Why developers should fund evaluation of social value legacy

Abandoned industrial buildings by a dock against a blue sky with a red motor boat speeding away from the quayside
Creating social value: Lendlease is developing the Millennium Mills at Silvertown, Royal Docks

Partners in major housing and regeneration schemes should create a “developer endowment” to pay for a full evaluation of their social value legacy, according to our new research report.

In a new report, Social Value: How to be a good ancestor, Future of London recommends that major projects should end with a “developer endowment” to pay for data collection and community involvement. The findings would enable a full evaluation ten years after the project is completed.

The endowment would create community capacity to gather data and pay community members for their time to take part in engagement activities in the years following completion. We think the endowment would guarantee funding so a full assessment of the long-term social value can be carried out.

Download Social Value: How to be a good ancestor here

Crowd-sourced advice from practitioners and communities

The report is published after an “action learning” research project led by Future of London. We involved around 500 built environment practitioners and community representatives with experience of regeneration. The report introduction says:

“Collectively we were intrigued by the long-term view and the shift in thinking needed to work beyond project boundaries and timelines. We wanted to ask what it means to be a ‘good ancestor’ in the context of delivering better social value.”

The Public Services (Social Value) Act came into force in 2013 and requires public authorities to consider “economic, social and environmental well-being” in public service contracts.  A decade on, social value has become a major talking point in the built environment sector.

The report defines social value by two important criteria:

  • Put communities impacted by change at the centre of social value with interventions grounded in community need.
  • Social value is about processes and not just outcomes. This includes support for enabling local knowledge to influence development decisions.

Community involvement is key to creating social value

Maria Adebowale-Schwarte, Commissioner for the London Sustainable Development Commission, highlighted the importance of community involvement in a foreword to the report.

“People need to be actively involved in decisions that affect their lives and livelihoods,” she says. “We need to critically assess our own actions when dealing with all economic, environmental and social issues.

“We need to create better synergies between town planning, health, culture, heritage, community engagement, sustainable development, safe spaces and environmental justice.”

The report introduces the concept of becoming a “good ancestor”. We urge development partners to think long-term by adopting a “legacy mindset” as one of five principles for development.

Other social value legacy principles include aiming for transformative change and considering the gaps between initiatives.

Royal Docks case study shows social value in action

Through case studies ranging from grassroots community research to the major development by Lendlease at Silvertown, Royal Docks, the report highlights how to involve communities in decisions affecting the places they live.

Mural on the side of a house with a group of people and the words Custom House, Our House
Custom House is Our House by Jessie Brennan. Curated by UP Projects and commissioned by the Royal Docks GLA Team. Image: Thierry Bal

“For us, becoming a good ancestor means not only generating added value during the construction phase, but also understanding and working toward implementing long-term models of stewardship that take effect once the development is operational,” says Zen Mumtaz, Socio-Economic Development Manager at Lendlease.

Newham residents have learned community-based research skills at the UCL Citizen Science Academy, which have been applied at the Royal Docks development.

“We’re keeping the community connected to the people who can actually make a difference,” says citizen scientist, Twinkle Jayakumar. “I’ve worked with Lendlease, Royal Docks and Newham Council. I’d like to see is how the data gathered from the Citizen Science prosperity research will be used in the long term.”

The importance of evaluation of social value legacy

The report also highlights the work of Social Life, a not-for-profit organisation specialising in the social impact of change in the built environment.

They have undertaken long-term evaluation of regeneration projects, including a commission by Notting Hill Genesis in 2023. Social Life is developing a social value indicator framework for Grahame Park Estate in Barnet.

Social Value: How to be a good ancestor provides built environment professionals with resources to enable them to put a legacy mindset into practice. The report is packed with guidance and case studies of successful approaches to community involvement.

Download Social Value: How to be a good ancestor here
Find out more about the project with downloadable workshop resources here

Thank you to our project partners

The project was supported by Future of London partners, Bouygues UKCountryside PartnershipsMount Anvil, Pollard Thomas EdwardsTrowers & Hamlins and Yoo Capital.