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Roughly how many hours per week would you say you spend begging Google for information on housing programs? Looking for toolkits and policy briefs? Tracking down data from a homelessness count or finding voices of lived experience?
When we put this question to individuals and organizations in our network, the answers ranged from three hours in a single day to ten in a week. The IGH Hub, a new resource hub for researchers, practitioners, and policymakers working in homelessness, aims to address this problem, smoothing the way for good work to get done more quickly and easily. Launching on February 12th, 2018, the IGH Hub is a “one-stop shop” to connect thought leaders, advocates, academics, and on-the-ground experts to one another and to ideas and practice to ease and advance their work.
The IGH Hub was developed over the course of a year, in partnership with the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, creators of the successful Canadian Homeless Hub, and guided by interviews and user tests by individuals working in homelessness around the world. These sessions influenced everything from the design to proposed content and functionality based on the requests, feedback, and commentary of people working in the field. It is our hope that the IGH Hub will be a resource for and by the people who use it most.
People from every corner of the homelessness field face many of the same challenges when it comes to hunting down the resources they need: difficulty of finding information on websites in foreign languages; wide dispersal of information across hundreds of different websites and journals; research blocked by paywalls; inability to devote the necessary time to independently seeking out new research; and problems searching for region-specific content.
We are constantly expanding what we know about what works in homelessness, and how to measure the success of local programs. Staying up-to-date on new learning and data can be an overwhelming task, particularly when new innovations and reports are coming from far-away areas of the world.
“The most difficult thing to find is translations of national papers,” Anja Bohnsack, with UK-based Depaul International, mused in an interview during the IGH Hub’s planning stage. “You have to get lucky and find local websites writing in your language. It’s difficult if you don’t speak the local language.”
In light of this, many people wind up depending on their personal networks to find new information, which can limit their access to what is already widely circulating.
“If I don’t know a specific website where I am confident that they will have the answer, I will write an email to my network to ask people directly,” said Vit Lesak, of the Platform for Social Housing in Brno, Czech Republic.
But this can take time, and may not turn up anything. In these cases, it’s often up to individuals to find resources wherever they can, be it online journals, newspapers, or blogs. This can be especially difficult in regions where research has been less widely published, and resources are scarce.
Rayna Rusenko, whose research focuses on how social welfare, labor, housing, and homelessness policy shape homelessness globally, recalled finding during her work with homeless communities in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia that, “while so much information is readily available on homelessness and policy in the US, in Malaysia there was close to nothing. And people are really trying to find something.”
The IGH Hub offers several features to address these kinds of issues:
Translation of all IGH Hub webpage content, including introductions and descriptions of resources, into more than 100 languages through Google translation services
Functionality that allows users to sort results by topic, by type, and by geographic region
Privileging of open access content over paid content, wherever possible
Curation and consolidation of research, toolkits, and practice from around the web into one easily-searchable database
Easy-to-find links to regional hubs, data, and reports
Bi-monthly newsletters featuring new research and highlighting common challenges
There is a gap between what we know globally about good systems to end homelessness and what information is accessible locally. Opportunities to leverage connections between countries to improve systems get lost. The IGH Hub is designed to take the guesswork out of the finding new research and tools for practice and streamline the process. By finding existing positive practice and brigading evidence to support decision-makers and practitioners, we believe the IGH Hub can be a tool to help make deep systemic change.
During its initial launch period, the IGH Hub will be adding new content daily, building a comprehensive library of research, practice, and expertise from lived experience around the world. To submit your work, write us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To find information about the IGH Hub on Twitter, follow @ighomelessness and the hashtag #IGHhub.
To receive the bi-monthly IGH Hub newsletter, subscribe here.