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From the Ground Up - Improving the delivery of Social Value in Construction

From the Ground Up – Improving the Delivery of Social Value in Construction

“There is not a common, comprehensive definition of what counts as social value, to frame understanding, benchmarking or reporting, and aid comparison of tenders and to determine best practice. This has given rise to significant disparities in what counts as social value activities, and no requirement to focus on improving the wellbeing of those who are most disadvantaged”.

This is the headline finding of a major construction industry research report, From the Ground Up – Improving the Delivery of Social Value in Construction, published by the Institute of Economic Development (IED) on 30 June 2020. The report finds that there is a “high risk of social value becoming too diffuse and lacking focus” and calls for an immediate step change in procurement, delivery and monitoring impact.

Respondents from construction multi-nationals and SMEs to local authority, public sector and specialist third sector organisations reported that projects spanning geographies have “multiple project stakeholders often competing for social value outputs, different frameworks with differing social value requirements, and a real lack of alignment around desired benefits and outcomes”. There was clear consensus on one of the biggest barriers – “the lack of understanding of what social value is” – and that “substantial improvements need to be made in the monitoring and evaluation of social value”.

The report’s launch marks the culmination of 12 months’ work which has seen the IED and co-authors Arup and Atkins, together with partners Commonplace and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, explore all aspects of social value in the construction sector: procurement, definitions, activities, monitoring and evaluation. The aim of the research was to support understanding of what ‘good practice’ social value looks like, and to find and share examples where innovative, replicable and impactful social value has been delivered at all levels of place-based interventions as a result.

IED Chair Bev Hurley said: “Construction is central to placemaking, economic development and UK employment, and the sector spend is estimated to be £500 billion by the end of this decade. Social value is playing an increasing part in the procurement process, but we found that there are significant challenges across all aspects. There are huge opportunities and requirements for the public sector, industry and government to step up to the plate, to make sure that every one of those construction pounds delivers additional tangible social impact, and makes a major contribution to our most disadvantaged citizens and left-behind communities as we plan our post Covid-19 strategy.”

The study itself involved a combination of surveys, interviews, roundtables and case studies, involving over 80 contributors, and a literature review – leading to five key recommendations (see report to view these in full). 

We have plenty of follow up sessions organised for the remainder of this year including a CPD virtual round table session on Improving Community Engagement running over 3 separate sessions on 23rd September, 21st October and 18th November. This was found to be a key ask from local authorities to ensure that procured social value activities and outcomes are fully aligned to the needs of those communities.

We are also running a number of virtual round table discussions on 'Scoping a Centre of Excellence', one of the key recommendations of the report. These are taking place on the 1st October, 5th November and 3rd December.

Please head over to our events calendar to find out how to book onto these sessions and see what other events the IED and partner organisations are running on social value.