How We Work

Home About Us How We Work

We have a unique way of working. By combining our charitable resources, social investment, imaginative ideas, and close partnership working, we are able to investigate, test and share housing solutions to social injustice.

Our model is multi-faceted. But all elements of our work are driven by one idea: to understand and test ways in which housing may play a part in improving or solving a social injustice.

To do so, we work alongside partner organisations, enabling the experts to dig deeper, trial and test their ideas, and discover new solutions to complex problems.

Most important for us is the learning. Commonweal is an action learning charity, meaning that we are dedicated to not only searching for solutions but reflecting on the results, whether successful or not, and crucially sharing those results as far and wide as possible, helping to inform best practice across the sector. Not every project works, but in our minds every idea is a good one.

Our work spans a spectrum of causes and issues, from domestic abuse to asylum seekers and young carers to ex-offenders. As an independently funded charity, we are able to investigate social injustices that might otherwise be overlooked.

Feasibility studies

We like ideas. And the more imaginative the better. But brilliant ideas may not always be feasible. Either way, we want to find out.

Commonweal offers funding to frontline organisations for them to research whether their housing and support models are feasible. This research seeks to establish a model's: i. financial viability; ii. capacity to deliver a solution; iii. justification of a solution.

Typically, we offer this funding via our Call for New Ideas programme, but we are always interested in hearing from organisations whose lightbulbs are going off.

If successful, we help make these ideas a reality through a property-based pilot project run in collaboration with Commonweal. Read more about this below. In some instances, we will offer funding and support to great ideas, even if the project is not run in collaboration with Commonweal.

Property-based pilot projects

Property-based pilot projects are Commonweal’s modus operandi.

If a model proves feasible, we support our partners to initiate a full property-based pilot project that aims to tackle a social injustice through a new and imaginative housing and support model. Projects tend to run for roughly seven years.

Commonweal acts to facilitate and enable the project, but the project is ultimately owned and operated by our partners. We do this in two ways.

Firstly, by providing existing Commonweal-owned property.

Alternatively, we purchase new property at the project-appropriate location with the help of social investment. Commonweal has an engaged network of social investors that we tap it into, facilitating the funding for property acquisition to bring our partners’ projects to life. In both situations, the properties are owned by Commonweal and leased out to our partners at highly reduced rates.

Evaluation and action learning

Commonweal Action Learning Framework

As an action learning charity, the learning and evaluation is as important to us as the bricks and mortar.

We are dedicated to not only searching for solutions but reflecting on the results, whether successful or not, and crucially sharing those results as far and wide as possible, helping to inform best practice across the sector and influence policy where possible.

All of our projects will undergo an independent final evaluation, with a publicly published report into all elements of the project. We care just as much about the elements that didn’t work as much as those that did.

The above graphic outlines the process involved with launching a property-based pilot project, from the initial feasibility study, to evaluation, to final review.


While we focus much of our resources and attention on the solutions to social injustice, we also want to understand the causes to them too.

That’s why we have a dedicated research arm of the organisation, to enable new, groundbreaking research into different areas of social policy that intersects with housing.

We want to dig deeper into the key injustices facing people in this country, and so while we commission our own research, we’re also interested in hearing the ideas for new research from the experts across the sector.

One of the key aspects of our work is sharing learning. But that’s not always our own learning. We host a selection of reports that we believe shine a spotlight on the injustices or housing solutions. See our selection here.

Social Investment

Behind the partnerships, properties and projects is the foundation of our model: social investment.

We help our partners to connect with investors intent on helping to deliver positive social action. We act as a conduit for unlocking investment into new properties and thus new projects, and have a small but highly engaged network of investors.

Through investment into the property acquisition at start of the project, investors receive a yield through the capital uplift of the property at the end of the project (c. seven years). However, each investment is different, and each project will undergo bespoke financing arrangements.

Interested in helping to deliver lasting social change? See how you can help bring new ideas to life and help marry financial equity with social equality on our Partner With Us page.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Keep up to date with our latest projects and news by subscribing to our newsletter.