Using Research to Drive Innovation in the Community Housing Sector
The community housing sector is modernizing. Recent developments, from the National Housing Strategy to Ontario’s proposed modernized framework, are moving us in to a new era and challenging us to think creatively. We are seeing new funding opportunities for research open up. As a sector, we need to be ready to take full advantage of the opportunities coming down the pipe.
Research is a critical tool that now, more than ever, we are in a position to harness. Through new research, we can build the knowledge that will equip us to seize new opportunities and move us into the future.
At the recent 2018 Canadian Housing and Renewal Association’s Pre-Congress Innovation Forum, three sector leaders came together to share how research can help drive innovation in our sector: Mike Bulthuis, Director, the Youth Homelessness Social Innovation, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness; Stéphane Giguère, CEO, Ottawa Community Housing Corporation, Global Research Network on Affordable and Social Housing Innovations; and the Rev Dr. Carmen Lansdowne, Executive Director, First United Church Community Ministry Society.
Keep reading for these experts’ take on how research can support innovation and their advice for how to make the most of new research opportunities.
When it comes to conducting research, there can be many challenges involved – from finding the time, to accessing the right experts and even overcoming the stigma around community housing. But the benefits are significant. These can include:
- Coalition-building. Research brings together disparate academics and practitioners to address complex social issues together. Establishing these professional relationships can also lead to future collaborations and opportunities.
- Inspiration. The opportunity to think creatively can spark unexpected discoveries and moments of inspiration.
- Discovering new ways to address housing problems. The coming together of diverse minds, skills and vantage points can lead to new ways of addressing the challenges facing the community housing sector.
Three ways research can support innovation
1) Build the evidence base. By taking part in research, we build the data and evidence needed to make sound decisions for today and tomorrow.
2) Build sector capacity and succession plans. This research, in turn, builds our ability to do the work and engage people through strong academic alliances.
3) Address systems change. As the systems in which we live our day-to-day change, we can address what this means for the community housing sector.
Five ways to make the most of research opportunities
1) Prioritize. Starting well is critical. Ensure the research has a clear focus and that the project is manageable. Establish your primary goals and set your priorities.
2) Be clear on definitions and goals. Take the time at the beginning of your project to define key terms. This will help ensure your goals are clear and will keep you on track throughout the project.
3) Be nimble. There is opportunity in practice to focus on researching small interventions within existing resources. This makes it possible to try new things without disrupting the rest of the organization. It also minimizes overall risk.
4) Exercise determination. There is no doubt that finding the time and energy to take on another project is challenging. Just the thought of adding another to-do to your list can feel exhausting. But consider the value, potential and rewards of your research project, and commit to seeing it through.
5) Take advantage of coalitions. Look for alliances that are already established and make the most of existing knowledge and spaces. Partnering with the right people can make all the difference in the success and value of your research.
Visit ONPHA’s one-stop hub of funding opportunities to explore new programs and initiatives related to innovation and research.
For examples of community housing providers who have used innovation to help Ontarians secure affordable housing, take a look through ONPHA’s research project Innovations in Housing Stability. These eight case studies include tools and resources that demonstrate how the approaches can be adapted and applied in other communities.