Changing a Sector: Creating Our Future Together

“We are rubbish at predicting the future, but we are brilliant at creating it.”

- James Green, Futures Programme Director at National Housing Federation


Organisations are good at killing ideas. It’s not necessarily because they don’t want to say yes, it’s just there are so many compelling reasons to say NO. Here are a few that we came up with at the last National Housing Federation Creating Our Future ideas workshop, hosted by Rooftop Housing in Evesham on Monday:


  •  It’s not policy
  •  It's not the right time

  •  We’ve tried that before

  •  We don't have the money


Saying no can often seem like the easiest, less risky option. But nothing ever changed without taking a risk. The question should be, how can we mitigate the risk and test the idea out.




The National Housing Federation launched the Creating Our Future programme at the 2017 national conference in Birmingham. The aim of the programme is to tap into the energy and enthusiasm of the housing sector to better understand the trends shaping the future and co-create groundbreaking ideas in response. Since the conference, the guys from the Futures Programme have been busy. Over three months James and his team have facilitated 15 Labs, connecting with around 300 people.




The labs offer a safe space to think big and do some ‘expansive’ thinking. A reflection of the group on Monday was that 'nobody ever says they do their best thinking at work', so the labs aim to take people out of their comfort zone and evoke some of the free-thinking we usually keep reserved for the shower, car, jog or swim. This is a concept I recognise. I wrote about my own sources of inspiration in my recent post on the importance of setting aside time for input

The idea generation sessions focused on seven key themes:


As children, we’re curious, energetic, fearless and straight talking. We don't think too much about taking a risk. As adults, we can become self-conscious, judgmental, egoistic and just plain serious. Little wonder that those reasons to say 'NO' often feel so compelling. The truth is, whilst we could all do with channelling our inner child from time to time, matching some of those childish behaviours with our adult behaviours is actually the key to innovation; being curious but responsible, persistent but analytical.


During 2018, ideas crowdsourced through idea generation workshops will be developed and wild thinking tamed. The next phase of Creating Our Future is The Greenhouse. Greenhouses offer a safe space to test things out, make mistakes and grow a seed of an idea into something which could have a real scalable impact.

Working this way is something we value in the lab. The days of being guarded about our ideas are over. Creating Our Future offers a real opportunity for the sector and we are looking forward to seeing the Greenhouse crop at the end of the year. Based on what I experienced on Monday, with lots of great energy, enthusiasm and ideas in one room, it’s hard to imagine how as the programme moves into the next phase the building blocks that have been created during the past 15 sessions can fail to generate some truly inspired ideas.

Together, we can create ideas to change the world.