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Embedding Social Value: The importance of considering communities in new developments

Updated: Sep 1, 2021

The definition of Social Value is as complex as its measurement. Since the introduction of the Social Value act in 2012 we have focused only on how to define and measure social value but too often forget how to create it. The issue is when talking about the needs of a specific community and a measuring system to evaluate the success of any actions, can be much harder to grasp than a balance sheet.

Broadly speaking, social value means delivering social, economic and environmental benefits for the wider society alongside the delivery of a financially sound project. The delivery of both monetary and social value should be complementary to each other, and in fact, the 2018 Civil Society Strategy adds that businesses are rediscovering the original purpose of a corporation: to deliver value to society, not just quarterly returns to shareholders.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the social and economic challenges faced by the UK and the need for organisations – both public and private – to think about their contribution to the development of our society.

In late 2020, the government published the “The Social Value Model”, setting out five categories in which social value can be used create positive change: COVID-19 recovery, tackling economic inequality, fighting climate change, equal opportunity and wellbeing. Whilst this policy is limited to public bodies, it is still worth adopting as a model for private organisations to carry through to their own social value strategy.

This discourse is strengthened through further studies on how the principles of Social Value can be embedded into wider public policy, especially where public decision making plays an important part - such as the planning system.

Thinking about social value at the planning stage ensures projects are delivered for the benefit of local communities through the lifetime of the project and beyond. By working with other stakeholders we can ensure we are creating inclusive communities, removing inequalities, improving diversity, enhancing people’s wellbeing – all whilst creating more financially sustainable communities and sharing the burden of providing resources and funding.

For our regeneration schemes in Berkeley, our Social Value team ensures that all projects and initiatives we create take into account the activation of the spaces built, are reflective of the needs of the local community and are organised using resources from all stakeholders. This ensures the partnership is strong and sets the project onto a sustainable future.

Throughout the last year and a half, we were able to support the development of Mutual Aid Groups on both our schemes – Royal Arsenal Riverside and Kidbrooke Village, whilst enabling residents to take charge and support their neighbours. The local community lead on a number of initiatives, such as the collection of donations in our public squares or shopping services to vulnerable neighbours. Our team aided these groups and sponsored the costs, leaving the community to take charge. We have also activated our public spaces by offering trade opportunities for micro businesses. This not only supported local entrepreneurs, but also ensured that the local community had access to a range of products and services at their doorstep.

Ultimately, the aim is to create happy, sustainable and resilient communities where we work. This can obviously be broken down into many things – happiness creates a sense of belonging and unity in the community; sustainability ensures the community will be less reliant on funding and will generate its own income and resilience will help people to face adversity by having a close network of support built internally, rather than wait for national or local government input.

There are many advantages to embedding social value into projects, the most obvious one being a positive reputation for your organisation. But beyond reputational gain, engaging positively with the local community and working to create significant value to their lives, can help you to develop a more supportive network of stakeholders – which when going through new planning applications can make a huge difference. Championing local causes, promoting social mobility, procuring locally and ethically are some examples of how organisations can work positively with local stakeholders.

Creating strong and ambitious environmental targets, supporting local labour recruitment and offering staff the opportunity to volunteer locally will help enhance employee satisfaction, staff retention and ultimately save costs to your organisation.

Successful planning and development is about creating places where people aspire to live, work and visit. By activating our spaces through the creation of meanwhile uses, promoting local retailers, organising events and activities whilst measuring the success of placemaking strategies we are ultimately enhancing the value of our homes and creating a place we are proud to market.


Author: Carolina Correia

As the head of Social Value for Berkeley Homes, Carolina leads community engagement and social value delivery programmes in two major regeneration areas in London.

Carolina supports the engagement of communities from acquisition to beyond the regeneration’s completion.


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