City Futures Research Centre Arts, Design and Architecture

Understanding Leadership, Strategy and Organisational Dynamics in the Not-for-Profit Housing Sector

In line with government commitments for the not-for-profit sector to comprise up to 35% of social housing by 2014, third sector organisations (TSOs) have an expanding role in the procurement and renewal of affordable housing in Australia. A series of recent policy and regulatory changes have sought to support the development of the sector, enabling TSOs to grow and diversify their businesses.

This project is concerned with how leaders of TSOs are responding to these changes and other external influences on their organisations. To measure this, the research uses a specialised methodology originally developed in the UK and since applied in the Netherlands. This methodology – based on the ‘Delphi’ model – combines a survey of panel members (typically TSO CEOs) with in-depth interviews that attempt to understand the drivers of converging viewpoints and elicit explanations for differences in viewpoints among panellists.

Survey work commenced in October 2011 and will involve two further survey rounds (in 2012 and 2013), with the sample of participating TSOs incorporating new entrants to the sector, including any appropriate Indigenous-governed organisations. The longitudinal component of the research is considered important given the fast-changing character of this sector and the dynamic and uncertain policy and market environments in which housing TSOs operate.

Understanding how housing TSOs manage change is of vital interest to governments investing in and regulating the sector. This body of research seeks to promote understanding of the dynamic decision-making and operating environment of TSOs so that further growth can be facilitated, in order to promote increased housing choice and housing affordability.

The questions that will guide the longitudinal and comparative research are:

1)        How do the interpretations and responses of established housing enterprises to their external environment change over time?

2)        What are the forms, purposes and functions of emerging TSOs in Australia?

3)        How are these new housing enterprises interpreting and responding to their external environment?

4)        How comparable are findings for Australian TSOs with those in the Netherlands and United Kingdom?

5)        What do the findings suggest for policy-making and industry development relevant to TSOs in Australia?

The core research team for this project includes senior academics at City Futures and Swinburne University and University of Western Australia. Also contributing to the study is the UNSW Centre for Social Impact (CSI), Australia’s leading centre for third-sector research. The team will also receive strategic guidance from international researchers working on parallel studies in the UK and the Netherlands, with a view to the development of joint academic outputs and international dissemination of findings. CSI will fund and co-host with AHURI an international conference to showcase findings of the research, following completion of the third (CSI-funded) survey wave in 2013/14.


Vivienne Milligan
Professor Vivienne Milligan
Honorary Professor
Gethin Davison
A/Prof Kath Hulse, Swinburne University
Prof Peter Shergold, UNSW
Les Hems, UNSW
A/Prof Paul Flateau, Murdoch University

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