Communication is everything. From the first time we make eye-contact with a parent, to the way we portray ourselves at a job interview. How we come across and how we make ourselves understood can shape our lives. We’ve all been in places, after all, where we’ve gotten it wrong and failed to make ourselves clear. Luckily, there will be plenty of times where we get it right with great results.
All of these things apply to how we talk about housing and why it needs to change. Take, for example, the UK’s housing crisis. The term is so widespread that it appears eighth in the automatic list if you google our housing system. As a phrase, housing crisis perhaps does its job. It drives home the urgent message that something in our housing system is failing and that people are suffering because of it.
But is it truly effective? Arguably, as a term, it’s overused, easily misunderstood and doesn’t empower people or call them to action. After all, it’s possible to look the other way from a crisis and assume it has nothing to do with you. Similarly, you could decide that it’s too big a problem for one person to worry about or solve.
While many people in the UK are aware of the housing crisis, too few know what’s causing the problem and how it might be fixed. When our approach to something isn’t working, it’s madness to keep doing the same things while expecting different results. That’s why I’m so excited about our new project.
Talking about Housing takes a social science approach in forming and testing a range of frames – phrases, metaphors and ways of discussing housing. These frames will be tried out on members of the public to check whether they effectively build understanding and support to change the system.
Importantly, the results should mean that when housing experts discuss the subject, they help people see what’s going wrong and explain how it can be put right. In backing this project, we hope to build a new way of talking about housing. One that motivates and inspires a different future and better decision-making from our politicians.
I know that people right across the housing sector are just as committed as we are to making sure that everybody has access to a decent, affordable home. Because of that, as Talking about Housing progresses, there’ll be plenty of opportunities to get involved and learn about the subject.
At the Nationwide Foundation and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, it’s our aim to improve the communication. Then, and only then, can we all build the public support that is so crucial in achieving true and tangible change for the people who need it most.