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The ‘Think Differently’ training suite

Training by Nick Youngson CC BY-SA 3.0 Alpha Stock Images

This training suite was developed from research into social housing and unfurnished tenancies and Hannah Absalom’s PhD thesis. Each topic concerns a process inhibiting the emergence of better services and homes for tenants or is focused on processes or insights that are not yet part of housing practice. Focussing on these processes and insights gives you the framework to think differently about your work and enact change that fits with the context of your organisation and communities. Each module is 90 minutes long, and the cost is available on request. Consultancy is available to help you translate the insights into practice and to give you a critical friend perspective on what needs to change to deliver excellent services and homes to tenants.

Bespoke training and other commissioned work are also available. Please see the about me for more information.

Stigma as a wicked problem

The stigmatisation of the social housing tenure and tenants is a significant cultural problem for practitioners, tenants and (potential) applicants. Stigma is inherently a policy problem, as international research shows that when social housing access is widened, stigma decreases (Angel 2021). Stigma discourages people who qualify for social housing from applying and can negatively affect the self-esteem and wellbeing of tenants. Stigma shapes practitioner and decision-maker perceptions of tenants and negatively influences the design and delivery of housing services.

This module approaches stigma as a wicked problem, and the content includes the following:

  • What makes stigma a wicked problem?
  • A behavioural understanding of stigma
  • Stigma’s wicked effects (focus on individuals and organisation practices)
  • Activity  – focus on stigma in your work
  • A look at interventions to reduce stigma
  • Solution pledge – what can you do now and tips on staying conscious of stigma.

This training is aimed at all who want to understand stigma better and reduce its effects on their work.

Citizen Science: a new approach to tenant participation

Tenant participation is in crisis. Tenants do not feel listened to or that their concerns are acted upon. Landlords, particularly housing associations, have become increasingly independent from government oversight and more concerned with the financial viability rather than the democratic accountability of their organisations. Government policy concerning participation has focused on ideals such as empowerment and choice rather than alleviating the problems that beset the social housing sector. It is time for new thinking regarding participation, and this training outlines a new approach to tenant participation.

The module approaches tenant participation through the lens of citizen science and translates ideas from this perspective to reimagine participation processes. Content includes:

  • A potted history of tenant participation
  • Citizen science – what it is and how it might reinvigorate your participation programme
  • Three examples of what citizen science in social housing may look like.

This module is suited to involved tenants, tenant participation leads and senior decision-makers who have hit an impasse in their engagement with tenants.


Innovation is a fluid concept. Senior decision-makers want more of it yet need help to define exactly what it means to be innovative and to consider the complexities of innovation in the context of social housing work. This sees practices and techniques imported from the private sector into social housing, even as these are often a poor fit and tend to produce more problems than they promise to solve.

This module is informed by Hannah Absalom’s thesis research that analysed the adoption of advanced digital technologies and analytic techniques in social housing work. Content includes:

  • The different meanings that are given to innovation
  • The promises, pitfalls and barriers to innovation
  • What might innovation look like from within social housing?
  • The promises made of, and the hidden effects of importing advanced technologies and analytic techniques into social housing.

This training is primarily for board members, senior decision-makers, IT procurement leads and tenants involved in scrutiny and decision-making work.

Introduction to trauma-informed and reflective practice

Trauma-informed and reflective practices have been applied in supported housing services to great effect. This collection of practices and ideas has started to find its way into general needs work at social landlords who understand the value of approaching homelessness as trauma-inducing. This module is designed as a pragmatic introduction to the value of trauma-informed and reflective practices, with ideas on how to take these into your day-to-day work. The content was piloted with a team of Housing Officers who found it helpful in improving their team cohesion and in having more positive dialogue with tenants.

Content of this module includes:

  • The science behind trauma and emotions
  • A closer look at homelessness and trauma
  • Traumas trauma – how working with trauma can affect you
  • An introduction to techniques of self-checking and empathetic dialogues.

This module is intended as a basic introduction to the science and practices of trauma-informed and reflective practices. It is suitable for housing workers and tenants volunteers who work directly with tenants and residents.

PoP! The Psychology of Poverty

This module challenges assumptions about what it is like to live in a context of poverty and highlights how poverty itself shapes our thinking and choices. Participants are encouraged to reflect on how they understand poverty and how services that are designed to alleviate financial hardship can often make things more difficult for the people the services are meant to help. The aim of this module is to challenge pre-conceived ideas about people living in financially difficult circumstances and to identify how services can be designed to help rather than hinder.

This module is pitched at an introductory level and attendees will have a suite of insights that can be applied in their day-to-day work. Content includes:

  • A description of the benefits and risks of psychological approaches to understanding poverty
  • Insights into poverty’s influence on the individual
  • Insights into the effects of environments of poverty
  • Reflections on how biases about poverty influence work

This module is suitable for everyone interested in practical insights into alleviating the distress caused by environments of poverty.

Context and emotional insights

Home is where the heart is. This simple phrase captures the idea that the home is an emotional place, an idea that we all intuitively understand yet is missing from social housing work. Social housing practice has lost sight of an understanding of home as an emotional place by adopting highly technical and rationalistic approaches to housing management. While technical and rational approaches are essential to running a well-managed organisation, such approaches tend to make invisible emotional understandings and approaches to work and the influence of context in shaping our behaviours. It is a failure to see and account for the emotional and contextual nature of housing work that is a key inhibitor to the design of excellent housing services that work for tenants.

This module is the most cutting-edge content of the training suite. It brings together insights from the psychology of poverty and home geography studies. Content includes:

  • A description of the value of thinking frameworks
  • Insights from the Psychology of Poverty
  • Insights from home geography studies
  • Tips on using the insights
  • Introduction to a key method to help you evaluate the implementation of these insights

The training is suitable for everyone who wants to think about how to work with emotions and context. This module is at the precipice of new thinking, so attendees need to come to the module with an exploratory, experimental mindset.

Please contact Hannah at to discuss commissioning training.