In this blog, Emma Lindley (Housing Strategy Lead at Ashfield District Council) calls for a greater connection between housing academics and practitioners.
It’s been a few months now since I attended the Housing Studies Association (HSA) Annual Conference to present some research on professionalism (see here: https://abirdseyeviewofhousing.wordpress.com/2018/04/13/valuing-professionalism-in-housing/) and they’ve just confirmed the dates for next years conference (10-12th April 2019 – save the date!) It was the second time I had presented at this conference, and as a practitioner, I was in a minority, with most contributors coming from the academic world. That said, building links between research and practice is one of the HSA’s core aims and we’re a growing a minority at the conference, reflecting the executive committee’s efforts to build closer relationships between those in the lecture theatres, crunching data and out doing fieldwork, and those on the frontline.
In my day job (Housing Strategy Lead Officer, Ashfield District Council), like many others, I’m always looking for examples of what works, what the issues are in my area and measuring our progress in tackling different challenges. At the same time there are 100s of academics out there conducting research into these same issues. So why do our worlds not overlap as much as they could and should, and how can we change that?
From my perspective, there are a few barriers that if addressed could make these links flourish:
Accessible language: some of the language used by researchers presenting their work really gives me a headache. Even some of the session titles were a mystery to me! If practitioners are the audience, make sure the content is written with them in mind.
Accessible research: How do we as practitioners know what research is being carried out? Academics seemed to know what each other were up to, but is there a way for ‘outsiders’ to find out? Lots of papers are behind paywalls, so even if you know about the research, it can be difficult to get your hands on it (though I know some are good at blogging about their research).
So what? The practical applications of research weren’t always made clear. During each presentation, I would think ‘so what does this mean for me in my day job’ and I couldn’t always see the answer. If practitioners are the audience, tell us why we should care and what we can do with this new evidence.
Right time, right place: We don’t often seem to be in the same room together, attending different events on the same topics
So how can we change things?
Academics – engage with your local practitioner forums such as Chartered Institute for Housing (CIH) regional boards, National Housing Federation groups , TPAS regional meetings and also produce practitioner friendly versions of your research, and invite practitioners to find out more about your research
Practitioners – join the HSA, attend (or even better, present at) the HSA conference, contact the HSA about any research you are carrying out/commissioning/searching for and they should be able to point you in the right direction
Events and conference organisers – bring these two worlds together and provide opportunity for us to identify how we can work with each other