Unlocking Social Value conference write-up

Best practice in creating social value  beyond London

Ilot Fertile regeneration, July 2023. Source: Linkcity

From Oxford to Paris and Chattanooga in Tennessee, there’s a lot we can learn about creating social value from beyond London.

In this international session, the virtual panel discussed best practice in social value projects from the UK and abroad to unpack the lessons to learn.

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Find out about our Unlocking Social Value programme here


  • Oliver Campbell, Development Director, Linkcity and Chief Executive, Uliving (chair)
  • Nigel Carter, Co-founder, Oxford Community Action
  • Simon Grove-White, Principal Economic Development Officer – Community Wealth Building, Oxford City Council
  • Mayor Tim Kelly, Mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee

Nigel Carter, Oxford Community Action
Simon Grove-White, Oxford City Council

Through ‘Owned by Oxford’, the city has joined the global movement of local authorities supporting community wealth building. This approach directs wealth to the local economy and is based on power-sharing and trust.

  • More flexible funding can empower grassroots organisations to be autonomous and to take risks.
  • The type of social value that many grassroots organisations foster isn’t accounted for by mainstream social value frameworks, including The National TOMs.
  • Grassroots organisations aren’t always known to commissioners and council suppliers. Oxford City Council is using an online platform called ‘Match My Project’ to boost the visibility of these organisations and their resource needs.
  • Grassroots community organisations with diverse social networks bring valuable local knowledge and insights. Commissioners should proactively support community organisations developing collaborative and participatory action research initiatives which help to unlock social value.

Tim Kelly, Mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee

In the US, social value is known as community benefit. Mayor Tim Kelly devised a community benefit scheme known as the ‘One Chattanooga Plan’ to tackle pockets of poverty in the city. Here’s how it delivers social value:

  • Community benefit is measured by its capacity to support local workers, improve social determinants of health and ensure existing residents don’t get priced out of an area.
  • Community Benefit Agreements (CBA) are contracts between developers and community organisations that specify how a developer must help a community.
  • The city gets community feedback through its engagement team and via ‘COLAB’, a non-profit business startup accelerator.

Oliver Campbell, Linkcity

The Ilot Fertile regeneration project will deliver the first net zero district in Paris. This innovative social value project was made possible because the City of Paris put social value first:

  • The city procured the project with an open brief which required a certain amount of housing but sought tenders with an innovative approach to creating social cohesion.
  • The design includes the ‘Rosa Living Lab’, a space that will bring together start-ups and big investors and where young people will be invited to share their aspirations for the city.
  • Employment opportunities have been identified as form of potential social benefit from development. France already has recruitment quotas for hiring people with a disability and ex-offenders.

“The key lesson is to be brave. Why not try designing by putting social value first and create ideas out from there, rather than as some kind of add-on or afterthought?”


Although from different parts of the world, there are many similarities in the way these regenerative projects aim to create local community benefit.

Comparing social value projects across different countries can provide new, enlightening ways of thinking about social value. These case studies draw into relief the different and interlocking roles that local authorities, regulation and investors play in delivering social value.

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

Speaker slides

Further reading

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