Introducing Thinkhouse: more than just blue sky thinking?

Richard Hyde, 16 January 2020

Thinkhouse highlights the best analysis and thinking about housing to help in your board member role

We formally launched Thinkhouse in 2018. It’s an online library of the best and most innovative research pieces, policy publications and case studies that propose ways to increase the amount and quality of the UK's housing stock and the related economic, social and community benefits of doing this.

The site is curated by an independent editorial panel, who look at everything published on the site and highlight the ‘must-read’ reports. We’ve designed the site to make it easy to find the report you want, thereby helping housing board members, policy-makers, and anyone else interested, to understand how we can build more and better homes – and the consequences of not doing so. Thinkhouse has no ties to or funding from any interest or political group.

How I came up with Thinkhouse – and how you can benefit

Thinkhouse, as an idea, came from my belief that there was a lot of great analysis and thinking about housing that I should be reading to help me in my housing/regeneration board member roles. I wanted to be able to reference what was being reported by executives, so that I could be a more effective sounding board for them and provide constructive challenge.

To do all this, I needed to have the best think pieces and reports to hand. So I started to collect my favourites, such as the 2004 Barker Review, the 2012 Montague Report and Aster Living’s extracare case studies. I eventually built up a library of about 20 reports. 

A colleague suggested that, if collecting relevant reports and think pieces was helping me as a housing board member, it could help other non-executives or policy-makers. So we decided to test the theory. The starting point was to recruit an editorial panel to give the idea and the online library a good intellectual going over. Once it had passed that test, it was a case of getting it out there and seeing what the response was. The panel has been incredibly pleased by the progress since the site was founded.

We now have over 350 reports on the site. From this, the editorial panel has selected about 30 as ‘must read’ reports. In the next few Board Bulletin newsletters, the panel will be sharing their thoughts and analysis on some of these reports.

Making a difference in the housing world

Thinkhouse may not change the housing world, but I hope we’re beginning to make a small difference. We’re certainly generating new readers for some brilliant and innovative thinking. This is particularly true of research that comes out of universities, which can sometimes struggle to reach wider audiences.

We’re also promoting new research talent with our annual early career researcher’s prize. Our first winner, Anya Martin is currently working as a Senior Researcher at the National Housing Federation, and is making a name for herself in the housing world. We use Twitter (@thinkhouseinfo) to keep our growing band of followers up to date with what’s been published.

I close with one of the key messages from a report published a few years ago that still resonates with me, the Farmer Review. Farmer notes that the acceleration of the wider digital revolution combined with a shrinking traditional construction workforce creates both an opportunity and a threat to everyone engaged in providing more and better homes. I hope Thinkhouse will play its part in getting this (and other) messages to those who need to hear them and help to make a difference. In short, I want Thinkhouse to be a home for more than just blue sky thinking.