News How Social Value creates sustainable communities

How Social Value creates sustainable communities


February 23, 2021

Social Value has been high on the agenda in our industry since the Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 came into action in January 2013. Eight years on, we are living in a pandemic that has shone a spotlight on the inequalities in our poorest communities, who have been disproportionately adversely affected. Social Value needs to be considered as a key factor in the economic recovery of these areas and future regeneration projects. We need to focus on how it can be carried through all stages of development as an essential element in building better and more sustainable environments.

Social Value Strategies for New Developments
At PRP, we have a human-centred approach to design that naturally places the generation of social value at the heart of all of our activities. We design our homes and masterplans to provide the best possible outcomes for the residents who will be living in them, but also as part of our ethos as a practice, we work closely with the communities we design for, and work in partnership with them to co-create neighbourhoods for the future.

Every site is unique and we invest a lot of time in understanding the area at the start of each project. All of our urban designers have been trained to look at socio-economic and geodemographic data in order to understand local challenges and opportunities. Our designers and in-house consultants are typically also directly involved in consultation activities, listening to resident concerns, carrying out surveys, and designing activities for local schools, including speaking at assemblies and designing educational games and arts and crafts activities for local primary school children.

Our social value engagement strategies are specially tailored to the needs of each community, but generally, we try to focus on the following key areas:

  • Strong, safe and resilient communities
  • Promoting empowerment and independence
  • Enabling positive future outcomes and economic growth
  • Health, wellbeing and sustainable lifestyles
  • Promoting a sense of community and belonging

We develop social value strategies that sit alongside the RIBA work stages, that set out a programme of activities and interaction points with stakeholders. They are not only aimed at increasing social value in the overall design, but are also aimed at creating positive community impacts throughout the design development and consultation process.

Social Value Measurement and Implementation
We work alongside our clients, who are increasingly becoming more articulate in terms of social value measurement and the outcomes they want to achieve, and demand the same level of commitment from their supply chains. Some of our clients have created their own in-house metrics, while some have adopted the HACT Social Impact measurement methodology, and others are following the National Themes, Outcomes and Measures (TOMs) Framework or an adaptation thereof. On some of our most recent projects, we have a dedicated social value champion, whose remit it is to champion social value, track progress on the implementation of the social value strategy, and record and monitor tangible metrics to help meet our clients’ reporting requirements.

For our work on the Pydar Town Centre Regeneration in Cornwall, a social value action plan was developed at a very early stage, and a social value champion from the practice was in charge of ensuring that social value was a key element of the design process.

Pre- and Post-Occupancy Evaluations for Social Value
Ideally, social value implementation plans should include seeking resident feedback before and after a development is built. This would be the most meaningful measure of which initiatives are truly successful, as well as a valuable tool for gathering feedback from residents and stakeholders and gather lessons learnt. A number of tools exist, including the toolkits included in the HACT methodology, and the Social Value Toolkit for Architecture, published by the RIBA last year.

Social Value needs to trigger a chain reaction. We must not lose momentum in expanding these values and appreciate that it’s not just about money, it’s about fostering health, wellbeing and creating accessible environments. We need to harness the creative talent within our respective organisations and reach out to the communities we are designing for, in the most meaningful way. It’s an opportunity to make the best use of local resources and create sustainable communities for our future generations, leaving a legacy of better outcomes, that should outlast the buildings that we design.