Unlocking Social Value conference write-up

What is social value and what has it achieved?

Our conference keynote speakers explored the definition of social value in the built environment and how to unlock its potential for the communities we serve. Read their key points and download speaker slides below.

More conference write-ups here.
Find out about our social value programme for 2023/24 here.


  • Andrew van Doorn OBE, Chief Executive, HACT
  • Professor Henrietta Moore, Founder & Director, UCL Institute for Global Prosperity

Andrew van Doorn OBE, HACT

Social value is fundamentally about intentional impact, which delivers what a community wants and needs. Here are some key ideas to keep in mind:

  • HACT uses Wellbeing Valuation to measure social value and focusing on improving wellbeing as way of challenging conventional ideas about what growth means.
  • No one person has the answer to social value; it’s created through collaboration.
  • Social value, particularly in the built environment, is an opportunity to think about long-term, transformational change. Far beyond development cycles, it’s about being the custodians of a place and being “good ancestors”.
  • Social value delivery is global and local, for example by using the UN Sustainable Development Goals to drive forward sustainable places, people and planet.

“Social value has a golden thread. We’re only really delivering social value if we’re locating it in the wants and needs of the communities in which we work. We’ve got to keep coming back to that golden thread.” – Andrew van Doorn


Professor Henrietta Moore, UCL Institute for Global Prosperity

There is momentum behind social value. It’s now featuring in infrastructure projects, by for example National Highways, where it has not traditionally been considered. The challenge will be bridging the implementation gap between policy and meaningful delivery.

  • We need to start by leaving behind the implicit assumption that economic value creates social value. Economic prosperity is decoupled from social prosperity, where doing well economically is detached from flourishing socially.
  • Social value must have social purpose and not simply be an additive exercise of listing outcomes but rather attend to the underlying systems and structures that make up the fabric of society.
  • We’re still measuring what we can measure and not what we should. We should aim to map out clear progressions: from values, to solutions, to pathways, to outcomes.
  • The Institute for Global Prosperity’s ‘Citizen Prosperity Index’ uses a place-based approach to identify exactly what matters to people. It sets up new collaborations with a range of stakeholders to improve policy formulation, create targeted outcomes and build trust.
  • Social value rooted in economic terms is based on improving employment and incomes but crucially misses the relational approach of the intersections between a broader notion of livelihood security.
  • A key aspect of social value underpinned within UCL’s Citizen Science Academy is co-production, co-design, citizen engagement, deliberative participation and actively working with boroughs and developers.
  • Enhancing social value is about promoting collective capacities in context and can be achieved by taking a social value approach to the economy at the local level.

“Social value is not a problem to be solved, so you can tick a box on a list. Social value is about systemic flourishing – living well within a set of interlocking systems that are dynamically related.” – Professor Henrietta Moore


Social value is created when collaboration enables us to identify the specific needs of a place and respond to them, even as they change over time.

Successful social value has a ‘golden thread’ that links community need to intentional impact.

This image of a ‘golden thread’ of social value was picked up throughout the conference, in the discussions that followed on social value measurement, skills and delivery.

Download speaker slides

Further Resources

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