Bethan Buck, Futures Programme Coordinator at the National Housing Federation / November 24, 2017

The Ideas Labs highlighted inspiring creativity and ambition in the housing sector

Creating our Future has hit the ground running and, sitting in an empty room surrounded by bunting and giant Jenga at the end of our 10th Ideas Lab, I am excited to update you on the programme so far.

Teams of National Housing Federation facilitators have been travelling the country running Ideas Labs for nearly 300 people from close to 100 organisations. The aim of the Labs has not only been to generate innovative new ideas, but also to foster a culture of innovation across our sector.

30-40 staff from housing associations attended each Ideas Lab. Gas engineers and chief executives sit alongside housing officers and directors of finance, all working together to come up with ideas that can be implemented on a sector wide level to overcome some of the big social challenges that housing associations might meet. The day was structured to clearly explain the tools and behaviours crucial for generating ideas.

An Ideas Lab involves breaking away into smaller groups of four or five people to generate ideas based on one of the seven themes of Creating our Future.


Incredible ideas have been generated at the labs, here are just a handful of examples:

  • Flexi homes, delivered on a sector-wide scale, which can be adapted as people’s needs change.
  • A ‘Siri’ style product where tenants can more easily report and book in repairs, make rent payments and access services.
  • A national network of community champions, who are enabled to solve problems in their community through a national programme of training and support.
  • A digital platform that all housing association tenants can access which offers deals on everything from energy suppliers to groceries, all negotiated through the sector’s collective buying power.
  • A website for tenants to share skills, helping them to tap into the talents in their communities and bridge cultural divides.
  • A ‘Rightmove’ style service for housing association tenants creating greater mobility in our sector by giving residents real choice.

We’re processing all the ideas submitted so far and will be publishing them on the website soon.

It’s been great to see such enthusiasm from everyone who attended an Ideas Lab. Everyone seems eager to take the tools and techniques we used back to their organisation to foster greater innovation in their association and generate even more ideas and we’re looking forward to opening up the online ideas submissions in the new year.

Bethan Buck is Futures Programme Coordinator at the National Housing Federation

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