Delivering social value (1): A personal touch

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Delivering social value (1): A personal touch

It’s no great secret that the construction industry has a significant impact on the environment and communities in which it operates – much of it for the better – supporting regeneration, environmental improvements and modernisation to name a few.

However, some activities can undoubtedly do the opposite, and it’s our responsibility to minimise and – where possible – improve our performance and leave a positive legacy for the communities we work with and in.

To address these issues, the concept of delivering social value has gained increasing attention in recent years, following the introduction of the Public Services Social Value Act in 2013, followed by PPN06/20 in 2020 – a new, government-led model for evaluating bids based on the social value they deliver – rather than just focusing on cost.


But what is social value?

In the broadest sense, social value encompasses the positive social, environmental, and economic impacts that construction projects can have on local communities. It includes measures such as creating jobs, reducing carbon emissions, supporting local suppliers, and promoting diversity and inclusion.

In essence, social value is about ensuring that construction projects deliver benefits that go beyond simply fulfilling contractual obligations.

As an industry, construction has generally been proactive in responding to leaving a positive legacy and we are well-versed in best practice strategies such as Considerate Constructors Scheme engagement. With clients now recognising the impact business can have, many are now developing strategies to maximize the social value of their projects, working closely with local communities, suppliers, and stakeholders to identify opportunities and create positive outcomes.


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School visit at the Forest of Dean Community Hospital


For Speller Metcalfe, delivering social value has become an integral part of our project approach; not just a bid-winning strategy, it aligns with the values we aspire to as a company, contributing to our ethos and making sure we live up to “what it says on the tin”:

Forward-thinking | Sustainability | Family |  Safety | Honesty | Collaboration

Whilst not always possible, what we have found to be integral to project social value success is when members of the project team can personalise their contribution to its delivery.

For example, if an individual is working towards a personal goal such as a marathon, they might choose to fundraise for the scheme. Or for a keen baker, taking part in a mental health tea and cake day could become a bake-off challenge to improve engagement and support conversations around mental health. On one project, we had a shoelace initiative in place, where visitors and staff could pay for a pair of site boot laces that represented a charity close to their heart, with donations going to their chosen charity of choice – the uptake and response exceeding all expectations.


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Charity shoelace initiative


A current example of one of projects driving their social value delivery is the Forest of Dean Community Hospital on behalf of Gloucestershire Health and Care NHS Foundation Trust, which is now just over halfway through the programme. Initiatives driven by the site team have included:

  • Building a BBQ communal area with surplus materials to promote workforce integration and host events;
  • A ‘bring your family’ to work day and primary school visits with activities for young children;
  • Provision of staff surplus coats and jumpers for homeless residents;
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  • Leaving donations for local residents in the cost of living crisis
  • Participation of dyslexic staff in raising awareness and encouraging others to not let it be a barrier to career choices;
  • The project manager achieving his personal goal of training as a Mental Health First Aider;
  • Regular client healthcare professional site visits and signings of the hospital structure to leave their mark;
  • Interviews and CV workshops and work experience placements with local college students.

The result of having a highly engaged team personally, is a number of positive social outcomes for the community, evidenced by their most recent Considerate Constructors Scheme visit that resulted in a fantastic 42/45 score.


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Healthcare professionals make their mark with a steel signing event


However, while the hospital project is an exemplar for social delivery at Speller Metcalfe with a client who has supported and promoted its delivery from Day 1, this can occasionally be the exception.

Over recent years, social value has become a buzzword for industry and while many schemes go in with eyes wide open, there are others that could be described as ‘jumping on the bandwagon’, with a lack of thought process and unrealistic expectations of their contractor. Follow us to read our next article on Delivering social value (2): A practical approach, to find out about our experience and advice on a ‘realistic’ approach to social value.

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