Unlocking Social Value conference write-up

Measuring and evidencing the impact of social value

The sector is facing increasing calls for measuring and evidencing social value. Yet there’s disagreement about what good measurement looks like and whether standard metrics are likely to help or hinder delivery.

The panel debated four different approaches to measuring social value. Read on to find out where disagreements lay and the common ground they found.

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

Speakers

  • Stephen Biggs, Corporate Director – Community Wealth Building, LB Islington
  • Sarah Eastham, Partner – Engagement, Pollard Thomas Edwards
  • Stephanie Edwards, Co-Founding Director, Urban Symbiotics
  • Bianca Goulden, Head of Communities, L&Q
  • Kate Ives, Strategic Director, Countryside Partnerships (chair)

Kate Ives reflects on the key takeaways from the session 

Stephen Biggs, LB Islington

We must measure social value so it can inform policy. LB Islington has developed its own criteria to assess its social value impact. Here’s how to create a framework for your organisation:

  • Pick elements of the National TOMs framework to focus on, keeping in mind your internal goals and possible remit.
  • LB Islington chose to focus on community wealth building and procurement. Creating inclusive local economies is important to help tackle acute inequality in Islington.
  • A scoring system can help embed high social value standards across procurement, leasing and planning policies.

“For every penny we spend, 20% of how we score suppliers is based on social value. It’s not a series of token suggestions – it needs to be explicit, measurable things.”

 

Bianca Goulden, L&Q

L&Q recently created its own measurement system, with the goal of bridging the gap between corporate and resident understandings of social value. Here’s how L&Q takes a resident-centred approach:

  • The ‘placemaking assessment tool’ measures eight domains selected to cover both corporate and resident expectations of social value.
  • The outputs of the tool are rated red, amber and green with suggested recommendations to improve placemaking which are unique to the specific development and community.
  • Secondly, L&Q carries out a longitudinal study with Social Life to measure the impacts of the regeneration taking place at Acton Gardens. Resident interviews and local architectural studies are undertaken, which creates standardised outputs that can be easily compared. As part of our resident governance structure, L&Q also schedules bimonthly meetings throughout the development process for residents to express concerns or desires and to hold us to account that the outputs and recommendations are being undertaken.

“We should be measuring social value, but only if we can respond in action-bound ways.”

Sarah Eastham, Pollard Thomas Edwards

In her opening remarks, Sarah suggested that social value should not just be monetised. Approaches to social value must be organic if they’re to meet the differing resident and community priorities. Here’s how a place-based approach offers an alternative:

  • Pollard Thomas Edwards adopts an agile approach that enables residents to benefit from the social value impact far beyond what was initially imagined. Working ‘with’ communities, not ‘to’ communities, empowering and providing skills and tools beyond the project itself.
  • In partnership with the University of Reading, Pollard Thomas Edwards is developing The Happy Homes toolkit to analyse the social value brought about by the best practice built environment, via building information modelling (BIM) and post-occupancy evaluations to track, measure and evaluate.
  • Sarah warned that whilst there will be a need to demonstrate a monetisation it does not always reveal the breadth of social value benefits for residents – listening, co-creating and empowering communities through the design process adds genuine value both in the short and long term.

“What brings joy? What makes a home special? Good homes and place-making should have an inherent social value which can be evidenced in design and our BIM modelling toolkit .”

 

Stephanie Edwards, Urban Symbiotics

When it comes to measurement, it’s important to remember that social value is unique to a place and people. In this spirit, here’s Urban Symbiotics’ steps for how to spot and then support place-specific social value:

  1. Understand: Find out what intercommunity support-structures already exist and how they provide social value.
  2. Co-create and realise: Through user participation, design to amplify this pre-existing social value. Gather stakeholder feedback with an open mind.
  3. Own and use: Community input should be so evident in the final design that it’s plain for anyone to see. For example, Urban Symbiotics facilitated a community mural on ‘what social value looks like to you’.

“Social value should continue without us. People should be able to own and use a place, to replicate that value and grow it in a way that really works for them.”

 

Conclusions

The panel was divided on how measurement can drive social value delivery.

Pollard Thomas Edwards and Urban Symbiotics warn that a place-specific understanding of social value must emerge through user consultation.

In contrast, LB Islington and L&Q favour adopting frameworks inspired by industry standards such as the HACT and TOMs frameworks. They create data sets that can be compared and enforced.

Speaker slides

Further Reading

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

Thanks to our programme sponsors Bouygues UK Countryside Partnerships Linkcity Mount Anvil Pollard Thomas Edwards Trowers & Hamlins and Yoo Capital.

Thanks to our conference sponsors Commonplace Lovell and Montagu Evans