Conference considers ways to unlock social value in the built environment

Summer fun at the South Bank (Photo: Garry Knight on Flickr)

As social impact becomes the main goal of development, we ask who is responsible for defining and delivering value for communities.

Creating social value is increasingly seen as a primary goal of housing and regeneration projects, which requires a long-term view of community benefits and a rethink of measuring impact.

These are among the key points the speakers will make in the opening session of Future of London’s major conference, Unlocking Social Value.

The conference brings together over 30 speakers from across the built environment sector to consider ways to create more social value for communities.

Read the full Unlocking Social Value conference programme here.
Find out more about our social value research programme here.

Why the long view is essential

Andrew van Doorn OBE is chief executive of HACT. The charity that partners with organisations across the housing sector to drive social value for residents and communities. HACT enables collaboration and innovation, with an emphasis on data and insight.

Andrew van Doorn says:
“We need to take a long-term view and make long-term decisions if we want to make an impact. There has been poverty for centuries in some parts of London so we are fooling ourselves if we think that we can change that in a few years. And not just fooling ourselves but fooling the communities where we want to work.

“Social value has to be about the impact we want to make – the social, economic and environmental impact. But no one organisation or group can or should try to define what that impact should be. Engaging with people in communities about what they want, and need is the best starting point.”

Looking beyond economic growth

Professor Henrietta Moore of University College London is the other keynote in the opening session. She is founder and director of the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity, which challenges traditional economic growth models.

Professor Moore emphasises the importance of looking beyond economic growth to assess social value.

IGP has developed the London Prosperity Index to describe what matters to people living and working in London. The index puts economic factors such as household income in the context of other priorities such as housing affordability, community safety and secure employment.

Professor Henrietta Moore says:
“Central to the concept of social value is whether people are leading flourishing and fulfilling lives in the places where they live. Do they feel prosperous and whose or what value are we referring to?

“Understanding the needs and priorities of citizens and communities from a bottom-up place-based approach is key to answering these questions and unlocking social value.

“Rethinking social value for the 21st century means gaining a profound understanding of the interrelated and interdependent assets that constitute the foundation for sustainable prosperity and secure livelihoods. We need to think about systems as relational and interconnected and embrace a social value approach to the economy at the local level”

Unlocking social value is becoming the main goal

Future of London’s member organisations across the public, private and voluntary sectors say they are increasingly focused on creating social value.

Nicola Mathers, Chief Executive of Future of London, says:
“Over the last decade, interest in how social value is delivered through regeneration and development schemes has rapidly increased. But the growing importance of social value has led to formulaic approaches that are disconnected from the local people they’re intended to benefit.

“We believe that the justification for a social value-led approach is clear: Brexit, the pandemic, and a cost-of-living crisis have made the experience of poverty and inequality in London more acute and complex.

“Our annual conference will explore how the built environment sector can deliver more meaningful social value. But we’ll also acknowledge that the sector is on a learning journey that the public, private and third sectors must embark upon together to ensure a longer-term legacy of social value is created through development and regeneration projects.”

Other plenary and breakout sessions at Unlocking Social Value include:

  • Beyond the tickbox: levers and barriers to delivering meaningful social value
  • Measuring and evidencing the impact of social value
  • Social value: whose responsibility is it?
  • The skills we need to rethink social value
  • Beyond London: best practice from the UK and abroad

Social value research programme

The ideas and case study learning discussed at the conference will feed into the Future of London research programme on social value. We will particularly consider ways to collaborate with communities to understand local needs, and create cross-sector partnerships to maximise impact.

Following a series of workshops and roundtables involving a wide range of built environment stakeholders, we will publish the final report in Spring 2024.

*** The conference is now full. We will publish write-ups of every session with slides and video clips. ***

You can find out more about the Unlocking Social Value research programme and join our mailing list here.

Thanks to our programme sponsors

Bouygues UK Countryside Partnerships Linkcity UK Mount Anvil
Pollard Thomas Edwards Trowers & Hamlins Yoo Capital

Thanks to our conference sponsors

Commonplace Lovell Montagu Evans