Decent Homes: evaluation and information
Submitting InstitutionNottingham Trent University
Unit of AssessmentBusiness and Management Studies
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services: Business and Management
Summary of the impact
Organisations in the social housing sector have a model of how to use
information to monitor the outcomes of their activities. Drawing on
research which places information in its organisational context, the
mechanism of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships has been used to enable
Nottingham City Homes to pioneer the evaluation of its activities focusing
on a major investment programme called Decent Homes. Cited in
Parliamentary debates, not only has the impact shifted the strategic
direction of the organisation's activities, but also it has been adopted
as a model of best practice for the sector.
Over the past 15 years Mutch has researched the nature and use of
information, in particular the identification of contextual factors
associated with organisations that can limit the effectiveness of
information for managerial decision-making. Drawing on previous commercial
experience prior to taking up an academic appointment, Mutch was aware
that organisations often made only limited use of the information they
generated, particularly that derived from large IT systems. His early
research base drew on research in library sciences exploring the
competences required to enable users to access information.
These ideas were then explored through empirical research carried out at
the retail leisure company Whitbread in 1999-2001 as part of an ESRC small
award where Mutch was the Principal Investigator. Based on interviews with
and observation of public house managers, the research analysed how
information was captured and the resulting information flows and uses. The
findings marked a shift away from considering effective information use as
dependent on staff competences and focused instead on contextual factors —
such as culture/history and structural characteristics of the
The theoretical basis of this research was then developed further through
engagement with ideas and concepts drawn from critical realism.
This helped establish a balance between the facilitating role of
information technology and the stress on the creative interpretation of
information by people within a social context.
Opportunities to explore and test the resulting theoretical developments
followed through Mutch' s close involvement (as Principal Investigator) in
two successive Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) projects, that offered
opportunities for practitioner engagement to generate empirical data
through the use of action research. The first was with a local business
consultancy firm Cooper Parry (2008-10) carried out in collaboration with
Tansley who provided expertise in human resource management, the second
was carried out with Valero-Silva (also a human resource management
specialist) for Nottingham City Homes (2010-12) as part of an evaluation
of the implementation of the latter's Secure Warm Modern programme which
was itself part the government's Decent Homes social housing refurbishment
The findings of these projects again highlighted the importance of
organisational context, including governance issues such as the absence of
responsibility, in determining the effective use of information. However
the first study also noted that relatively minor changes in form and
procedures could have a big impact on the value of information in terms of
managerial decision-making. A recurring theme to emerge in the second
study at Nottingham City Homes was that there was much value in direct and
in-depth information gathering from users (i.e. tenants) to complement and
enhance quantitative data. In particular it provided a detailed insight
into the more subtle changes resulting from the Secure Warm Modern
programme. Hence information about people and communities, rather than
merely on properties, was found to be valuable when it came to reviewing
the way that housing investment programmes are planned and prioritised. An
additional finding was that the reluctance of staff to share information
externally meant that the desired social outcomes were not being achieved.
The research continues with the results being shared through publications
such as Jones, Mutch and Valero-Silva (2013).
References to the research
Mutch, A. `Information literacy: an exploration', International
Journal of Information Management, 17(5), 1997, pp.377-386. (Journal
ranked as 2* in the 2010 ABS list)
Mutch, A. `Critical Realism, managers and information', British
Journal of Management, 10, 1999, 323-333. (Journal ranked as 4* in
the 2010 ABS list)
Mutch, A. `Communities of practice and habitus: a critique', Organization
Studies, 24(3), 2003, 383-401. (Journal ranked as 4* in the 2010 ABS
Mutch, A. Managing Information and Knowledge in Organizations,
New York: Routledge, 2008.
Mutch, A. `Organizational Use of Information
and Communication Technology and its Impact on Reflexivity' in Archer, M.
(ed) Conversations about Reflexivity, London: Routledge, 2010.
Jones, A, Mutch, A. and Valero-Silva, N. `Information audit at Nottingham
City Homes', International Journal of Information Management,
2013. (Journal ranked as 2* in the 2010 ABS list)
Further evidence of the quality of the underpinning research is provided
by Mutch's research council grant entitled: Managerial information use
and the value of information literacy (award R000222881); sponsor:
Economic and Social Research Council; duration: 1 Sept 1999 - 29 fEBRUARY
2000; VALUE: £3,499; (note:End of Grant Report categorised as `good'), and
the two Technology Strategy Board sponsored Knowledge Transfer
Partnerships awarded to Mutch and Tansley: KTP06255: CooperParry
(2008-10); value: £120,000; and Mutch and Valero-Silva: KTP007719: Nottingham
City Homes (2010-12); value: 127,260; both of which were judged as
`very good' by peer reviewers.
Details of the impact
Nottingham City Homes took immediate and longer term benefit from the
most recent application of Mutch' s research. Nottingham City Homes
recorded enduring impact in the form of improved working practices (i.e.
greatly improved data gathering procedures) and new roles and
responsibilities for staff leading to more effective management of
resources and improved service delivery, through improved use of
information within the organisation.
Following recommendations from the research team, Nottingham City Homes
now has a much improved evidence base regarding the impact of its work,
especially as it now considers wider social impacts than before. This has
led to changes to the Secure Warm Modern programme in the form of the
re-allocation of resources. For example, in a change to what was
originally planned Nottingham City Homes prioritised implementation of the
security part of the Secure Warm Modern programme, involving the fitting
of secure doors as well as windows, over the modernisation part which
involved fitting new kitchens, because research findings by Mutch and his
team provided an evidence base that demonstrated the increased social
returns that resulted from so doing. As a result Nottingham City Homes'
tenants and the local community gained improved security, health and
comfort, and tenants have experienced an improvement in the quality of
Nottingham City Homes' ability to demonstrate improved social outcomes by
virtue of the greatly improved evidence base it now had its disposal, was
also an important factor in the organisation securing the highest level of
funding outside London when budgets for the Decent Homes programme were
revised in 2012.
Improvements in sharing information with external agencies also resulted
in further impact within Nottingham. Locally, the Crime Reduction
Partnership benefited from closer working relationships, with Nottingham
City Homes enabling them to target the use of police resources and other
public services more effectively. What is more, this has acted as a local
model for other agencies. For example as a result of the successful
outcome of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership, Nottingham City Homes has
become a full member of the Strategic Health Board for Nottingham,
rekindling a link between housing and health which had become neglected
and acting as a model of partnership working that has been adopted in
Wider impact has been experienced through the influence of the
application of Mutch and Valero-Silva's findings to Nottingham City Homes'
Secure Warm Modern programme on national best practice. This has come
about via two routes. Firstly through the Home and Communities Agency, the
national body that regulates, funds and oversees social housing, and
secondly through the auspices of Parliament. In terms of the latter, the
MP for Nottingham South, Lilian Greenwood, has been highly supportive of
the Nottingham City Homes project and this was reflected in a
Parliamentary debate in 2012, when the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of
State for Communities and Local Government, Andrew Stunell, stated: "The
hon. Lady referred to the study, undertaken by Nottingham City Homes with
Nottingham Trent University, of the wider impact of Decent Homes. That
study has made a very useful contribution to our knowledge, and ought to
be required reading for those who doubt the importance of investing in our
social housing stock" (see sources to corroborate 7). In terms of the
former, Nottingham City Homes has come to be seen as a frontrunner in the
evaluation of major refurbishment programmes like the Secure Warm Modern
programme thus impacting on the broader social housing movement in
England. This is reflected in the Homes and Communities Agency, adopting
the approach taken by Mutch and colleagues as a model of best practice.
Further impact that is both local and national has arisen through another
member of the Nottingham City Homes Knowledge Transfer Partnership team,
Alice Jones who was the Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate. She has
established a consultancy advising other local authorities about
refurbishment programmes for social housing. Utilising the findings from
the Knowledge Transfer Partnership project her firm continues to spread
best practice in relation to information gathering and programme
Another indication of the wider impact of this work is the contribution
that it made to Nottingham City Homes winning `Sustainable Landlord of the
Year' at the prestigious UK Housing Awards in May 2013. The
"ground-breaking research to show the economic, social, health and
environmental impact" (see sources to corroborate 4), to cite the award,
was a key part of the case that Nottingham City Homes was able to make and
thus pointed the way to others in the sector.
The publication of the results of the project in a variety of trade
journals aimed at professionals in the areas of housing, information and
energy management, disseminated an approach which combined some practical
tools, such as information audit, with sensitivity to the organisational
context. Research drawing on some rather abstract concepts was thus
translated into effective guidance for practice.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Final and detailed reports on aspects of Nottingham City Homes KTP at
[Details of impact at local level, particularly on shift in investment
following initial phase of project].
- Nottingham City Homes, Director of Property Services. [Use of
information to change strategic investment decisions; embedding of
evaluation in Nottingham City Homes practice; position of Nottingham
City Homes as model of best practice and consequences for funding
- Alice Jones Consulting, Principal. [Provision of and demand for the
model of outcomes evaluation in the housing sector as confirmation of
impact within the sector].
- Member of Parliament, Nottingham South. [Confirmation of impact at the
level of national policy].
- Homes and Community Agency, Area Manager. [Confirmation of interest of
Home and Communities Agency, the executive agency with responsibility
for oversight of the sector on behalf of the UK government, in using the
example of Nottingham City Homes as an illustration of best practice].
- Jones, A., Mutch, A., Valero-Silva, N. (2011) Exploring information
flows at Nottingham City Homes, Managing Information, Vol. 18
[Magazine of the Association of Special Libraries and Information
Bureaux (ASLIB) circulated to information professionals, hence showing
impact on group of practitioners].
- Hansard, 26 June 2012 at
[Impact on national debates and endorsement by junior minister of
quality of research].
- Jones, A., `Measuring the impact of Secure, Warm, Modern homes in
Nottingham', Energy Action, (quarterly journal of National
Energy Action), 115, July 2012, 20-21. [Impact on debates amongst
- UK Housing Awards 2013, Sustainable landlord of the year: Winner
Nottingham City Homes: Creating secure, warm, modern homes, directly
citing Nottingham Trent University and the collaborative research as a
[Peer recognition of impact by housing professionals].