Social value: it's so much more than metrics
As social value and performance manager for SCAPE, I see on a daily basis the positive impacts that our partners are creating, working with communities to improve lives, neighbourhoods and the environment.
We share a commitment to creating spaces and places that leave a positive, sustainable legacy and we use the National TOMs framework to measure and report on social value outcomes. None of this happens without a good deal of planning and communication, bringing together local teams and local stakeholders to realise and maximise every opportunity.
Our partners draw on local knowledge and the expertise of local agencies working with NEET individuals, ex-offenders, ex-armed forces and others who struggle to find employment. Whilst this may require some extra thought, planning and understanding of their additional needs, the benefits both to the individuals, the existing workforce and the long-term benefits to society in general far outweigh any challenges.
Social value and performance manager
Leaving a legacy is key, and our partners continue to find innovative ways to deliver social value that achieves this. Our report ‘Social Value; More Than Metrics’ features an example of this, where Willmott Dixon brought together the supply chain, students and the local community. Employees supported local construction students as they designed and created temporary accommodation for homeless people, offering their time and expertise to upskill the young people.
This successful project was reported locally at the time, but the effects will continue to be felt; by those students who now have improved job prospects, those vulnerable people living in safe, clean accommodation and the community who witnessed first-hand the tangible, short and long-term social value outcomes that construction projects can create. The results of our nationwide study have highlighted the need to improve the celebration and promotion of positive impacts such as these.
Typically, social value has been measured largely through tangible outcomes like the number of apprenticeships and the volume of waste diverted from landfill, but we know this isn’t giving communities the full picture.
Not all the extra efforts undertaken by contractors will have an immediate, measurable impact, so it’s understandable that the public might not recall these at the time of construction, and may not understand the long-term benefits and the “ripple effect” that they create in their communities. Student engagement, for example, often includes primary school students, for whom a site visit or participation in a construction workshop may spark a desire for a construction career in the future.
We share our partners’ commitment to innovation and finding a better way. In March 2020, when the UK went into lockdown, we wanted to do everything we could to make sure a whole year group of young people didn’t miss out on this opportunity, so we created Learning in Lockdown. Engaging 2,000 students across the UK in a week-long, accredited, completely virtual work experience week, we generated nearly £200,000 in social value, and supported students with earning an Industrial Cadets Silver Award.
The construction industry is continually evolving and improving ways of working to deliver sustainable development. But as we know, much of this goes unnoticed and needs to be better promoted to raise awareness and dispel some of the myths and preconceptions that construction projects only have a negative effect on communities and the environment, for example.
You’ve probably recently driven past roadworks that are illuminated by solar powered lights. These eliminate harmful diesel emissions and noise pollution, but you might not have put these two pieces together initially.
Social value and performance manager
Thorough waste management plans reduce vehicle movements, ensure waste is minimised and the local environment and ecosystems are protected, and in many cases, enhanced. Topsoil is frequently donated to community garden projects or allotment schemes, but all this goes on without local communities being aware of it, unless they are engaged and involved in the project directly.
Engaging local neighbourhoods provides many benefits:
- It gives residents and community groups the opportunity to provide their input
- It allows local needs to be explored, making sure the social value outcomes deliver exactly what each community needs
- It enables connections to community groups and initiatives who might have valuable skills and knowledge
- It facilitates a deeper understanding of the aims of the project and helps community stakeholders understand all the positive impacts delivered
I hope you will take a moment to read our report, and that it will play a part in raising awareness of some of the great work undertaken. We’ve featured a selection of examples from a few of our partners, which are highlighted in the small sample of case studies in the report, but for all partners you can find examples of social value case studies and their approach on their websites.
More widely, I also hope our report encourages the construction industry to continue their good work, innovation and improvements in this area, but also to think differently about how social value can be better and more accurately promoted through community engagement.
Social value encompasses social, economic and environmental impacts, and achievements in these areas should be celebrated every bit as much as delivering a project on time and to budget.
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