Better Explanations: WRHHG’s Healthy Homes Communication Action Research Project

* Image by artist Megan Salole, made available via open source licence and used with permission of, and thanks to The Workshop.

In early 2021 WRHHG reviewed our communications strategy.  For decades, research has shown that warm, dry, energy efficient homes are a foundation of physical, mental and social health and wellbeing, and necessary for a low-carbon future. In spite of this, the policy and behavioural changes needed for healthy and energy efficient homes in New Zealand are occurring very slowly if at all.

We needed to do something different to get different results.  Some organisations in our network had been engaging with research and communications organisation The Workshop to learn about and apply a narrative communications approach.  They recommended it for WRHHG.  Our Steering Group decided to put a cohort of representatives from WRHHG organisations through foundations training in the approach.  Participants in this initial training were excited and could see the value of narrative communications in their work.  Later in 2021, The Workshop produced a Scoping Report that demonstrated potential for applying the approach to shift public understanding and eventually policy and practice around home health in New Zealand.  

In order to systematically test the approach and make possible broad particpation, we developed a proposal for a 3-year Action Research programme that was successful in attracting funding from Todd Foundation and BRANZ Building Research Levy.  Partnering with The Workshop, the programme aims to develop, test and monitor outcomes of messaging and communication products informed by the narrative approach. 

The 3-year ‘Healthy Homes Communications Action Research’ programme launched in October 2022.  Key outputs to April 2024 include:

  • Public Narratives Survey (Sept 2022) – the survey was carried out before this project launched however some reanalysis and editing was done under the project.  See this post.
  • Political Discourse Analysis (Aug 2022-Aug 2023).  See this post.
  • Briefing to Incoming Ministers Dec 2023 – used key messaging developed under the Action Research project.  Download the BIM here.
  • Ongoing Community of Practice ‘Applied Narratives for Change’ workshopping sessions focused on specific communications campaigns and outputs with WRHHG member organisations and others. 
  • How to Talk About Home Health: A Narrative Communications Toolkit – a resource for communicators who want to take about the relationship between our homes and our health in ways that deepen public understanding and lead to effective policy interventions and behaviours. (public download version coming soon)

The Action Research programme is ongoing until September 2025.

For more information about this, contact Amanda.Scothern@sustaintrust.org.nz