Unlocking Social Value conference write-up

The skills we need to unlock social value

Many forms of social value delivery focus narrowly on providing apprenticeships or work placements. Our panel argued that by rethinking training, the sector has a chance of developing skills to unlock social value.

In this session the panel took a deep-dive into skills programmes and what they can bring to social value. Speakers explained how to identify what skills matter to a community and reflected on the training practitioners need to be effective facilitators of social value.

More conference write-ups here.
More on our social value programme here.


  • Leila Atallah, Urban Designer, LB Camden and FoL Emerging Talent Programme
  • Danie Gilbert, Director, We Flock CIC & Good Shepherd Studios
  • Cali Ibrahim, Social & Economic Investment Manager, Notting Hill Genesis
  • Nicola Mathers, Chief Executive, Future of London (chair)
  • Helen Milner OBE, Group Chief Executive, Good Things Foundation

Helen Milner OBE, Good Things Foundation

In the UK, 10 million people lack basic digital skills. The Good Things Foundation supports disadvantaged groups to improve digital inclusion, demonstrating what a skills-centred approach has to offer.

  • By focusing on skills, the Good Things Foundation moved away from short-term projects to delivering sustainable social infrastructure.
  • Equipping someone with skills has a strong bearing on how they feel. Digital skills mean access to public services, improved self-esteem and better motivation.
  • In this way, a skills-centred approach to social value is about social justice, strong opportunities and strong communities.

“This isn’t a project; this is about lasting value. We’ve moved from delivering projects and programmes to delivering sustainable social infrastructure for the country.”

Danie Gilbert, We Flock CIC & Good Shepherd Studios

Danie and two other locals created Good Shepherd Studios co-working and community space in Leytonstone after successfully bidding to develop the site for the local community. We Flock CIC was set up to grow the community side of the project. She explained the skills required to uplift community voices.

  • It takes careful listening to understand a community. People are complex and there will always be louder voices and quieter ones.
  • Facilitators need to make everyone feel welcome – this can be the difference between community wealth building and gentrification.
  • At their regular community sessions, they ask residents what skills-based sessions they would like to attend.

“You can’t just say we’ll hold a focus group and then everybody will tell us what they want. There are layers to it.”

Leila Atallah, LB Camden

As a participant of Future of London’s Emerging Talent Programme, Leila worked on social value at Socius. She shared a fresh perspective on skills and social value:

  • Within an organisation social value is often driven by individuals, rather than being built into its culture and processes.
  • After reflecting on community outreach, Socius rethought its plan to commission a food market in Bristol. Instead, it developed a chefs’ academy to upskill local Somali and Caribbean residents and boost inclusivity in the culinary sector.
  • It starts with us: The catering at our events, what we do with the left overs, what we do with the equipment we no longer use – our everyday decisions and habits could be social value.

“The key to social impact lies in the delivery. Social value is often criticised as a tick-box exercise but I think, as long as its being delivered well, it still counts.”

Cali Ibrahim, Notting Hill Genesis

Skills are essential to social value, with over three of the five criteria defining social value in the 2013 Social Value Act mention skills. Over 10% of 16-24 year olds are unemployed in London as lower-skilled young people struggle to climb the ladder. Here’s what organisations can do better:

  • Procurement, such as commissioning social enterprises and SMEs, could play a key role in upskilling local people. It can enable them to have a much greater role in supporting their communities and future-proofing jobs and apprenticeships.
  • Tier 1 developers treat apprenticeship levies, planning agreements and planning obligations as three separate entities. They need an integrated social value approach to create sustained opportunities for local people.
  • Ultimately, organisations need to work transparently with communities to help them realise their ambitions.

“The most important capital in the world of work is skills. Skills are crucial support systems for economic prosperity, impacting social mobility, health and wellbeing, and civic life.”


Skills have a vital part to play in rethinking social value. Upskilling communities helps drive social justice, an inclusive economy and ensures that developments bring people with them rather than displacing them.

Thinking in terms of skills also requires the sector to take a long-term legacy approach. The panel argued strongly that skills development should be an important criterion for measuring social value impact.

Further Reading


Find out more about our Unlocking Social Value research programme here.

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

Photo: xpgomes12 via FlickrSocial