Delivering social value (3): How to implement a successful social value programme
Last month, we brought you the first two articles in our social value series. They outlined:
- The general concept of social value and how to establish a practical approach to producing a social value programme (link), and
- Social value doesn’t come for free (link).
Now we want to take a look at how we implement social value successfully, taking into account timescales, programme and budget.
So, how do you implement it successfully?
Let’s think logically; if you want to build an extension on your house, you get the right people involved before you do any of the work, be it a surveyor, architect, builder or tradesperson. Now apply the same principle to social value – to get the most out of a social value programme, you need to get your team on board from the get-go.
In this case, that means engaging the contractor at preconstruction stage when commitments to social value activities are established. If you don’t, you risk having an imbalance of client and stakeholder expectations verses what is reasonably deliverable by the site team. That doesn’t mean say expectations should be lowered, just that they should be considered.
The UKGBC recently set out an 8-step process for delivering social value, which we believe from experience is a good basis for social value, and can be applied to any project
- Agree social value purpose
- Identify priority stakeholders
- Understand stakeholders needs
- Agree social value outcomes
- Create a social value delivery plan
- Put in place social value measurement system
- Execute your social value delivery plan
- Ongoing measurement monitoring and reporting.
Working with the programme
Activities must be able to reasonably fit into the delivery programme, which again needs to be considered at tender stage. The project will often have Social Value Plans provided during the bid stage and, therefore, these requirements are effectively a contracted activity – the delivery of which is mandatory. Particularly on high profile or community-centred sites, SV activities can take place sometimes weekly, so if they aren’t incorporated into the programme, you risk project delays from Day One, and potentially costly Extension of Time applications to the client.
For longer projects, successful implementation can be easily achieved by spreading the activities out across the duration of the scheme and choosing ones which align with specific construction phases. For example, if you are going to hold a bricklaying ceremony with students from a local college, incorporate this into the programme of works at the bricklaying stage. This also applies to ideas such as tree planting or steel frame signings.
All social value commitments made should be proportionate to the geographical area and value of the project. There is a much higher chance of engagement with the site team, if the SV schedule they are supporting is relative rather than stretching resources which are not available in reality.
Frameworks can be guilty offenders in this regard, whereby projects grouped by region rather than value have the same expectations when delivered by a Tier 1 or SME.
Often we find the client to be much more realistic about what’s achievable in their local communities, and so responsibility for SV commitments could be better established with the specific client, rather than a generalised approach (we spoke more about this in our previous article).
Social value delivery is a collaborative effort, and often we work alongside our supply chain to ensure targets are met and activities are incorporated into their time on site too. This can include meeting the target number of apprentices employed on the scheme through indirect employment (where apprentices are employed by subcontractors as opposed to the main contractor).
This can become more challenging for smaller schemes which may only be on site for a number of weeks or months. As before, it should become a discussion with the client specifically as to what they would like to achieve with their social value goals and the realistic delivery capacity of the site team.
Monitoring and reporting successes
As social value has gained traction in the past few years, there are now several ways to monitor and report on activities. Some frameworks and clients have mandated systems which contractors must use, other times it is down to the contractor to submit their own report.
Either way, it is important to establish what is being reported on, how the data is collated and how it is reported. Often a monthly report is the most effective way to assess what has been achieved to date. By breaking down the social value activities into the delivery programme, this should make the reporting process easier. Reporting should then assess if targets have been met or exceeded, and evidence collated and uploaded it to the appropriate portal or platform.
But why the extra paperwork?
Social value reporting is important to establish accountability, ensuring commitments have been met, but also to set benchmarks and enable innovations and improvements to be made further down the line. By sharing our performance data, we can promote best practice and drive industry change for the better.
Many major public sector frameworks mandate a Social Value Plan, reporting and tangible completion of agreed Social Value tasks. Failure to deliver these activities and plans is seen as a failure to comply with the framework KPIs and risks a contractor’s position on these frameworks.
But what about external factors?
In an ideal world, everyone on site is prepared to support with the delivery of social value, local organisations are willing to get involved and the project’s delivery goes exactly to plan, meaning that all activities incorporated into the programme are running to schedule.
However, it’s not surprise that construction does not always run this smoothly!
At Speller Metcalfe, we’re lucky to have teams who will go out of their way to ensure their presence on site benefits the surrounding community, even when social value isn’t a requirement. However, we know first-hand that sometimes things happen which mean that social value isn’t delivered on time or to the set-out requirements.
When this happens, it is important to continue the open and clear lines of communication with those that you report social value back to, whether that be the client, framework or stakeholders. As long as you have had a beneficial presence on site, and set out to achieve your targets, clients are likely to be understanding.
Clear and open communication from pre-construction to post-construction is the key to the successful implementation of social value on all projects. Everyone involved should be aware of their role and how they can work together to create a project that has sustainable and positive, long-term impact on the community.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to deliver social value successfully and know that they have positive legacy on the communities they work in. As a regional contractor, many of our staff live within the towns, cities and counties in which we operate, so are directly aware of the impact and importance of social value.
Successfully implementing social value is of benefit to us all!