With the Construction Innovation Hub’s Value Toolkit moving into the testing phase on 26 April, it is time to explore how it connects with social value. Social Value UK and the Construction Innovation Hub share their thoughts
The “four capitals” approach embedded within the toolkit talks about social, human, produced and natural capital, but how has the expertise from the industry been pooled to capture what we know as social value?
Value is about more than cost and price. Therefore, we are redefining “value” to make the wellbeing of people and planet just as important as the bottom line. By using the capitals approach, the Value Toolkit will transform decision-making into a process based on this much broader definition of value.
This article is about the role of society in value-based decision making. That statement, though deceptively simple, tells us something important. It tells us that society is a stakeholder and should be an influencer in our decisions, so that value-based decision-making is not simply for societal benefit but also something we co-create through involving “society” (people) in the process.
Despite a global pandemic and our efforts to tackle the urgency of that situation, the last six months have also seen progress in the policy environment for managing positive impact for our society.
Most obviously, central government published its new Social Value Model (PPN06/20), providing the industry not only with guidance on what themes to focus on but also emphasising the need for meaningful qualitative responses in tenders.
The Greenbook was revised and reviewed in 2020 with revisions aimed at increasing transparency and accountability in decision making and allowing for better place-based assessment.
The Wellbeing of the Future Generations Bill is being proposed for the whole of the UK, building on the pioneering work of the Welsh Wellbeing of Future Generations Act 2015. The British Standards Institute launched BS 8950 Guide to Understanding and Enhancing Social Value. From the industry rose initiatives like the UKGBC project to define social value in the built environment context and, with it, a process-based and context-focused framework.
What value is remains in the eye of the beholder, and it is always contextual. Social Value International defines social value as the quantification of changes in wellbeing experienced by stakeholders. This means that what is relevant for one project is unlikely to be the same for the next.
To understand the social value that is expected to – or is – created or destroyed by a project, a stakeholder perspective will help you uncover what outcomes are important. For Social Value International, this is emphasised with the first Principle of Social Value (Involve Stakeholders) and in the UK Green Building Council framework, the first two steps of the process are to identify the stakeholders and understand stakeholder best interests. In the Value Toolkit, this is reflected as an early mention of stakeholder engagement as a first step in the integrated process map.
Let’s emphasise the word “process”. It’s encouraging to see the standardisation of a process that the Value Toolkit offers, rather than a standardisation of the metrics, ie universal indicators and values.
Let’s not measure just what is easy to count, such as number of jobs and apprenticeships, without context to what difference that made. Instead, let’s question the changes experienced by people; such as in their wellbeing, their own view of what is important about their work, and how they feel. These are all important questions to understand, and we need a process to go through to gain an understanding that goes further than simply entering numbers.
The Value Toolkit is a suite of supporting tools for this process of understanding the changes you create – both negative and positive – and helping you to manage these.
The process a client or user will go through helps to contextualise this but also allows easy linking up to whatever measurement framework(s) you might choose to align to.
The Value Toolkit is not prescriptive to any of them and is designed to complement other approaches. It provides a tool and library for inspiration made up of commonly used measures. This also allows you to contribute to the library by adding your own outcome statements and measures relevant to your project and your stakeholders
It is worth noting that social value and social capital are not entirely the same. They go hand-in-hand, and a capitals approach can most certainly help to manage the social value created, but themes that many of us would associate with social value, eg employment, training and skills, community engagement and wellbeing, are captured across the four capitals and, most importantly, under both social capital – the networks, shared norms, values and understanding that facilitate cooperation within and among groups – and human capital – the knowledge, skills, competencies and attributes embodied in individuals that contribute to improved performance and wellbeing.
This is why the relevant authorities merged to work side-by-side on the definitions for this toolkit. It is also worth pointing out that the monetisation and financial proxies element that is often (but not always) used for social value is optional within the Value Toolkit approach.
Society is a part of us and we’re a part of it, and to understand it in our decisions we need a standardised process for defining this broader definition of value as outlined above. This process must involve stakeholders in developing an understanding of what changes and what is most important to them, because only then can we truly manage value and the role of society in value-based decision-making.
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