Unlocking Social Value conference write-up
Whose responsibility is social value?
With the professionalisation of social value, developers are increasingly asked to deliver social impact and improve places and not just property. But whose responsibility is social value and are private sector partners best placed to create it?
This session delved into the vital question of responsibility that’s often forgotten amidst debates on defining and measuring social value.
- Paul Augarde, Director, Augarde & Partners (chair)
- Pete Gladwell, Group Social Impact & Investment Director, Legal & General
- Louise Page-Jennings, Director of Communications & Social Impact, Yoo Capital
- Mike Saunders, Chief Executive, Commonplace
- Amandeep Singh Kalra, Associate Director, Be First
Amandeep Singh Kalra, Be First
For Amandeep, there’s a lot to be gained if local authorities double-down on social value delivery. Local authorities also have a pivotal role to play in leading the social value mission and they can be bolder in their demands on the private sector.
- Local authorities are important conveners and can bring together all key stakeholders before the first plan or design is drawn – enabling all parties to express social value expectations.
- Local authorities can focus developers and investors with clearer and even bespoke objectives for social value.
- If contractors are brought in earlier and involved until the end, they’ll not just become responsible for delivery of social value but active champions of it.
“As local authorities, it’s our responsibility to use our knowledge of local need to set social value aspirations and requirements. But it’s the people that we partner with that should be helping deliver those.”
Louise Page-Jennings, Yoo Capital
There’s a need for the sector to upgrade social impact from piecemeal delivery to a comprehensive approach. This means discussing social value from the beginning of a development and broadening stakeholder participation throughout.
- The best social value projects are created when consultants and investors work with multiple teams in a council, such as planning, economic development and regeneration.
- Involving community representatives saves money in the long run because it prevents post-occupancy disputes.
- We often forget that, in the status quo, developers quietly dictate who gets to live where and what social value is.
“Developers must ask themselves, who’s not involved – and how can we bring them in?”
Mike Saunders, Commonplace
Whilst effective delivery relies on collaboration from the private sector, councils are ultimately accountable for overseeing the delivery of social value. Communities also have a responsibility to be active participants in the definition and delivery of social value.
- Local authorities can be stricter when commissioning projects that deliver social value. There’s room to push the private sector further if their social value objectives are better defined.
- In many cases, the private sector will jump higher, if it’s clearer what they need to jump over.
- Politicians should make it clear how their policies and programmes will unlock social value. If social value isn’t a central part of their agenda, then we as voters should be asking: ‘why not?’
- Commonplace’s ‘Citizen Engagement Platform’ empowers residents to participate fully in discussions about their neighbourhood, including creating a shared understanding of community needs, and commenting on proposals for regeneration projects.
“The private sector will jump higher, if it’s clearer what they need to jump over.”
Pete Gladwell, Legal & General
L&G has been exploring how its resources can better benefit society. Here’s how we need to rethink insurance for social impact:
- Large insurance firms steward millions of pounds from the public’s pensions. They have a social as well as fiduciary duty to the public.
- Insurance companies should be welcoming of the public asking how they are using their investments to improve people’s lives.
- Insurance firms are responsible for finding the right partners that can deliver both social value and financial return. It’s not enough to include social value as an afterthought or way of ‘giving back’.
“The public should be asking investors: what are you doing with my money to improve the lives of others?”
We need to ensure that a broader range of stakeholders are involved earlier in the development process. This will help stakeholders establish shared expectations and create a thread of social value knowledge and responsibility from inception through to delivery.
The private sector should welcome the public sector and public more broadly becoming more vocal and demanding of social value. Public players can be bolder when commissioning social value and holding the private sector to account.
Find out more about our Unlocking Social Value research programme here.