Social Value: Q&A with Jeff Joseph

At Bouygues UK, Social Value is one of the three pillars that underpins our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy. We are fortunate enough to have a great team of people who are motivated by challenge and genuine passion to apply their knowledge, skills and experience to make a difference.

We spoke to Jeff Joseph, our Head of Social Value, about what it means for him.

Who are you and what is your role?

My name is Jeff Joseph and I am Head of Social Value for Bouygues UK. From a professional perspective, I would classify myself as a seasoned and experienced Manager who has a comprehensive understanding of Community Regeneration. I believe I have the knowledge and qualities required to manage teams effectively.

On a personal level, I am a husband, father and grandfather who lives in rural Essex. I enjoy good restaurants, cooking, travel, music and discovering new places; no outstanding hobbies, but I do spend a lot of time researching holidays and places to go.

What made you want to work in Social Value? What lead you to this career?

My career path has been one of natural progression after I started my career 28 years ago as a Resident Liaison Officer.

Working in the capacity of

  • Resident & Project Liaison
  • Community Regeneration
  • Communications Manager
  • Community Development Coordinator
  • Community Investment Manager
  • Head of Social Value

for three main Contractors. This experience provided me with the skillset I needed to join Bouygues UK in June 2019.

The roles above exposed me to every aspect of Community Regeneration (the forerunner to Social Value), with a comprehensive perspective of all things pertaining to Social Value.

After working with a Tier 2 Contractor for 20 years, I was ready to take up the position with a Tier 1 Contractor like Bouygues UK to really make a difference and to strategically lead a team of Advisors across the UK.

With my skills set (and outlook on life) I cannot imagine (or would wish to) work in another sector, this role brings immense job satisfaction and pride. When I started out 28 years ago, it was a career that no advisor, teacher or recruitment consultant ever recommended. In 1993, when I was appointed as a Resident Liaison Officer, the role was unheard of and not very common place. I accidently fell into this role and almost 30 years later, it still provides me with the foundations to perform the role I am doing today. A role that I love.

What’s the biggest challenge in your role?

Simply trying to keep ahead of the game and make the biggest positive impact possible in the communities we work in. Often, there are so many opportunities and ideas that we wish to work with, it becomes a challenge to prioritise them all. We have learnt that, in order to have the most impact, we need to take projects one at a time, so that we can give them our undivided attention and commitment.
Another challenge is uniting the Social Value Team to bring together best practices. It is important to have uniformity so that all staff and sites we serve receive a consistent level of service and reporting across all regions.

How would you describe Social Value?

This is a question I am asked frequently, and it is so hard to answer. There is no mystic to Social Value, however it is not widely understood.

I would describe Social Value as a mechanism to give something back to society or the communities we serve.

Social Value is about enhancing community cohesion, it is about allowing communities to flourish on the back of goodwill provided by an organisation or individual.
Social Value follows three broad principles:

  1. The engagement
  2. The activity or the act of either giving back or enhancement
  3. The execution of the activity and measuring the social impact it has created (or the difference made)

To put the above into context and to provide an example of this; in the event that we are working on an inner city Estate which was deemed as deprived and we decided to give something back to the community to enhance the lives of the residents who lived there this would considered as Social Value. We might do so by deciding that all members of the site team would donate their two volunteering days to paint and refurbish a community hall, whilst providing all the materials and labour. The hall might then be used as a homework club or youth club to help improve the aspirations and social mobility of those who reside there.

Alternatively, a non-construction example which is easy to follow, and my personal favourite example of Social Value, is Marcus Rashford, and his Child Poverty Campaign with the strapline “no child should go hungry during non-term time.” This multi-millionaire footballer is challenging the government, to ensure that no child in Britain suffers from food poverty. He is doing this by raising funds, awareness, working in food banks, providing sponsorship, and gathering an army of workers to assist. A great example of what Social Value is and the collective difference it can make!

Why is Social Value a key objective for Bouygues UK as a business?

For three simple reasons:

  1. It forms part of Bouygues DNA. Social Value is in fact at the heart of Bouygues UK’s foundations and work ethic. Words like ‘solidarity’ and ’family’ and ’entrepreneur’ are fundamental to our business., As a company that remains a family business, CSR activities have always been and supported by the larger group – I believe that for Bouygues Construction, and consequently Bouygues UK, having a strong moral compass and being able to giveback is key.
  2. It dovetails with the expectations of our Clients. Our place in the Industry dictates that Social Value must be central to everything we do! We’re really pleased to see that our clients’ ambitions now match our own. They are demanding that more emphasis is put on social value, placing more importance on tangible outcomes. A challenge that we are really proud to be rising to.
  3. We need to satisfy our Clients and the communities we serve. If we wish to secure repeat business and maintain our reputation in the market, we need to outperform our peers in Social Value. If we do not deliver on our “bid promises” and we do not enhance the communities, we work with we will not win repeat business.
Can Social Value be quantified?

Yes, it can now. It couldn’t 5-7 years ago!

This is where the subject of Social Value has matured. 5-7 years ago, Social Value was perceived as ‘smoke and mirrors’ as it was purely conceptual. It was about showcasing soft community activities with no real outcome.

5 years on, this has changed. Thanks to a number of organisations who have created proxy values (scientific measurements taken from the School of Economics or Manchester University for example) we are now able to provide qualitative and quantitive values to measure the social impact created.

In the world of Social Value, this has been a real game changer. Being able to quantify the difference we make to communities we serve makes me happy; the fact that Social Value can now be quantified means that the subject is taking more seriously.

Bouygues UK have interviewed and met with the leading organisations in the Sector who offer a matrix to measure Social Value; we have selected the Social Value Portal as our partner of choice, we currently use their measurement database and dashboards on 12 different contracts.

What is one of your proudest achievements in your role?

The fact that I have over 25 years’ experience in the discipline of Social Value combined with the fact that I have a First Class BA (Hons) Degree in “Housing Studies & Urban Regeneration” which incorporates Social Value and Community Regeneration.

In addition, in the last six months during lockdown I have become a Member of IED (Institute of Economic Development) through the medium of CPD Lectures. This allows me to keep abreast of everything happening in the world of Social Value and beyond.

What would you say to someone considering a career in Social Value?

For anyone considering a career in Social Value I would say the following:

  1. No two days are ever the same
  2. You are genuinely making a difference to people’s lives; ethically, it is a great career choice
  3. Social Value is currently in the spotlight, in years to come it is a skillset which will be very much in demand
  4. Regardless of previous career or skill set, I think most walks of life will have transferable skills to enter this sector (with guidance and support related to awareness, behaviour and culture)
  5. It is very challenging and hard work but very rewarding
What is your biggest takeaway from 2020?

Personal perspective:
The strangeness of 2020 has made me revaluate everything and made me appreciate what’s important, like holidays, friends and family, where you live, rural living, being able to socialise and non-materialistic possessions.

Work perspective:
I am thankful that I work in the Construction Sector and that despite Covid, the Social Value Team were able to operate and deliver a service by adapting to the situation around us.