This month HouseParty returned! We took over the heart of the National Housing Federation conference with HouseParty’s little brother HouseParty’s teaparty.

People gathered in their droves to talk cupcakes and mental health, digital transformation, indoor and outdoor resurrection, as well as get in their daily dose of exercise with an active party time.

I caught up with Andrew Van Doorn, Chief Exec of HACT and co-founder of HouseParty about how the event went:

Tell me a bit about why you set up HouseParty

We set up HouseParty so we could provide a space for people in housing in wider community,in tech and other sectors, to explore disruptive and innovative ideas in fun and creative way. There is nothing like this in the sector – as traditional conferences stagnate we risk losing the power of when new connections are made through creativity. So HouseParty is a way to allow people ot harvest their creative energy to allow new ideas to emerge. 

Paint me a picture of how the day went

The day was absolutely brilliant. The night before, we got started the decorating, getting the bunting up and cupcakes prepped. From then we knew this was going to have a different feel. We were in the heart of the National Housing Federation Conference, but this space felt different. In my 19 years of attending this conference, I had never experienced anything like HouseParty in this space. When the day arrived we were – to no surprise – immediately packed. People spilled out of every corner, meeting each other, having creative conversations. It was really exciting.  

Can you talk about the session you ran?

After I opened the morning with Esther, I ran the conversation around health and wellbeing. We did this through the medium of cupcake decoration. We used the technique of tabletop planning to start creating a neighbourhood, but rather than using plasticine, we used cupcakes. Each table was having a different conversation about what matters for people in communities around health and wellbeing and how housing associations. Each cupcake was decorated so differently, and it sparked a story between the participants and the wider group. And, best of all, we got to eat the cupcakes after!

What was the highlight of the day for you?

The cupcake decorating really set the tone for the rest of the day. It started the creativity ball rolling and that’s how it continued. I found the ‘sports day’ also really great. It really shifted the energy in the space.

I believe that, while innovation comes from people having conversations, it also comes from creativity. And creativity comes when people are happy, enjoying themselves having fun, laughing, doing things in ways they don’t always do them. It has been proven physiologically and psychologically that when people are happy they are more creative. It unlocks a part of our brain that allows us to explore more widely. I think the sports day at HouseParty really made sure that we used a range of techniques to unleash creativity, and we need to continue to think of ways we can unleash this creativity in the sector.

We also loved working with The Social Change Agency to make things happen differently. 

What are your hopes for the future of houseparty?

I hope for an even bigger and better HouseParty next year. I think we should build on HouseParty as a way that we can have these exciting, creative and disruptive conversations that are desperately needed in this sector. I have really enjoyed working with The Social Change Agency to make stuff happen differently.



HouseParty explored the best innovation in housing and communities. And not everything happens indoors. Some of the best innovations happen right on our doorsteps. At HouseParty we turned our attention to see how we make the best use of outdoor space breathing life into communities. We were joined by Project Dirt, Grapevine and Jealott’s Hill Community Landshare to talk outdoor resurrection.

I caught up with Mel from Grapevine to discuss the power of the outdoors:

Can you tell me a bit about Grapevine?

I mix strategy and on the ground activity so that one informs the other. I love nothing more than exploring ways to build community so that folk become better connected.  I love finding the rich resource that sits in communities, often untapped and work alongside folk to imagine the impact of releasing it – people powered action.

At HouseParty, you were called the ‘outdoor resurrectors’. How do you feel the outdoors plays a role in your work?

We use outside space to gather people, opposing the traditional board room/ office scenario – the #covmindthegap Walk & Talks play a big part in us thinking about how people connect and how we build community. The movement started in response to the gap between services and the community. The walks bring all sorts of people together to share ideas/ stories and nurture connectedness. 

What was the highlight of the day for you?

The around the table discussions, sharing the work we do at Grapevine and listening to stories from others.  There’s some amazing work going on! Also loved the set-up of the House Party – tea pots, bunting, sweets – all made for a very inviting environment. In stark contrast to the formality of the Expo.

What’s your hope for the future of how we use outdoor spaces?

Lots more of exploration of how we use outdoor space, exercising our right to roam and trying new ways of engaging folk. I think there’s tiredness in the traditional approach.  We are seeking something new.  Let’s go outside!