Why engaging residents is essential to create social value

At the workshop during our conference, we asked if social value is really transforming lives. That will only happen if we engage residents in creating social value, says workshop leader Nina Burich.

“Social value can transform lives” is a phrase I jotted down at the conference. This ambition drives our social value work, and provides a bold reminder to review the impact we are making.

Resident engagement is a fundamental element of any meaningful and impactful social value programme or project.  If we are to transform lives and deliver social impact, we need to know what matters to people. We can only begin to achieve this by engaging them.

More on the workshop and other conference write-ups
More on our social value programme here.

As the workshop chair,  I offered some ways to engage residents in creating social value. My view is that we should continue to push the boundaries of what we can achieve together. Data and organisational expertise are important. We need professionals delivering social value or social impact projects.

Engaging residents to create social value

But it is through collaboration and co-design with residents that we can ensure that we achieve the impact of social value and transform lives. So how can we engage residents in social value and be more collaborative?

Here are some ideas for engaging residents to create social value in your project:

  • Seek to understand how the lives of local people are shaped by the built environment, and work with residents to define the social value that is delivered through a built environment scheme
  • Fund or deliver meaningful and authentic social value projects by working with local people to understand their aspirations, what matters to them, and what will make a difference to their lives
  • Ensure a wide range of residents are involved in social value conversations by carefully considering the methods and language used to engage and communicate these opportunities
  • Work with residents to prioritise what projects should be delivered, for whom, and when. (This is particularly important if there are many social value opportunities you could be delivering.)

Ways to get the most out of resident involvement

Once a group of residents is involved, these are some projects areas you could work on together:

  • Explore together the relationships between social, health, employment, housing and other determinants. Discuss what other providers or funding can deliver a more holistic approach to transforming lives
  • Discuss and decide on social value measurements together to demonstrate how social value has contributed to lives and places in ways that matter to local people and other stakeholders
  • Involve residents in the procurement and delivery of social value projects – from scoping a brief and scoring, through to contract management and evaluation. Ensure that providers deliver the social value required for residents, and support joint decision making

The extent to which you can implement these ways of engaging will depend on your role and programme. But even small social value projects can use some basic engagement to ensure projects are meaningful to residents.

Engaging residents needs resources and providing support

Ensure there are resources to involve residents in your social value programme, and that residents are well supported through this process.  It is worth considering that through the process of involving residents, you may deliver social value by building knowledge, skills, confidence and experience of residents.

Good quality engagement is essential to build trust and confidence in your programme. If you don’t have the engagement expertise or capacity in house, look to find an organisation that can advise and support you or use best practice guides.

Lastly, continue to reflect on your process and impact, and build on it with residents where possible.

I have been fortunate to have spent the last two decades engaging with people, understanding their experiences, and involving them in opportunities. I have experienced the power of empathy and seen the knowledge which is gained through engagement. This can improve lives and change views, places and services.

As a resident myself, I have experienced the frustration and disappointment when social value doesn’t reflect community aspirations. For me, it felt like the proposed offer had been pulled from a shelf and wasn’t clear if local people would be involved. This was a missed opportunity to shape social value and collaborate at an early stage in the project.

Hearing the resident voice at our conference

Poorvi Mehta is a resident who came to the conference with me. I met Poorvi at an event several years ago. She said she didn’t want to wait until her estate in south west London had been regenerated to share her views. It would be too late by then to make a difference.

Two women sitting closely together and smiling with a window in the background
Nina and Poorvi at the social value conference

After  joining the Community Board, Poorvi has been fully engaged in the regeneration programme, including providing feedback on the design of the estate and procuring a joint venture partner.

“At first, I was overwhelmed by the complexity of social value,” Poorvi said after the conference. “But as the day went on, I also felt hopeful in learning that there were so many people passionate about social value. I also feel that sharing my experience helped show the impact meaningful engagement can have on, not just communities, but individuals as well.”

Our shared view is that if you are involved in any project with any social value, engaging residents to create social value is essential and rewarding. Together, you can make a difference.

Nina Burich is Principal Consultant at Mobilise. She can be contacted at nina@mobilise.org

Thanks to our programme sponsors

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

Thanks to our conference sponsors

Commonplace Lovell and Montagu Evans