiting and how, and determine the value of their investments. This builds a powerful picture of which projects are achieving their aims and delivering value for money. It can help make better informed investments targeted at the needs of the communities served, as well as being able to demonstrate that these projects are creating a tangible benefit.
More than Bricks and Mortar
We have known for many years that investing beyond the bricks and mortar is vital to addressing the issues housing organisations face around asset management, tenancy sustainment, managing arrears and employability. Those that are taking a wider role in the communities that they serve are increasingly recognising that health and wellbeing also plays a vital part in tackling these challenges, and this is where engaging with social prescribing can play an important part in developing the links to health.
Working as much with health colleagues now as I do with housing folk, I know they too are excited at the links well-run social prescribing programmes can give them to communities and organisations like Housing Associations so that work on addressing avoidable health inequalities can really gain traction. Without good mental and physical health, we really can’t achieve what we want for the places and people we all serve.Through working with health partners, Elemental’s software can enable more residents to engage with projects delivered by Housing Associations that aim to improve health and wellbeing, by allowing health professionals to easily refer patients and clients to their activities and providing both with the evidence to show that the activity has made a difference to their lives over a period of time.
What sets Elemental apart however, is the unique insight that founders Leeann and Jennifer bring into how to make social prescribing and community investment deliver the benefits we all aspire to, after years of experience working in some of the most challenging communities to engage residents in activities that can improve their health and wellbeing. They are people first, technology second; an authentic tech for good company.
In our hearts, we all know that investing in communities makes a difference, our heads quite rightly demand evidence around who we are investing in and want to see the impact and outcome of that investment, and our hands want something that works and works now. I believe that the platform provided by Elemental is the tool that will meet these needs and enable the sector, a growing community of willing partners and residents themselves to take a big step forward in transforming neighbourhoods, communities and lives.
This blog has been written by Elemental advisor, Ken Perry – Director of Do-Well UK (Ltd).