Dr Jennifer Doyle's research is helping the social housing sector foster social change in deprived communities through improvements in measuring, monitoring and evaluating social impact.

Impacts

  • Dr Jennifer Doyle's research has led to a shift in thinking, particularly among social housing organisations including Mossbank Homes and Trafford Housing Trust (THT), from post-project evaluation towards ensuring that social benefits and impact are considered at the design stage of future investments.
  • Dr Doyle's research has led social housing organisations to measure and monitor the social value of their activities and include the evaluation of social impact in investment decisions. For example, THT used a predictive Social Return on Investment calculation to understand potential social (as opposed to financial) return, to assess a proposed £20 million development scheme.
  • She is currently leading development of a strategic approach to community investment at THT, focused on delivering impact. This work has underpinned THT's social investment strategy, for instance through monitoring the effectiveness of schemes such as the ex-offender employment scheme CleanStart to improve communities.
  • She contributed to Trafford Council's Economic and Housing Growth Strategy by ensuring that social growth and social investment are recognised as critical for sustainable economic growth across the borough.
  • Dr Doyle is engaged in policy development at the national level through the Chartered Institute for public Finance and Accounting and the Housing Association’s Charitable Trust (HACT) influencing how social impact can be measured and understood through both procurement chains and population surveys.

"Dr Doyle's approach has increased our awareness and understanding of social value and is already beginning to deliver tangible benefit... Social landlords, extra care providers, developers, community development, procurement, all have benefitted from her input." (Julian Westwood, Performance Service, Lead, Trafford Housing Trust)

About the research

In England, around one in six households live in social housing. Yet housing associations have rarely looked to academic research to inform their work. Now, in her position as Customer Intelligence Officer at THT, Dr Jennifer Doyle is ensuring research changes social housing developments for the better.

In her PhD research, Dr Doyle found that improving housing stock alone is not enough to transform a deprived community. Rather, in addition to a well maintained house, people need a whole range of support – from debt advice to help finding work - in order to create healthy, positive communities. "Social housing organisations are in a prime position to do just this sort of community development work," she says. "Although, traditionally, they have lacked an evidence base and strategic approach to their investment in social impact."

By adopting this approach, Dr Doyle has helped THT understand the drivers of social impact, design projects to maximise positive social outcomes and make more informed decisions around investment. And, by close collaboration and knowledge sharing among the wider social housing sector, she is working to explain the value of a 'social impact' approach to other organisations and policymakers.

"My aim is to ensure academic research can be used in practical ways to help individuals and neighbourhoods become more socially and economically resilient," Dr Doyle explains. "What's clear is that community development investment is required alongside physical development if social change is to be achieved."