Driving a prosperous recovery

Writing in the Financial Times, Henrietta Moore, founder and director of The Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) at University College London spoke on the need to “build back better” based on a more nuanced vision of prosperity, rooted in local communities.

Referring to a four-year project by the IGP to create a prosperity index for east London, she wrote that “Instead of measures of growth, productivity and income, the index identified 15 headline indicators that reflected the lived experience of prosperity for people in these places. It established that “human infrastructure” — public transport, affordable or free childcare, social care and low or no-cost digital services — was what made lives liveable and laid the foundations for a prosperous life.[1]

Indicators in the index were selected based on a citizen-scientist led research project, and included good quality and secure jobs, household security and affordability, sense of community and healthy, safe and secure neighbourhoods. The project re-iterated that high-level indicators like GDP and productivity are entirely abstract from what it feels like to live a prosperous life, in a distinct place.

The social housing sector is looking to the long-term recovery from Covid-19, and could benefit from measuring its own success against such individual and community based indicators. What makes for prosperity will look different in the communities of East London who were a focus of the IGP study, in comparison to a rural community in North Wales.

In practice this means thinking strategically all the way down to the neighbourhood level, which allows social housing organisations to make targeted interventions. Many of Community Insights indicators relate to the 15 themes identified by the IGP.

Good and Secure Jobs

One of the themes that came through the IGP research was the importance of good jobs in peoples experience of prosperity. One indicator on Community Insight is Universal Credit Claimants – In Employment.(latest data from June 2021). The colours on the map show % of working age people receiving Universal Credit around the study sites the IGP chose in East London.

Specific down to a LSOA level (refers to Lower Layer Super Output Areas – typically about 650 households), it’s clear that a high proportion of local people of working age are in receipt of universal credit, in this part of East London.

Healthy, safe and secure neighbourhoods

The map looks different when we look at another IGP theme, healthy, safe and secure neighbourhoods. One of the sub categories was access to open and green space, and the indicator from Community Insight below is AHAH Green Space (active) with the colours on the map showing distance to Green spaces (km)

For a social housing organisation which is looking to build back better with a focus on prosperity for residents, these data sets can play a role in informing targeted interventions. In the case of access to green space, its clear that specific neighbourhoods have diminished access. Working with and through local residents, solutions might include building green spaces into new developments or turning marginal sites into pocket parks.

Global goals made local

The IGP report references the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) role in moving away from conventional abstract measures of prosperity like GDP. This is a radically different vision of prosperity to the orthodox understanding of prosperity as material wealth that dominated global policymaking throughout the 20th century”.[2]

Whilst the SDGs are global in ambition, many play out at a local level and in individual lives. Whilst its hard to see how Gross Domestic Product means much in our everyday lived experience, goals such as ‘Gender equality’ are experienced through employment outcomes, public transport and access to affordable childcare.

With this in mind, its no surprise that social housing organisations are accessing ESG funding to deliver against the SDGs and other frameworks. Rooted in specific places, social housing organisations as anchor institutions are well placed to deliver people-centred prosperity through affordable housing, placemaking and community investment.

For investors serious about meaningful impact, rather than abstract metrics on an accounting ledger, social housing can be a force for good as a locally based actor in people’s lives.  A good score in an ESG framework needs to be visible in individual peoples and communities’ lives, otherwise it risks being as abstract as GDP.

The role of Community Insight

Our Community Insight tool built for targeted decision making, utilising over 1000 indicators all the way down to the LSOA level. When coupled with theory of change on how to leverage social value, health and wellbeing, it can be a powerful tool to drive the sort of community level prosperity outlined in the IGP’s report.

Social housing organisations that can demonstrate how they are meeting global goals in local places stand out as serious about people centred prosperity. As a tool, Community Insight (alongside resident engagement) provides the sort of data to direct community investment where it can leverage the most impact.


[2] https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a0c05169f07f51c64a336a2/t/5d03c62b56b1ce0001bf6266/1560528440423/LPI_Report_single_140619_update.pdf