Designing interventions for minds captured by scarcity
Client:Citizen Housing
Challenge:organisational transformation
hero image for Citizen Housing case study
The challenge

Citizen Housing (formerly WM Housing) is a not-for-profit social housing business, housing approximately 66,000 people in 30,000 households. A high proportion of its tenants are in receipt of welfare benefits and are on low incomes – some are the most vulnerable in society. Yet legislation changes mean these tenants will become responsible for their own benefits, creating risks for sustainable tenancies.

Our approach

We brought together a diverse set of stakeholders and coded their insights into themes, which then allowed us to identify opportunities for effective targeted behavior-change interventions.

analyseCommunity dynamics

We mapped the social dynamics, interviewing a variety of stakeholders – from local police to frontline staff, enforcement officers to C-suite executives – to understand the required behavior changes and the social dynamics at play.

researchExperts in cognitive science

These insights were rounded out with experts in poverty and social housing, including Eldar Shafir, a behavioral scientist from Princeton and the author of How Scarcity Captures the Mind.

analyseCOM-B analysis

Using this data, we mapped communications barriers and opportunities for behavior change (using the COM-B framework).

narrativeDesigning interventions

Working with the Citizen Housing teams, we identified a range of intervention opportunities including subtle shifts in communication and use of language.


We identified a range of interventions and nudges – such as repositioning the letters they send to tenants – which are currently being piloted across housing communities for efficacy.