Decent Homes: Evaluation and Information

Impact case study
  • Unit(s) of assessment: Business and Management Studies
  • School: Nottingham Business School

Impact

Professor Alistair Mutch's research has enabled social housing provider Nottingham City Homes to evaluate its activities on a major programme, Decent Homes, the government's social housing refurbishment initiative.

Mutch's research places information in its organisational context. Through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) in 2010-12, Nottingham City Homes applied Mutch's research to improving the use of information across the organisation. As a result, it has recorded a lasting impact through:

  • more effective management of resources
  • improved service delivery.

The research findings of Mutch and his team demonstrated the increased social returns of prioritising the security elements of Secure Warm Modern, one of the strands of the Decent Homes programme, over modernising the properties. Nottingham City Homes acted on the recommendations by re-allocating resources and implementing the security element (fitting secure doors and windows) before the modernisation work (for example, fitting new kitchens).

As a result of the KTP, Nottingham City Homes has a greatly improved evidence base which it has used to demonstrate the improved social outcomes of its activities. This evidence base was key to the organisation securing the highest level of funding outside London when budgets for the Decent Homes programme were revised in 2012.

For more information, see Nottingham City Homes' impact study of the research project.

Research background

Over a 15-year period, Professor Mutch has researched the nature and use of information. In particular, he has identified the contextual factors of organisations that can limit the effectiveness of the information they use to make decisions.

Drawing on his commercial experience, Mutch recognised that organisations often make only limited use of the information they generate, particularly that derived from large IT systems. His early research base drew on research in library sciences which explored the competences required to enable users to access information.

Mutch explored these ideas through empirical research at the retail leisure company Whitbread in 1999-2001. This research analysed how information was captured and how the resulting information was used.

The findings marked a shift away from viewing the effective use of information as being dependent on staff competences, and focused instead on contextual factors such as the culture, history and structural characteristics of organisations.

Professor Mutch tested his findings in two Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) projects that offered opportunities to generate empirical data through action research. The first project was with business consultancy firm Cooper Parry (2008-10), in collaboration with Carole Tansley. The second project, with Néstor Valero-Silva in 2010-12, evaluated how Nottingham City Homes had implemented its Secure Warm Modern programme.

The findings of these projects highlighted the importance of organisational context in determining the effective use of information. The work for Cooper Parry also noted that relatively minor changes in form and procedures could have a big impact on the value of the information used by managers to make decisions.

A recurring theme in the study at Nottingham City Homes was that gathering direct, in-depth information from users (in this case, tenants) was a valuable means of complementing and enhancing quantitative data. Hence, information about people and communities, as well as properties, was found to be valuable in reviewing how housing investment programmes are planned and prioritised.

Evidence

  • Decent Homes impact study: the effects of secure, warm, modern homes in Nottingham (Nottingham City Homes, 2013).
  • 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 flows).
  • 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 (9): 42-45. [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, (Impact on national debates and endorsement by junior minister of quality of research). (UK Parliament Website, June 2012).
  • 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.
  • Nottingham City Homes wins Sustainable Landlord of the Year award at the UK Housing Awards 2013 (Collaborative research noted as a key factor in the victory).

Publications

  • Mutch, A., 1997. Information literacy: an exploration. International Journal of Information Management, 17 (5). 377-86.
  • Mutch, A., 1999. Critical realism, managers and information. British Journal of Management, 10. 323-33.
  • Mutch, A., 2003. Communities of practice and habitus: a critique. Organization Studies, 24 (3). 383-401.
  • Mutch, A., 2008. Managing information and knowledge in organizations. New York: Routledge.
  • Mutch, A., 2010. Organizational use of information and communication technology and its impact on reflexivity in Archer, M. (ed) Conversations about Reflexivity. London: Routledge.
  • Jones, A, Mutch, A. and Valero-Silva, N, 2013. Information audit at Nottingham City Homes. International Journal of Information Management, 33 (2) 291-99.

Related projects

  • 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.
  • Knowledge Transfer Partnership 06255: CooperParry (2008-10); value: £120,000.
  • Knowledge Transfer Partnership 007719: Nottingham City Homes (2010-12); value: £127,260.

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