On 18 March the first in-house PhD researcher of Campus Fryslân, Angela Greco, was supposed to defend her dissertation ‘Changing for good’. Unfortunately, the event was postponed due to the corona pandemic. Nevertheless, we would like to highlight her research here in Connect.
By Fardau Bamberger
Angela Greco focused on the present-day topic of transforming organizations into sustainable enterprises, from a local housing association perspective. She found that a user-centric approach is best at preventing unintended consequences and conflicting demands.
Nowadays transforming businesses into sustainable enterprises seems like the logical thing to do. After all, anything that helps the environment appears, by definition, good. However, in practice the transformation is not always that easy and can result in unintended consequences. Especially for social businesses like housing associations that provide affordable housing for low-income tenants, finding a balance between doing good for the environment and the social mission of doing good for the people can lead to clashes. Greco studied best practices and found out that in a situation where a housing association wanted to be a frontrunner in sustainability, tenants struggled. “Imagine having your house under construction for weeks, without really knowing how the end result benefits you or the environment while in your daily life you are dealing with much more urgent problems.”
“Cases like this can make it seem like doing something good for the environment is not always the right thing to do,” Greco explains. This is where good preparation of all of those involved is key. Taking a user-centric approach may prevent most issues. She found that engaging the community increased the tenants willingness to participate. “When you engage the community, you will find that people are not against doing good things for the environment as many might assume. If you do not just inform, but let everyone involved ‘own’ their solutions - by making them an active part of the process - they’ll be for sustainability, not against it.” Angela Greco adds that while housing associations are her research context, the theoretical framework and conclusions apply to any organization seeking to transform sustainably and dealing with conflicting demands.
This article originally appeared in Connect summer 2020.
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