Rental housing systems are examples of ‘social complexity’ – with many interdependencies that may only be discerned and understood in hindsight. The methodological question then is: How can we come to discover and make  (some) sense of significant, system-scale, and potentially problematic complex system interdependencies, the impacts of these on actors (in this case renters), and also plan for improved outcomes at various scales and levels of such a system?

In response to this methodological conundrum this research trials a nested methodological assemblage of narrative based tools and processes; with Sensemaker™ and the multi-ontological Cynefin framework for decision-making as additional, core tools of a wider assemblage.  Grounded and enacted as ‘loose’ participatory/action research and planning praxis, the research responds to emerging concerns and weak signals from housing advocates.  Thus the research explores the methodological conundrum through situational literatures and through the problematic of a complex rental housing system with multiple sectors, scales and contextual constraints. 

In seeking firstly to investigate and understand the experience of being a renter (the micro scale of the system) in a rental system also conceptualised as nested, multiscalar and assemblage, the research also seeks to explore what might emerge from participatory processes aligned with planning change.  Two additional, organising questions of the research thus intertwine with the opening question and relate to both case study and methodological process findings and outcomes:

  • Beyond shelter, what socio-spatial, material, and conditional attributes of rental housing environments support and enable, (or challenge or impede as the case may be) the flourishing of persons who rent, their sense of home and their connectedness to wider communities?
  • What knowledge and potential impact emerges from collaborative and participatory sensemaking for application to rental housing environments, policy and social and urban planning processes?

Funding: APA; in kind support from Cognitive Edge and Complexability
Advisors: Prof Neil SipeDr Sonia RoitmanDr Caryl Bosman

Project members

Angela Ballard


PhD candidate- graduated 2018