Social housing organisations, strategy and foresight

The environment facing the housing system – both at the level of housing policymaking and of individual housing organisations – can be characterised as one of increased complexity and uncertainty. In this type of context, policies and practices that have proven successful in the past might be an unreliable guide to effective future action. Consequently, interest in how futures thinking, foresight and anticipation can inform policymaking and strategy has increased considerably. Practices such as horizon scanning, strategic foresight, or scenario planning have attracted attention because they are argued to have the potential to contribute to more robust and futureproof policy and strategies. However, the extent to which these topics and techniques are an active part of organisational discourses and practices in the sector is unclear. The barriers to effective use of the techniques of anticipatory governance can be considerable, particularly in highly politicised environments.

The aim of this project is to provide a map of this territory and to conduct exploratory research on housing strategies and, in particular, the ways in which futures and foresight techniques are currently being used in the housing world. As these techniques attract more attention, there is value in providing an accessible critical review that has the potential to bring the housing community up to speed. The project will provide a review of relevant techniques, including reflecting on some of the key conceptual and practical issues underpinning their use. It will provide an insight into strategy approaches in the social housing sector, the engagement with foresight techniques, and the barriers to their use, drawing on key stakeholder interviews and organisation-level case studies.

The project is being conducted by Prof Alex Marsh and Dr Garrett Grainger.