Best Practice in Creating Social Value Beyond London
When it comes to creating social value, the lessons to be learned extend far beyond the bustling communities of London. A recent international session, led by Future of London at their annual conference, brought together experts from various corners of the globe to discuss best practices in social value initiatives that have the potential to reshape communities and improve lives beyond the boundaries of our capital.
Bouygues UK is proud to be working closely with Future of London as one of their new partners and co-sponsors of their major social value programme for 2023, Unlocking Social Value, alongside sister company Linkcity. This year-long programme of events and practice-based research considers exactly how the construction and development industry can better understand the needs of communities and look at the social value contribution of community-led initiatives both within London and beyond.
The panel of speakers at this enlightening session around best practice in creating social value beyond London during this year’s conference which focusing particularly on social value included Oliver Campbell, Development Director at Linkcity who chaired the discussion.
Joining him were Nigel Carter, Co-founder of Oxford Community Action, Simon Grove-White, Principal Economic Development Officer focused on Community Wealth Building at Oxford City Council, and Mayor Tim Kelly, the Mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Oliver, Nigel and Simon all shared business examples of where their respective companies have successfully contributed to the social value of the communities within which they work.
Paris Puts Social Value First
In the heart of Europe, Paris has embarked on an innovative social value project through the Îlot Fertile regeneration project. This venture aims to deliver the first net-zero district in Paris and what sets this project apart is the city’s commitment to putting social value at the forefront of its objectives. Paris procured the project with an open brief, calling for innovative approaches to creating social cohesion with Bouygues UK and Linkcity responding with a variety of residential tenures and accessible sports facilities, beyond just housing development, and a long-term commitment to stewardship from the development partners. The project even includes the ‘Rosa Living Lab,’ a space for the community, entrepreneurs, and youth to collaborate and share their visions for the city.
As part of local labour commitments during construction, France already has recruitment quotas for hiring people with a disability and ex-offenders and employment opportunities have also been identified as form of potential social benefit from the Îlot Fertile development.
Oxford’s Approach: Community Wealth Building
Through ‘Owned by Oxford’, the city has joined the global movement of local authorities supporting community wealth building. This approach emphasizes local economic growth, power-sharing, and trust as the foundations of social value creation.
One key insight from Oxford is that flexible funding can empower grassroots organizations to be more autonomous and willing to take calculated risks. Often, the social value generated by these grassroots groups goes unnoticed in mainstream frameworks. To bridge this gap, the Oxford City Council initiated the ‘Match My Project’ online platform, aimed at boosting the visibility of these organizations and their resource requirements.
Furthermore, grassroots organizations with diverse social networks bring invaluable local knowledge and insights to the table. Commissioners and council suppliers are encouraged to actively support these community organizations in developing collaborative and participatory action research initiatives. These initiatives, in turn, unlock untapped social value.
Chattanooga’s Community Benefit Scheme
Across the Atlantic, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, social value takes the form of community benefits. Mayor Tim Kelly’s ‘One Chattanooga Plan’ was developed to address pockets of poverty in the city. This plan measures community benefit by its capacity to support local workers, enhance social determinants of health, and prevent the displacement of existing residents due to rising costs of living.
Key to Chattanooga’s approach is Community Benefit Agreements (CBA), contractual arrangements between developers and community organizations which outline the developer’s obligations towards the community. The city actively collects feedback from the community through its engagement team and the ‘COLAB’ non-profit business startup accelerator.
A Global Perspective: Lessons in Social Value
These diverse case studies from Oxford, Chattanooga, and Paris reveal that despite geographical disparities, there are striking similarities in how these regenerative projects aim to benefit local communities. These case studies highlight the intricate roles played by local authorities, regulations, and investors in delivering high-impact social value.
Perhaps the most important lesson learnt from this session is the need for commitment from all stakeholders to design projects with social value as the driving force behind them, rather than a mere afterthought. As these cities demonstrate, putting social value first leads to innovative ideas and transformative outcomes that enhance the well-being of communities around the world.
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