Greengage are working on some regeneration projects to coordinate social value from the Pre-App stage, the very beginning. This is an exciting development in social value: to be in response to community consultation and community needs. We can then honestly answer the question: are we actually offering something of value? Or just ticking a box.
Prior to my work with Greengage, I was working in-house for a property developer that designed, built and managed its own buildings, an ideal set up for meaningful impact and value being offered to the community. In our surveys to the residential and external community, we were able to follow through with their requests, concerns and needs: in health, in opportunities for work and training, in being part of this new community. The results spoke to that level of integrity; what the developers and partners were able to offer in their social value contributions, was an actual contribution! Simple.
Often times, this set up however is not available. We can forecast social value contributions and set things up for the developers and clients to fulfil on through the building of the project. Once the project is built and the ‘project is done’, rarely do we have the oversight or responsibility to ongoingly manage the value those initial contributions have given to the community. At this stage, they are mainly based on assumptions, calculations from research and local averages.
The scope is starting to shift however, as social value is explored more as an opportunity to serve the communities we are delivering to. As community engagement consultants explore it in their work, we are also seeing improved communication across project teams from initiation to delivery. Social value can be woven through all elements and disciplines. There is a separate conversation about who should be left accountable for social value ongoingly and I will leave that for now.
At Greengage, we work with community consultants to inform their process, surveys and working groups; we workshop with the design team their design principles that can contribute to community health and wellbeing; as well as offering opportunities for training, work experience within the partnership team, and an employment and skills plan in the construction phase. In one project, we are one of a project team consisting of six different organisations accountable from the same Borough as one team. Here we are coordinating the social value contributions and reporting it ongoingly to our client, the local authority. Every member of the team has targets to fulfil on from offering work experience places to local schools, school and site visits, and working with employment agencies to offer discover what opportunities there are for re-employment and training in the build. As we are all from the same borough, we are also keeping a local economic footprint here too.
In parts of the country where we work, especially in ‘regeneration areas’ the community is deprived of opportunity and education. In schools we visit, many of the pupils don’t see that a career in architecture is possible for them. They are disempowered, ‘that’s not for them’ comes up as a strong story. They are more interested in the trades jobs. This is valuable information to take back to the schools and in our efforts to regenerate an area – it is cultural regeneration too, and that’s starts with shifting the story of that place, of these young peoples futures and the opportunities available to them. Many of the practices are taking on a local lens and to see where they can make a difference in their practice. We hope this extends beyond the project deadline.
At Greengage, we are taking this on too by starting a training programme for people in our borough Southwark, who wouldn’t usually see this sector as for them. We are taking on our own social value contributions as an organisation too, not just on project work. Again fulfilling on integrating social value, integrating contribution, into everything we do.
Book a CPD with Petronella to explore how to integrate social value into your projects and as an organisation.