Disrupting Social Housing

3 minute read

9 October 2020

By Insights Team

Innovation Reporter, Upstart

Introducing social entrepreneurship into your housing business model doesn’t just make charitable sense, it also makes good business sense. As the UK government has incorporated a social value score into its 2021 procurement process, altruism has never looked more appealing. 

Continuous change is critical to business model innovation; it’s a topic we’ve blogged about before (Business Model Innovation - The Gift That Keeps On Giving’.) Here we take a look at how business model innovation is being used by companies to deliver sustainable social impact. 


The UK Government has announced that businesses seeking to win government contracts will be asked to set out how they will deliver social value priorities

While demonstrating value for money remains of paramount importance, the introduction of a company’s ‘social value score’ into the Government’s procurement process highlights the emerging significance of sustained societal impact in the UK. 

The aim is to foster new jobs and skills, whilst simultaneously tackling issues such as climate change, waste reduction and improving the health of the nation. 

One early pioneer to successfully demonstrate this working in practise was Blake Mycoskie of TOMS shoes. His One for One business model provided a new pair of shoes to a person in need, for every pair of TOMS sold. The same model has since been applied by TOMS to other essential needs, including eye care and safe water supplies. To date TOMS has given:

95+ million shoes

780,000+ sight restorations

722,000+ weeks of safe water

The beauty of this model is that it’s not just restricted to product-based businesses. 

Adpating it to an entirely different industry, Alistair Wickens, Founder of Goscombe Group is applying the model in an attempt to reverse housing inequality. Alistair says, 

“We are on a mission to make housing fair and genuinely affordable for everyone, regardless of their background.”


Alistair Wickens, Founder of Goscombe Group

So What?

Currently, it’s estimated that 8.4 million people in England are living in unsuitable housing (unaffordable or insecure) while 400,000 people in the UK alone are at risk of homelessness. Local authorities continue to miss their housing targets, unable to build either genuinely affordable housing or meet the local demand fast enough. 

The current crisis affecting the housing market isn't just one of affordability, it's also one of accessibility that requires a new way of thinking, design, build and construction, plus a unique business model to solve the inherent problems. 

Modular construction is quicker, more cost effective and involves eco-friendly building techniques that could help play a role in reducing the carbon footprint of the UK’s development sector. 

Alistair hopes that by combining the use of offsite modular home production with commercial models such as the TOMS One for One, his and other socially conscious businesses can be a catalyst for real and lasting change. 

His ultimate aim is to assemble 1000 “healthy homes” a year within a 65,000 sq.ft production facility, employing homeless and previously unemployed workers to build homes for the local community. Rather than accumulating all their profits, his business redistributes its success in ways that will benefit households, communities and societies.

So Now What?

Alistair and his team are proving that business model innovation can be every bit as disruptive and powerful as tech-driven innovation. You can discover more about the work that Goscombe is doing, by visiting their website HERE.

What this approach confirms is that it is possible to transfer business models across silos and that it also pays to look at disruption and innovation occurring in different industries.

DO THIS: Ask yourself what innovative business models you could be adopting from outside of your sector to deliver impact and add value?

Not sure what to do next? Then Start Here and get in touch with the team at Upstart today. We’re here to help you deal with digital disruption.


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